The Monsey Poultry Scandal – A Non-Response

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93 Responses

  1. Kasamba says:

    Fantastic story- very frightening!
    But is it okay to try to be melamed Zchuss for the butcher by counter acting everyones statements by saying that he might have some form of mental illness so he’s not accountable for what he’s done?

    Also, someone told me that if someone causes the rabim to sin, then isn’t one allowed to talk about what he did?

  2. BenBagBag says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,
    There is no question that one must be vigilant not to gossip gratuitously about any scandal, but your comparison is strange indeed.

    A private dispute over a coin is not a legitimate public concern. As much as a grocer serves a wider public, as long as he agrees to address the dispute through the proper channels there is no moral justification whatsoever to thrash the matter out in the public square.

    The Monsey poultry and meat scandal, by account of the Rabbonim involved, in terms of the population affected (people in Israel who had received meat from their parents had to kasher their pots) and the potential time-span (the Rav Hamachshir said that anyone who cooked the affected meat in the last 10 years had to kasher their keilim), is without exaggeration, the most far-reaching and unprecedented breach of kashrus in Jewish history. That is most certainly a legitimate and vital public concern.

    The fact that the butcher involved was a highly respected member of his community, deepens the breach of public trust, and also deserves public comment.

    There is much that should be, ought to be and needs to be said without transgressing any of the laws of loshon hora.

  3. shayna says:

    Is there anyone in Monsey who is not involved? We all ate the treif meat, and most treifed up their kitchens with it. How does this make us take sides that are not our concern?

  4. DMZ says:

    There is one fundamental difference in the situations: kashrus is a community issue that affects everyone, versus this story of simple theft. I understand the implied point of your story, but “let’s not talk about what happened” isn’t a valid response if we want to keep it from happening around here – unless you’re somehow trying to imply that this entire incident didn’t happen, which would be straight at odds with the actions (as I understand them) of the rabbanim in Monsey.

    Certainly, we can stray away from accusing specific folks of things, and concentrate on the issues that would allow these problems to happen, but this is the most major kashrus scandal I’ve been made aware of in the entire time since I’ve been observant. Sweeping it under the rug isn’t the answer.

    -DMZ

  5. Michoel says:

    Rabbi Adlerstien,
    Great story. However, blogs, in general, increase machlokes. Not diminish it.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    The analogy only works if the Monsey situation was strictly about one individual’s wrongdoing. If there are systemic problems to correct, the matter really is a valid concern for others (at least others who could correct such problems, in Monsey or elsewhere).

  7. Aramis says:

    Eternal gehinom in Judaism? Intresante.

  8. Chaim B says:

    Rabbi Betzallel Rudinsky shlita of Monsey, remarked that the sin of Lashon Hora regarding this inyan was worse than any of the treifos that may have been eaten because for eating traif, especially unknowingly, repentance and Yom Kippur are mechaper (atone). But, there is no such atonement for all the Lashon Hora spoken.

  9. michoel halberstam says:

    Yasher Koach, I can’t think of a better story with which to greet Yom Kippur. Gemar Chasima Tova.

  10. HILLEL says:

    Reb Yitzchak:

    What has theft got to do with Kashrus?

    We all HAVE to get involved in a kashrus scam situation to prevent further problems!

  11. joel rich says:

    From a survey reported on in Today’s on-line Jerusalem Post:

    Although most rabbis agreed that people have a right to attain knowledge, many differences were found over whether rabbis agreed with the principle `to a great extent’ or a `very great extent’.

    Ninety percent of Reform and Conservative rabbis, 77% of national religious, 45% of national haredi, and 41% of haredi rabbis `agreed to a great extent’ or `agreed to a very great extent’ with the principle of a right to information.

    Place of birth seemed to have an effect on the views of Israeli rabbis.

    Rabbis from all religious streams born in English-speaking countries (83%) and those born in Israel (61%) `agreed to great extent’ or `agreed to a very great extent’ with the principle of the right to know in contrast to rabbis born in eastern Europe (39%) and in Arab countries (17%).
    =======================================

    A thought experiment – would the Rabbinic leadership have made use of the gizmo used in men in black to have the community forget the incident, after kashering etc ?If yes, why? If not, why not?

    GCT

  12. Nachum says:

    You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard claims of “mental illness.” One person I know who was hearing the story for the first time immediately suggested it as a cause.

    Why do we have such difficulty in accepting that Orthodox Jews can simply be as crooked or evil as the next man? Accusations of “lashon hara” or “needless machlokes” point to the same mindset.

  13. ben meir says:

    i believe the story is in the famous book – Yerushlalyim Shel Maala – The Heavenly City.

  14. L.Oberstein says:

    I was wondering when you would get around to this story. I have nothing to add. I hope that everyone will learn from this and that major improvements will be made in kashrus supervision. I feel sorry for the truly religious Jews who ate non kosher . This must bother them more than the monetary loss. May the New Year be one without chilul Hashem.

  15. HILLEL says:

    People who sin against the AlMighty are, by definition, mentally ill.

    Rav Yosef Yozel, Der “Alter” of Novardhok, used to say “Everyone who comes into my Yeshiva is mentally ill. My job here is to change them sane and normal people.”

  16. BenBagBag says:

    Perhaps the best comment on this tragedy is the September 7th letter from the community that provided Kashrus supervision to the butcher. I reproduce the letter verbatim below omitting only identifying names, replacing them with ellipses:

    September 7th ’06, Ellul 14 5766

    Dear Member, Mispallel and all those who use our Shul,

    A terrible tragedy has befallen us, and the entire Monsey community.

    … Kashrus supervision under our esteemed Rav Shlit”a, was always noted for its meticulous and unbending strict adherence to Halocho as well as mostly daily inspections by an expert Mashgiach, and as such, enjoyed the trust of the entire community. It cannot be overemphasized that the basic element in Kashrus supervision is the integrity of the owner of the establishment. In consonance with that principle, hasgocho was only granted to those who exhibited superior standards of ehrlichkeit and Yiras Shomayim. If we can’t fully trust the owner, supervision is denied.

    We were all stunned by the gravity of the acts of one who was perceived in our midst as an avid klal worker, and had a reputation as a Shomer Torah Umitzvos. The trust that we placed on the owner of … which was under our supervision, was secretly betrayed. It was thus possible to circumvent and undermine our kashrus efforts at that establishment, to the point where non Kosher products were secretly introduced and sold.

    After deliberation of the issues involved Rav … Shlit”a

    – removed the Kashrus Hashgocho from the establishment

    – outlined the halachic status and requirements of the purchased meat products and utensils used in their preparation (see attached sheet)

    – will deliver a shiur scheduled for Motzoei Shabbos 10 pm to further explain the details. (men and women invited)

    Our Rav Shlit”a also directed that the following steps be implemented.

    – Kashering will take place at … (Revised) on Friday Ellul 15, September 8th, 1 to 4 PM and Sunday Ellul 17, September 10th, 10 am to 2 pm

    – Sunday Ellul 24, the first day of Selichos, is designated as a Fast day for our community. Following Mincha (with Fast Day Torah reading) we will hear words of inspiration from our Rav and invited guests. Details to follow.

    – Congregation … will cease to provide Kashrus supervision at this time.

    May Hashem grant that we never know of such a breach again,

    Wishing a kesiva vachasima tova for us and all Israel,

    … for the Board of Trustees

  17. michoel halberstam says:

    I find it amazing how many people actually are looking for heterim to speak about this subject, I find the response to this article a fascinating subject for discussion, which standing alone says an awful lot about us as a group. To what educational system should some of these attitudes be attributed?

  18. Izzy says:

    The Monsey poultry and meat scandal, by account of the Rabbonim involved, in terms of the population affected (people in Israel who had received meat from their parents had to kasher their pots) and the potential time-span (the Rav Hamachshir said that anyone who cooked the affected meat in the last 10 years had to kasher their keilim), is without exaggeration, the most far-reaching and unprecedented breach of kashrus in Jewish history.

    Wrong. This kind of thing happens regularly. One such occurance was about 25 years ago in the Washington, DC area. The frum owner of a respected caterer was caught, and gleefully said that he had been serving treife meats to the Jewish community for over forty years.
    As long as the various Kashrus Organizations refuse to have a mashgiach tmidi in a store, just because the owner is frum, it will continue to happen.
    There is a story about this:

    Once there was a Chassid who was a wealthy business man. But, in addition to his business acumen, he had a rare talent for rendering goose fat. Every year, he would render barrels of goose fat that would be used by his family and friends who would come over to his house and borrow some goose fat. Because of his good fortune, every year, when he went to visit his Rebbe, he would bring two barrels of goose fat for his Rebbe, who would enthusiatically thank him, and give him a brocha (blessing) for continued success.
    After many years, the Chassid’s business took a down-turn. Still, each year he would bring two barrels of goose-fat to his Rebbe.
    Finally, things were so bad, financially, that someone gave him some advice. “Look,” the friend said, “You’re talented. You can render delicious goose fat. Many people would pay for that goose fat.” So, that is what the business man did. He began to sell the goose fat.
    That year, he brought the customary two barrels of goose fat to his Rebbe. But, his Rebbe looked puzzled. “What’s wrong, Rebbe,” he asked. “Where’s the hechsher?” answered the Rebbe. The man then asked, “I’m sorry, Rebbe, but I don’t understand. You’ve been taking the goose fat that I render for all these years, without a hechsher. Why do you suddenly need one?” “Ahhh,” answered the Rebbe, “But now, it’s your business.”

    To my mind, any hechsher that depends upon the religiosity of the owner is equivalent to no hechsher at all.

  19. Nachum says:

    Hillel, that may be true from a hashkafic perspective. But let’s be practical here: Crooks are out to make money, and by using words like “metal illness,” we’re finding excuses (and burying our heads in the sand) for terrible aveiros that should not be excused if any progress is to be made.

  20. Baruch Horowitz says:

    I think that one needs to balance the feelings of the individual’s family and the healthy need for communual discussion.

    If one is not a Beis Din, it is not one’s place to demonize the person involved. As terrible as the betrayal is, Chazal tell us not to judge a person until we are in their exact place. Also, this person has a family; it is a tragedy in many ways, and not a excuse for gossip.

    One the other hand, this is something which affects people. Many people may have an opinion and thoughts on matters indirectly related. For example, I think that one lesson would be to focus on how ideally we should have Achdus(unity) in Kashrus. The fact that even a community that is yarei v’shaleim can be nichshal, may show that “hanistaros l’Hashem Elokeinu”. Maybe the time has come to reconsider whether we really need four different hashgachos on a single wine bottle, and also why “modern” and “heimshe” hashgachos can’t come together to give one certification on a bottle of soda. It may be impractical, and be irrelevant to the Monsey story, but it is a thought. Is expressing this Lashon Hara?

    In general, there are risks in not having any forum for discussion. One might make a good argument that “sweeping things under the carpet”, and not allowing people expression has lead to chillul Hashem, because it will come out in other ways.

    The fact is, that the Frum community like any community is not perfect. We should not pretend that there are not Orthodox people in jail, or that it is a “shande” to focus, as a community, on alcohol or molestation–every community has these issues, and having the Torah doesn’t mean that we are perfect. To say that the askonim or established organizations should have a monopoly on solving these issues may also not be the answer.

    Obviously, there is a proper forum and means of expression. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I don’t think that we should go to the other extreme and say that people are not allowed at all, in any way and in any forum, to talk about events affecting the Tzibbur.

  21. Leibel Black says:

    “All the response that is necessary.” Really.
    We rely on rabbis and agencies who are compensated for Kosher supervision and certification. The Monsey story affects us all. Rememeber the chicken kiev story in another community? Those Treif chickens were certified Kosher by the largest and most famous Kosher certifying agency in the world and it cast a shadow on all Kosher supervision. Like it or not, we’ve all eaten Treif, even if unknowingly. The Monsey story is our business and we all have to do Tshuva.

    We all have to do Tshuva but we are not responsible. The rabbis who are in the business of Hechshairim are responsible for any Treifus under their watch. And we surely get the leaders we deserve. Who is watching the “watchers?”

    It is well known that years ago in Denver, Rabbi Shlomo Twerski, ZTZ”L, personally supervised the (Chalak) Shechita without any remuniration. He wanted people to be able to rely on the Hechsher without question.

  22. Aryeh says:

    “If one is not a Beis Din, it is not one’s place to demonize the person involved. As terrible as the betrayal is, Chazal tell us not to judge a person until we are in their exact place.”

    It’s not at all clear that discussing this case is Loshon Hora when the discussion is about the proprietor of the store. In a case, where one knowingly did something he knew to be wrong (and not “talking-in-shul is wrong but everybody does it” wrong) and did it for many years, it would be permitted to speak badly of his actions. Internet forums are a very bad place for halachah discussions, so consults your local Orthodox rabbi and sefer Chafetz Chaim, klal 4 (dalet), seif 7 (but be aware that Chafetz Chaim lists 5 conditions that need to be satisfied before speaking badly of even a rasha). Also see Chafetz Chaim klal 2, seif 9 about the family angle of it.

    As to what positive effect the discussion will serve? Well for one, I’m sure the next guy who’ll be tempted wants to pull a similar thing off will hopefully think twice about the effect it might have on him and his family.

  23. Bob Miller says:

    The only worthwhile discussion about this matter is about how to minimize the chances of a repetition. Crooks are creative; cops need to stay one step ahead of them. Deterrence is better than cleaning up the mess.

    Chatter among ourselves about any specific bad guy or about some other community’s values falls outside this category.

    There’s a fine line between righteousness and self-righteousness.

  24. HILLEL says:

    Just a quick thought:

    The sheer volume of meat that is consumed by our community is staggering.
    It is incredibly difficult to find qualified mashgichim and shochtim who can pump-out the required volume. This creates an opportunity for fraudulent Kashrus activity.

    We should consider cutting-down on our comsumption of beef and poultry.

    We would be healthier, too, if we did that. The largest nutrition study ever undertaken, The “China/Cornell University Study,” suggests that the optimum amount of meat should be 10% or less of the total diet. The other 90% should consist of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

    The Talmud states that a Talmid Chacham should eat mainly cooked and raw vegetables (except for Shabbos and Yom Tov, when meat, fish and wine is customary).

  25. Michoel says:

    Hillel,
    How do you know how much meat we eat relative to other Americans (or Humans) (or Jews in earlier periods)? Most frum Jews are too financially strained to eat a lot of meat. We do have a lot of seudos mitzvah, but outside of that, I don’t see what you mean.

  26. Mordechai says:

    Why is it that whenever there is any sort of rabbinic / religious scandal, we’re told that the protagonists and those involved can and will find repentance, but us poor folk who actually inquire as to the substance of the wrongdoing, express concern, and demand action, are the truly wicked ones who will burn in hell?

    So many of these rabbis see the Internet as the greatest threat to the religion as they envision it. And you know what, they’re right. Because now with a few mouse clicks one can discover that the Rabbi in Monsey leading the pack in shrill denunciations was run out of Toronto and sued for stealing millions of dollars. And that the Lakewood Rabbi who boasts all over the Internet that he knew something was fishy with the Monsey butcher ten years ago and therefore is justified in demanding outrageous kashruth safeguards, is the same guy who tried to shake down Rubashkin for a 10% cut of all their sales.

    The fish rots from the head, and our Jewish communal fish is rotting rapidly. Our government and military leaders in Israel are putrid and corrupt, and our rabbinic leadership ranks are rife with money- and power-grubbing hacks. And all Rabbi Adlerstein can come up with is threats of hellfire and damnation for those poor folk who talk about this?

    Heaven help us all…

  27. Bob Miller says:

    Re: Post #27

    Lets see which claims these “poor folk” and their “a few clicks away” informants can prove under oath.

  28. Jewish Observer says:

    “Why is it that whenever there is any sort of rabbinic / religious scandal, we’re told that the protagonists and those involved can and will find repentance, but us poor folk who actually inquire as to the substance of the wrongdoing, express concern, and demand action, are the truly wicked ones who will burn in hell?”

    and also … why are we so sure that these guys will find repentance as oppsosed to “non frum” sinners about whom there is a mitzvah to look down and point out their transgressions?

  29. hp says:

    #27-

    I see a very different picture than you. The inappropriate portrayal of our Rabbonim detracts from your points. Not that I agree with your points, but the crude manner in which you refer to Rabbonim doesn’t get your ideas to first base in intellectual and honest discussion.

  30. HILLEL says:

    Michoel:

    Talk to Meal Mart (Alle Procesing) and International Glatt, for starters.

    Ask them how much sales growth they have experienced lately.

    Then check the statistics on the increase of serious degenrative diseases, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity in our community.

  31. hp says:

    ” “non frum” sinners about whom there is a mitzvah to look down and point out their transgressions?”

    JO- What is your source for this? Chas V’Shalom! This is in most cases not so at all! Don’t tell me I’m wasting my volunteer time in kiruv, when I should be “looking down” and pointing out transgressions? I know, you didn’t mean that…and I don’t think that was your point. But you have to correct that (unless you don’t agree with me).

  32. Leibel Black says:

    Mordechai Re #27:
    The criticism of our rabbinic leadership is on target, but the bottom line is, we get the leadership we deserve. Perhaps this is because we do not demand more from our rabbis, in our shuls, day schools, yeshivas and, of couse, hashgachos. Das Torah? No excuse.

  33. Tal Benschar says:

    There is one very significant difference between the story that R. Schwadron told and the present scandal/crisis. In the former, all those who “stirred the pot” had no interest at all in the subject — they were neither accused of wrongdoing nor stolen from. In contrast, here the wrongdoer was machti es ha rabbim.

    Who wide is the “rabbim?” Very. I do not live in Monsey, but I know several people there (who have now had to kasher their pots and pans). As I was discussing this with one of those Monsey residents, the person said, “You no doubt ate some of it.” She’s right! I’ve been to simchas in Monsey (weddings, sheva berachos, bar mitzvas); I’ve visited Monsey for Shabbos; I’ve eaten in the houses of people in my town who shopped in Monsey (or whose parents shopped for them.) Many of these were sourced by the person who was caught — I was told that a very popular catering hall in Monsey was sourced by this person. So it is conceivable that I have eaten treif maybe a dozen or more times in the last ten years, Hashem Yerachem!

    This is probably typical of many people who live in the greater NY area.

    So excuse me, R. Adlerstein, I believe that I am entitled to resent the fact that I was fed tarfus by a pious fraud on multiple occassions, and that the holy rabbonim of Monsey were apparently too incompetent to catch him (over a period of years, if not decades!) I believe I am entitled to put harsh, difficult questions to the Rabbonim whose hechsherim I relied upon on multiple occassions, which now turned out to be as reliable as Oscar Mayer.

  34. SephardiLady says:

    I believe that financial improriety, and this is just another example of such, is a communal issue. Of course, there is no need to spout off the latest rumors related to this particular case.

    But, I think there is a need for a long overdue discussion about yashrut. This is just another area where the lack of yashrut is bitting our kehillot in the backs.

  35. Yaakov Menken says:

    To my friend Tal and others,

    Please back off on your criticism of the Rabbonim involved. You clearly do not know of whom you are speaking in such a callous fashion. There is no “incompetence” in reliance upon Halacha, which gives a chezkas kashrus (a presumption of correct conduct) to one who is known to be observant.

    As anyone in Kashrus will tell you, at some point you are trusting the owner. No matter what you do, a shady character will attempt to get around the rules — Jew or non-Jew, observant or not. So no reputable Kashrus organization will attempt to certify a restaurant whose owner strikes them as shady.

    Now it happens that the Star-K (full disclosure: our landlord) apparently requires a mashgiach t’midi, full-time mashgiach, for meats, and doesn’t trust the owner no matter who he appears to be. But that’s not what halacha requires.

    The owner in question was well-known, and was even known to be an upstanding character. He didn’t just behave like an “ordinary frum guy,” but even above average. This is what makes the story all the more stunning.

    The Rabbi who provided him with certification is an outstanding Talmid Chacham (scholar), educator, and congregational leader. He radiates both warmth and fear of Heaven. To accuse him of “incompetence” in any area of Torah u’Mitzvos is simply out of bounds — in our lifetimes, we will not rise to his ankles in “competence” in anything related to Toras Hashem.

    This is exactly, davka, precisely what Rav Schwadron zt”l was talking about. Don’t even think of talking like that about the Rav in question. He relied upon the Halacha. People can circumvent Halacha, even take advantage of Halacha — much as other Rabbonim (such as Rav Heinemann of the Star-K) might do otherwise, you can’t say that someone who relied upon Halachic standards was “wrong,” no matter how badly someone else took advantage.

  36. DMZ says:

    “People can circumvent Halacha, even take advantage of Halacha—much as other Rabbonim (such as Rav Heinemann of the Star-K) might do otherwise, you can’t say that someone who relied upon Halachic standards was “wrong,” no matter how badly someone else took advantage.”

    At the end of the day, this rav is the one who said, no, GUARANTEED, this meat was kosher. It wasn’t, and an entire community ate traife because of his supervision. Are you really saying he’s totally innocent in this matter? Don’t you see how he broke the trust with the people of Monsey, because he didn’t go BEYOND the strict halachic necessities to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

    I don’t assign very much blame to him at all, from what I understand of the situation, but he was responsible, and he needs to face up to that responsibility – as he is doing, so I’ve read. Good for him.

    -DMZ

  37. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Further to my comment(#21) regarding multiple and overlapping hashgachos and supervision, I read that there was a meeting between the OU and the CRC in wake of the Monsey scandal to reassess Kashrus systems. This, I believe, is a positive example of cooperation between different certifying organizations.

    I indeed feel that the need for achdus(unity) should outweigh considerations of marketing and/or communal independence, which lead to printing multiple hashgachos on wine bottles. This is especially true if there is no substantive difference in these hashgachos.

    However, it is possible that such unity may only be realistically possible during Moshiach’s times, as a multiplicity of hechsherim on a single product is, for better or for worse, a symbol of splintering of communities. If so, then we should note as a positive development the smaller, more realistic examples of unity in kashrus supervision, such as the above-mentioned meeting between Satmar and the Orthodox Union, and look forward to seeing more such instances in the future.

  38. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Jewish Observer, I’ve been on cross-currents.com and forums.torah.org for years, identifying myself correctly as an intermarried Heterodox Jew. While nobody Orthodox condoned my non Halachic life choices, I didn’t get the feeling that anybody is looking down at me either.

    I’m not saying that there are no Orthodox Jews who look down on the Heterodox. I’m only saying that as far as I can tell, it’s considered a fault, not a Mitzva.

  39. Jewish Observer says:

    “To accuse him of “incompetence” in any area of Torah u’Mitzvos is simply out of bounds—in our lifetimes, we will not rise to his ankles in “competence” in anything related to Toras Hashem.”

    – not allowing for the possibility of incompetence davka calls tzidkus into question. I am not sure you are doing the rabbi a favor here with the rabbinic infallibility theory.

  40. Jewish Observer says:

    hp and Ori,

    If so, I take back what I said.

    regards

  41. Leibel Black says:

    With all due respect for Talmidei Chachamim who work for the sake of Heaven: Today, the responsibility for Hashgocha carries with it “strict liability.” This is largely due to changes in the whole business of Kosher food production. We are not living in pre-war Europe in a Shtetl where they Shechted one cow a month. Chickens are slaughtered on a conveyor belt at high speeds.

  42. Bob Miller says:

    While his context was much different, Ronald Reagan’s principle, “Trust, but verify”, applies here, too.

    The price disparity between kosher and nonkosher food is enough to create an incentive for fraud. If looking very frum and (outwardly) acting very frum are enough to allow a would-be cheater to do his thing without olam-hazeh consequences, we’ll be seeing more such problems.

    Once a failure investigation is underway, all assumptions about the situation and personnel (shop owner, shop employees, mashgichim, kashrus administrators…) need to be looked at critically by trained, fully knowledgeable, independent investigators.

    They need to ask hard questions of the supervisory organization–no matter what its reputation is–such as:

    1. Are their kashrus inspection records complete enough to confirm that the inspection process met recognized halachic standards (frequency, thoroughness, compliance with all rules…)?

    2. If any elements of diligent inspection of procedures, incoming shipments, and paperwork were neglected, why?

    3. Which, if any, warning signs were ignored or discounted, and why?

  43. Michoel says:

    Hillel,
    A g’mar chasima tova. I don’t want this to sound adversarial. If an individual asserts that something is fact, and it is not at all obvious to a reader that it is fact, it is upon the asserter to have his evidence at hand and to present it. I don’t have time for research projects right now. Please sight some hard evidence.

  44. Tal Benschar says:

    R. Menken:

    I fear that you do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. Let me respond by pointing out a few things:

    1. The gemara in Eruvin states: Bemakom Chillul Hashehm Ein Cholkin Kavod La Rav. Note that it does not say that you do not HAVE to, it says Ein Cholkin. You MAY NOT! Kavod Shomayim comes before Kavod ha Rabbonim.

    The latest scandal in Monsey is a massive Chillul shem Shomayim by anyone’s account. I understand that a baal teshuvah yeshiva there is now in a crisis of confidence. Not to mention that hundreds, if not thousands, of Jews who were yirei shomayim were nichshal in an issur of neveilah.

    Such a situation demands serious scrutiny and tough questions. A few more chillul Hashem’s like this and we can say goodbye to Torah as we know it in America.

    Kavod ha Rabbonim is important, but does not trump everything. You can say, “Holy, Holy, Holy, the Rabbonim of Monsey, the Whole World Is Filled With Their Glory” all you want. When you’re done, I still want to know why food that I ate that Rabbi X said was kosher turned out to be neveilah.

    2. I am well aware that the Rabbonim in Monsey are very learned, holy, have great middos, are warm — alle gutte maalos. I’ll even accept that I will never reach their ankles, as you put it.

    Except for one thing. Their superiority is the reason THEIR name is on the hasgacha and mine wasn’t. They took on that responsibility, I didn’t.

    And now the result — thousands of yidden have been nichshal in eating neveilah with their name on it. Frankly if it was my name, I don’t know if I could face RH and Yom Kippur. But in any case, having taken on that responsibility, they can hardly complain when scrutiny and criticism follow.

    3. Part of “competence” in practical rabbonus (including giving hashgochos) is being able to understand the realities of commercial life and sniff out the crooks. That is part of what used to be called the fifth cheleik of Shulchan Arukh.

    Yes, I well understand that the pious fraud at the heart of the scandal pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, rabbonim included, for decades. They were duped, no question about it. But now that we know that, my confidence level is, you’ll excuse me, not very high, regardless of whether they know Shas better than I know Aleph-Beis.

    4. The gemara states that Hashem saves even behemtan shel tsaddikim from eating what is not permitted them. Well, it appears that neither the rabbonim, nor the community (and here I include myself, because, while I do not live there, as I said I have probably eaten there several dozen times) have reached that madreiga. That is food for thought, No?

    5. One poster here raised the issue of yashrus. Let’s do a thought experiment: imagine this same person had instead been caught in a financial crime, a stock swindle, maybe, or tax fraud. What would the reaction have been? The same, less or more? If less, why?

    Answering these questions may be a start in dealing with the problem in the future.

  45. HILLEL says:

    What many people don’t realize is that a very large part of the Mashgiach business depends on SiYata D’Shmaya.

    No Mashgiach can be absolutely cetain that something has not slipped by him. Mutphy’s Law is the rule–“If something can go wrong, it will.”

    I’ve heard many hair-raising stories from Mashgichim who encountered serious potential breaches of kashrus, which they caught–fortuitously–at the very last minute.

    Large volume production of internationally distributed foods, with multiple ingredients originating from all over the world greatly multiply the chances for Kashrus errors.

    The best course of action for Jews who are serious about their Kashrus observance is “EAT LESS, AND KEEP IT SIMPLE!”

    Forget about “Fine Dining,” complicated banquets, nosh foods laden with artificial colors and flavors. Stick to natural uncomplicated foods.

    You will end-up much healthier, in both body and soul.

  46. Porthos says:

    >There is no “incompetence” in reliance upon Halacha, which gives a chezkas kashrus (a presumption of correct conduct) to one who is known to be observant.

    What is the point of a hashgacha then? Lemaaseh the halacha doesn’t require eating food with labels, only that we eat kosher food. We have developed a system which goes beyond that and installs mechanisms to ensure that the ingredients are checked and much, much more.

    Who needs a rav ha-machshir to rely on eid echad neeman beisurin when that is exactly what the layman can do?

    The fact is that we have created an entire industry because we demand MORE than what the halacha requires. The rabbinic side of that industry allows the public to think that it is in fact doing more than trusting an observant guy to be straight.

  47. Michoel says:

    Tal,
    This Chazal which you mention

    “4. The gemara states that Hashem saves even behemtan shel tsaddikim from eating what is not permitted them…”

    is actually a support for us keeping our mouths’ closed. Me’eis Hashem haisa zos! But what should we learn from it? I know an individual that does not eat ANY meat other than what he kashers himself. The meant is shechted individually by a shochet that he knows personally.

    The daas of my beheima (speaking of beheimos), I don’t know. Certainly not the daas of Hashem! But perhaps we should ask ourselves how chaviv kashrus is in out eyes. How is our entire musag of eating? There are bnei Torah that eat hotdogs bought from glatt-kosher venders at baseball games. They sit there fressing away amongst the rest of the stadium chevra. There are so many kashes we can ask on our own eating habits. “Eat to help Israel” or whatever that campign was called. Feh!!! And then we cry that our rabbanim are not doing their job, keeping our fressing glatt kosher. Boo hoo hoo.

  48. Yaakov Menken says:

    Wow. Let’s try this again.

    DMZ, the Rav is certainly taking responsibility for not going “above and beyond,” as you said. My comment was strictly to the assertion that following the Halacha reflected “incompetence.” It does not work that way — nor does a hechsher guarantee anything is Kosher. If Tal has indeed eaten at chasunas — in Monsey or anywhere else — it is reasonably certain he’s consumed a few sheratzim (bugs) to go along with his treife meat. The Halacha says what you have to do to check a salad, and trust me that it is no guarantee of anything.

    JO, I did not claim that incompetence on the part of a Rav is impossible or call him infallible. Calling him infallible would be ridiculous with years of treife meat on display, would it not? But the fact is that he is not infallible and wasn’t incompetent. There are Halachos of Kashrus, and those Halachos were followed. We already know this, and people are accusing him anyway based upon nothing more than ignorance and armchair speculation.

    Bob, same answer. Everything was done correctly as far as the Rav HaMachshir was concerned, as I’ll elaborate.

    Tal, what a wonderful hora’as heter (ruling to permit)! Why didn’t I think of that? Since we all know that the chilul Hashem was the Rav’s fault, now we can say whatever we want! I’m sorry that I let things like the Shulchan Aruch obstruct my recognition of the presumption of guilt. In these days before Y”K, it’s exactly the right time to change course and start condemning people, especially outstanding Rabbonim. </sarcasm>

    Absolutely it was a chilul Hashem, but you are operating from ignorance of both Kashrus and chezkas Kashrus (a presumption of proper conduct) if you blame that on the Rav. You don’t seem to get it, possibly because you have no idea who was selling the meat. This vendor gave a Daf Yomi shiur, was chazzan on R”H and Y”K in a prominent congregation, and was involved in all sorts of chesed activities. He was known to be an exemplary member of the community. If there is such a thing in the world as a chezkas Kashrus in the Shulchan Aruch — as you know there is — then he had it. On a green to red threat factor scale, this individual was an absolute code green. That’s exactly why this came as such a shock to everyone.

    So if you think you can do better, fine. Get up and do it. Get up out of your armchair where you proclaim who is innocent and who is guilty with perfect 20/20 hindsight, and prove to the world that you can “sniff out the crook” who managed to “dupe” not just the Rabbonim (as if they were the collection of simpletons that you seem to imply) but thousands of Monsey Yidden who knew this individual personally and thought they knew what he was made of.

    Just to doublecheck, I went upstairs this morning before posting this comment. Rav Heinemann himself, who (as I previously mentioned) requires someone other than the owner check all shipments, also said that you cannot fault the Rav HaMachshir. Which of this collection of blog commenters possesses greater knowledge of Torah, the Kashrus business, or human nature, than Rav Heinemann? Up to this point, the world had no reason to believe that a communal paragon of Torah and chesed might also be opening his back door at 4 am to take in treifos.

    So if you don’t feel you can rely upon that Rav, you can’t rely upon any Rav. Porthos, if you feel you can check ingredients better than the industry, by all means go ahead. But when no one in the industry is pointing fingers, get the hint. The words of the Gemara about being careful with the honor of a Talmid Chacham are rarely more important than here.

    Your question five seems to be aimed at the Rav not the meat vendor — because someone caught in a financial scandal would not face nearly the communal censure of the salesman, unless he swindled a similar number of people. You just assume the Rav did something wrong, despite a full Shulchan Aruch, all five chalakim, to the contrary.

    Of course there has to be talk about revising standards, and not trusting where previously we trusted. But the fact that someone went around the rules does not mean that the Rav is to be faulted for observing them. Frankly, the fact that you ate treif is no more his fault that it is yours. The same Torah says that Moshe was told to go down from the mountain because the people had sinned. The people didn’t deserve Moshe on the mountain anymore.

    This is why you don’t see the other Rabbonim of Monsey — including those involved with Kashrus — pointing fingers. Actually, they did — inwardly. They all declared — with a stunning degree of unanimity — that they knew who was to blame. When in the last several decades have the Rabbonim of an entire city the size of Monsey declared a Taanis Tzibbur? You also have to think about the Kiddush HaShem in all this. Everyone Kashered their pots according to their Rav’s directions — and all the Rabbonim declared that you can eat in the house of anyone who followed his Rav’s instructions, even when that Rav permitted what your Rav forbade. Incredible achdus (unity), emerging from a betrayal that shook an entire community to the core. There’s a reason why HKB”H wanted this massive tragedy to happen, and pointing fingers at the Rav is the exact opposite of getting the message.

  49. HILLEL says:

    Porthos:

    You are sadly mistaken.

    Ed Echad NeeMan Be’Isurrin is great when we were dealing with a mom and pop restaurant in a small shtetl, where the owner personally prepared and served you food fresh from the local fields and fresh from the local shochet. All the ingredients were simple and the only question was whether the owner would intentionally serve you treif meat.

    Today the situation is impossible complicated. Even a mom and pop operation uses ingredients that originate in China, Israel, the Midwest, South America–literally, from all over the globe. The owner of the restaurant is physically (and sometimes intellectually) incapable of ascertaining whether or not his sources are kosher.

    Put some gentile workers into the mix, and assume a larger and busier operation, and the problem becomes too great for an “Eid Echad” to comprehend, mush less to control.

    Only a sophisticated kashruth system, preferably computer-based, can even attempt to control the thousands of variables.

    It gets worse. There are far too many “Kashruth” certifying individuals and organizations. It’s total anarchy. Who can keep track of who’s-who:
    O-U, O-K, Star-K, Chaf-K, KKK, etc. Sometimes I feel like just throwing-in the towel.

    If you want to get out of the morass, the best policy is to go with a couple of reliable Kashruth certifiers that you have carefully researched, then, ignore the rest and treat them as suspected treif.

  50. Ori Pomerantz says:

    May I suggest we dump the term “incompetence” in this discussion? It is a judgement about people. Instead, we should talk about failure, which is a judgement about a specific event. Moshe Rabbenu was not incompetent, but he failed on one occassion by losing his patience. Rabbi Akiva was not incompetent, but he failed to recognize that Bar Kochva was not Mashiach. We should assume that the Rabbis duped in this case are in the same category – imperfect human beings, who make mistakes.

    Having said that, a failure definitely occured. Here’s my analysis as an outsider.

    Kashrut supervision works in two ways:

    1. Provide Kashrut expertise to people who want to produce Kosher food but don’t know how. Ho Chin who works in a cheese factory in China has no idea that there’s anything wrong with mixing lard into the cheese. The current system seems to do this job very well, which makes sense – Rabbis are usually Halacha experts who know how to teach.

    2. Catch crooks who know what is Kosher and do something else because it makes them more money.

    I think Rabbis are not ideal for #2 because they are not trained to think like criminals. It might be a good idea to bring in an expert auditor to review the Kashrut process that failed and see how to make it tighter. Auditors ARE trained to think like criminals.

  51. Tal Benschar says:

    “Frankly, the fact that you ate treif is no more his fault that it is yours.”

    Really? Whose name was on the hechsher? Does any responsibility come with that? Or do we just fall korei to the rabbonim and klap a few al cheits.

    “Your question five seems to be aimed at the Rav not the meat vendor—because someone caught in a financial scandal would not face nearly the communal censure of the salesman, unless he swindled a similar number of people. You just assume the Rav did something wrong, despite a full Shulchan Aruch, all five chalakim, to the contrary.”

    No, my question was aimed at a communal mentality where frumkeit is emphasized far more than ehrlichkeit.

    I do not “assume the Rav did something wrong.” His actions may have been in complete technical conformity with every seif in SA. Nevertheless there was a complete breakdown with the unfortunate results we see. As one among the thousands who was nichshal, I am entiteld to ask tough questions and try to avoid this in the future.

  52. joel rich says:

    Just to doublecheck, I went upstairs this morning before posting this comment. Rav Heinemann himself, who (as I previously mentioned) requires someone other than the owner check all shipments, also said that you cannot fault the Rav HaMachshir.
    =======================================

    Interesting, did R’ Heinemann explain why he has this requirement? Do other national hashgachot also have it?

    GCT

  53. Tal Benschar says:

    “Tal, what a wonderful hora’as heter (ruling to permit)! Why didn’t I think of that? Since we all know that the chilul Hashem was the Rav’s fault, now we can say whatever we want! I’m sorry that I let things like the Shulchan Aruch obstruct my recognition of the presumption of guilt. In these days before Y”K, it’s exactly the right time to change course and start condemning people, especially outstanding Rabbonim. ”

    Your sarcasm is noted. For the record, I never called the Rav guilty, just duped. You are also confusing fault and responsibility. It’s not the Rabbis fault. It is his responsibility.

    Now can you find somewhere to note my distress at having been nichshal (repeatedly!) in an issur Torah by what is supposed to be a “holy” community and its rabbonim? Or am I just supposed to sit quietly and say, “Oh Rabbi, you are so holy and learned, thank you for telling me that that treif chicken is kosher. I so enjoyed it at the chasuna of the daughter of the chosuveh Rov I went to last year.”

  54. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Menken, you said;

    “There are Halachos of Kashrus, and those Halachos were followed. We already know this…

    …Everything was done correctly as far as the Rav HaMachshir was concerned, as I’ll elaborate.”

    You later said simply that Rav Heinemann had concluded that “you cannot fault the Rav HaMachshir” (I accept that), BUT you provided no specific investigative findings or ways to access these.

    Is there at least an executive summary of the failure investigation in the Monsey case that covers the key points? Shouldn’t something like this be released now to the Orthodox public, or at least to their local Rabbonim as intermediaries, to end fruitless or destructive speculation?

    A publication of “lessons learned” would also be constructive.

    The aggressive line you’ve taken here bothers me. What can anyone have against proper disclosure?

  55. Tal Benschar says:

    “May I suggest we dump the term “incompetence” in this discussion? It is a judgement about people. Instead, we should talk about failure, which is a judgement about a specific event.”

    Fair enough. I withdraw my charge of incompetence. Failure is a good term.

    So is responsibility. That is what being a Rov ha Machshir means. Otherwise, who needs it?

  56. Yaakov Menken says:

    Bob, I took an “aggressive line” on Kavod HaRav. Reread Rav Adlerstein’s post three times, then read some of the comments with the image of one of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable people you can imagine as the Rav in question — as anyone who knows him will agree that he is. The comments here are simply frightening.

    There is little to disclose that has not already been disclosed. It is without doubt that major changes will now be made in the way Kashrus examinations are conducted. Ori could not be more mistaken, because everyone “knew” this fellow wasn’t a criminal. We still don’t know why he did it — it’s extremely hard for those who know him to imagine he did all this just to make an extra buck. Did he end up in debt to the mafia? Did they threaten his family? I don’t know. Do you?

    Hillel zeroed in on exactly the point. When you have a small butcher who is known to be reliable, and the only question is whether he will intentionally serve you treif, very little supervision is required. There’s a butcher here in Baltimore who has no supervision at all, just as you say — and everyone uses him. It’s just beyond imagining that a person of his character will serve you treif.

    Even after this scandal, I’ll still eat there. Tal will grow his own vegetables and scan them for bugs under a microscope. The rest of the world will follow reliable hechshers, knowing that they cannot guarantee perfection — and do, nonetheless, learn from their mistakes.

  57. Bob Miller says:

    Our imaginations have now been jolted, and fewer things are beyond our imagination.

  58. Porthos says:

    >You are sadly mistaken.

    No I’m not. I agree with you. My point is that to justify the rav’s hechsher on the minimalist grounds that R. Menken did is mistaken. Just like the rav hamachshir “knew” he was ehrliche, and relied on that, anyone in Monsey who had the exact same information could have eliminated the middleman.

    The point is that things ARE more complex and that is why a rav relying on ed echad is too simple. As I said, who needs the rav if that is all he is doing? And it seems like in this case that is essentially what the hashgacha amounted to.

  59. DMZ says:

    “There’s a butcher here in Baltimore who has no supervision at all, just as you say—and everyone uses him.”

    I never used him, made no secret that I thought his not having Star-K supervision (any supervision besides his own, even) was a problem, and now you know why. You cannot be mashgiach and business owner at the same time, because the conflict of interests is simply too great. This isn’t to say his meat is bad, G-d forbid, or anything else – only that I am personally uncomfortable (and always have been) with people who give their own hasgachos to themselves. I’d certainly like to believe that the individual you’re referring to would never do such a thing as happened in Monsey (I’d be shocked, honestly), but then again, wasn’t the fellow in this scandal a similarly upright yid, except for that whole “feeding traife meat to entire community” thing?

    I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this entire unfortunate incident, but first and foremost is that communities need to tighten up their kashrus standards and supervision. Even the Baltimore-Washington area, with our excellent regional kashrus authorities, can do more.

    -DMZ

  60. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Ori,

    With regards to your comment # 51, I agree that we should not assign blame to the Rav Hamachsir, as we were not in his place. Regarding your point #2, that is indeed the practical side of Kashrus. There is a famous story about the “heilege kurkavan”, which I heard when I was studying Chullin(I copied this from a May 1996 Mail Jewish Post by Eli Turkel):

    “There is a story of a famous rabbi (rosh yeshiva) who was walking down the street with the dayan (judge) of the town when a woman approached with a question about a chicken. The rabbi looked at the chicken and said he didn’t know if it was kosher. The dayan looked at the chicken and said there was a hole in the “kurkavan”(crop of a bird) which is explicitly not kosher. The rosh yeshiva looked at the chicken and exclaimed, “thats the holy kurkavan?” and then proceeded to give novella (chiddushim) of the laws of the kurkavan.”

    This illustrates the need for understanding the facts on the ground(“metzius”), and also for keeping up to date with the facts and circumstances , as opposed to just theory. All Mashgichim and Kashrus organizations are indeed aware of, and focus on this need(again, I am not judging this specific case).

  61. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “There’s a butcher here in Baltimore who has no supervision at all, just as you say—and everyone uses him.”

    I had a similar situation in Eretz Yisrael. I was told that people eat from a certain take-out place that didn’t have a hashgacha, because the person was well known to be an eirleche(honest)and upstanding Shomer Torah U’mitzvos.

  62. Michoel says:

    I have cute baal t’shuvah story that perhaps is pertinent.

    My first Shabbos as a frum Jew, I was set up by the BT yeshiva I was studying in to eat at a particular family on Shabbos night. Another bochur and myself went to the family’s home after davening. They weren’t home. We waited a while thinking (implausibly) that the entire family had gone to shul. After a little while, the other bochur (who had been frum for a while) suggested we go next door and ask if they know where the family is. They weren’t certain but thought that maybe they were out of town. Apparently there was more than one “Rosenberg” in Monsey that hosted boys from that yeshiva, and some confusion had occured. In any case, this very kindly neighbor said, “If they don’t show up soon, why don’t you come and make kiddush with us?” After a few more minutes of waiting, this more experience bochur says to me “Ok, let’s go next door and have the seudah there.” Well, being entirely new to the frum community, I was very distressed. “Wait! He said we should come for kiddush. We can’t just invite ourselves for the entire meal!” This bochur tried to explain to me that the neighbor meant we are invited for the meal but he was just being understated. Having little choice, I reluctantly joined him.

    Well, fortunately the bochur was right. That, neighbor, the Rav Hamachsir, was simply displaying his amazingly fine middos. He and his rebbetzin treated us with very great kavod. It was a kavod that was natural and sincere. Not a display of best behavior as a kiruv exercise. I had the pleasure of speaking to him several times in the subsequent years.

  63. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Menken, did you mean to say that:

    1. There was no error connected to the Monsey supervision.

    2. As a result of the Monsey event, kashrus agencies are tightening up supervision.

    3. It’s not odd for a prudent individual to decide to buy meat from a butcher shop with no outside supervision at all.

    If so, are these statements consistent?

  64. Yaakov Menken says:

    Michoel,

    There are two such yeshivos in Monsey; given the proximity of his shul to “the other” yeshiva, it is likely that you and I didn’t go to the same one. But we did both experience Monsey hospitality, and I hesitate to use your example as a demonstration of his outstanding middos. Let me explain why.

    I once had a similar experience due to a medical emergency in my intended host family. Given the dark house, I adjourned to the residence of one of the Rabbis of my yeshiva who lived several blocks away, whom I knew was having two other bochurim as his guests and thus would find my presence a minimal inconvenience.

    Two doors away from the first house lived another family whose hospitality I had enjoyed several times, most recently just the previous week. When the father of the family found out that I had walked past his house on the way to the Rabbi’s, he was almost offended that I had failed to barge in uninvited during the middle of his seudah.

    The gadlus of the Rav HaMachshir is reflected in the fact that his middos and yiras shomayim (fear of Heaven) are known to be outstanding, even in a community where behavior like what we experienced is that of a stam Baal HaBayis, a “regular Joe.”

    Bob, the answer is a conditional yes on your first line item. Meaning, of course there was an error. I think that what you wrote earlier puts it amazingly well:

    “Our imaginations have now been jolted, and fewer things are beyond our imagination.”

    What happened was so far beyond anyone’s expectation, or even imagination, that we cannot demand that anyone other than the vendor “take responsibility” for what happened — blog commenters and their boich sevaros (gut reactions) notwithstanding. But our imaginations have now been jolted, and of course what kashrus agencies will do in the future has changed permanently.

    Honestly, having lived in Monsey and Yerushalayim, I was shocked when I first heard that the deli to which I refer here in Baltimore has no hechsher. But that only shows what I know, or at least what I knew — I probably ate at the place in Yerushalayim mentioned by Boruch several times. When you walk into a restaurant in Meah Shearim packed with chassidim and yeshivaleit, are you going to look for a Teudah (certification) before you order?

    I imagine that when the deli owner retires, this situation — at least in Baltimore — will retire with him and likely never return ad biyas go’el. What happened, as you said, changes our perception of what is conceivable. But as far as that deli — I’ll still eat there. What was unimaginable yesterday is only barely imaginable today.

  65. Michoel says:

    Yaakov,
    Point well taken. What can I do? I like telling that story!

  66. charedilite says:

    “When in the last several decades have the Rabbonim of an entire city the size of Monsey declared a Taanis Tzibbur?”

    Rabbi Menken-
    I think that what you said reveals the essence of the matter, but perhaps with a different conclusion. In my opinion, the communal consumption of treif was the onesh, not the avairah. What caused the butcher to sell treif meat? Greed! The real avairah is dishonesty. That is where we must look to do teshuvah. That Monsey ate treif was the ‘potch’ to shock us out of our complacency with dishonesty.

    There have been money scandels for years in Monsey and related frum communities. The scandel involving President Clinton’s pardon of several frum Jews. Or the greed behind the cheaply constructed multi-family housing units (rather than normal apartment buildings conforming to normative building codes)going up all over, violating any good sense in community planning and just waiting for disaster to strike (just imagine a fire truck trying to get through the narrow clogged streets to reach one of the massive multi-family additions to homes on properties never intended for such). Or the prominent frum builder in Monsey, who wouldn’t sell unless he was paid money under the table- and all those who cooperated and thus cheated on their property taxes, like the Monsey Rosh Yeshiva who told my relative that he didn’t see anything wrong with the scheme. Or the local political scandals involving frum politicians and frum staff engaged in illegal fund raising. Many incidents and scandels- all driven by monetary greed.

    There was no taanis tzibur declared for any of them. The general attidude was- shhh, don’t do anything to draw attention to it, just cover it up. Only when the greed led to people eating treif did we feel the need to do teshuva. Evidently, only when violating such a minor and unimportant lav (Lo Sigzol) led to violating a “real” lav did the community feel any angst.

    This whole scandel was a potch from Avinu SheBaShamayim. Perhaps now we (on both a personal and communal level) will all take the requirement of honesty a little more seriously, lest we be potched again.

  67. Barzilai says:

    Thank you, Rabbi Adlerstein, for the R’ Schwadron story about the dangers of being “machzik b’machlokes.” Even people with the most superficial connection to Monsey will, with a moment’s thought, realize how germane and important the story is to current and recent events.

    I would like to add that the Gra says that the judgment of the yomim noro’im is a determination of whether we will have siyata dishmaya to fulfil the mitzvos and avoid issurim. One can try as much as he wants, but without divine assistance, his tzedakah will go to the undeserving, he will be distracted during davenning, his mezuzos and tefillin will fade, and he will unwittingly eat treifus. May our prayers for Hashem’s assistance in keeping the mitzvos be accepted.

  68. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Rabbi Yaakov Menken: “Ori could not be more mistaken, because everyone “knew” this fellow wasn’t a criminal.”

    Ori: I did not explain myself properly. May I try again?

    The history of business is full of people that everybody knew to be honest and trust worthy, who at some point turned out to be crooks. Enron and MCI are recent examples. Therefore, accounting procedures are developed under the assumption that everybody is a potential criminal. Auditors do not look for people who appear dishonest to audit. Auditors audit people randomly. In a well run business, nobody should ever think: “everybody trusts me, nobody will ever waste their time auditing me, so I can steal money and get away with it”.

    It would be unreasonable to expect a Kashrut agency to know that a specific apparently upstanding member of the community is serving treif meat. The only way to reduce this risk is to make sure EVERYBODY knows he or she might be audited, not as the result of suspicion, but just because the randon number generator picked a particular number.

    If King David could commit adultery, King Solomon worship idols, and Miryam utter Leshon Hara then none of us is above suspicion.

    Baruch Horowitz: “This illustrates the need for understanding the facts on the ground(“metzius”), and also for keeping up to date with the facts and circumstances , as opposed to just theory.”

    Ori: I agree. As I said, this is my analysis as an outsider. It’s quite possible that stores are randomly audited, for example, and there are no possible improvements to the process that are worth the cost.

    My point was that thinking like a criminal is a separate skill from Torah, and requires special expertise. It is possible that Kashrut organizations already employ such experts.

  69. Ori Pomerantz says:

    charedilite, may I add to your point? If store keepers had to keep accurate financial records and submit them to the Kashrut authorities, it would be easier to detect this kind of violation and therefore they would be less likely to do it.

    1. If they pay the treif meat provider “above the table”, the Kashrut agency will be able to see that they bought treif meat. “Yosef, why does your Kosher grocery store pay so much to Joe’s Treif Meat butchery?”

    2. If they pay the treif meat provider “under the table”, the Kashrut agency will be able to see unreasonable profits on meat. It appears you sold 400 chickens last month, even though you only bought 200. Would you mind teaching us your method of keeping inventory?”

  70. Steve Brizel says:

    RYBS pointed out that the Chachamim questioneed the Kohen Gadol to ascertain whether he was loyal to the Mesorah, as opposed to just the Torah Shebicsav even if he was viewed as faithful .This was not an instance of distrusting his chezkas kashrus and being chosed bksherim. Rather, the Kohen Gadol, when he entered the Kodesh Kodashim, had to have the proper kavanos, etc because all of Klal Yisrael was dependent upon him.

    There is no doubt that those aspects of the Monsey community, including but not limited to his own family that depended upon this individual trusted him with the chezkas kashrus of the meat, etc that that they purchased, cooked and ate, etc have a right to feel betrayed and even angry at what they perceive as a lack of neemanus as opposed to the basic halachic issues of hagalas kelim. Am I correct in stating that the public concern seems to be more about halachic inquiries re Yoreh Deah as opposed to Choshen Mishpat? Even if the person in question was perceived as a Baal Chesed or Baal Tzedakah, the facts are that the means to do so were acquired via a defrauding of the residents of Monsey. One would hope that we would see some shiurim or drashos on the importance of dealing properly in business as an element of Kiddush HaShem.

  71. Tal Benschar says:

    Even if the person in question was perceived as a Baal Chesed or Baal Tzedakah, the facts are that the means to do so were acquired via a defrauding of the residents of Monsey.

    I am reminded of a story of the Chafetz Chaim. Someone asked him, Chazal say that maachalos assuros are metamtem es ha lev — that keeping kosher ensures a spiritual purity. Yet we see many families who kept strictly kosher homes, yet their children went off the derech. How do we explain that?

    Answered the Chofetz Chaim, yes, the meat may have been glatt kosher, but was the money which purchased it glatt kosher? If not you still have a potential for timtum ha lev.

    Even if the person in question was perceived as a Baal Chesed or Baal Tzedakah, the facts are that the means to do so were acquired via a defrauding of the residents of Monsey.

    Nope. No time. We’ve got to have all those derashos about kavod ha rabbonim.

    This whole scandel was a potch from Avinu SheBaShamayim. Perhaps now we (on both a personal and communal level) will all take the requirement of honesty a little more seriously, lest we be potched again.

    Comment by charedilite

    charedilite, I wholeheartely agree. Not holding my breathe, though.

  72. Tal Benschar says:

    “What caused the butcher to sell treif meat? Greed! The real avairah is dishonesty. That is where we must look to do teshuvah. That Monsey ate treif was the ‘potch’ to shock us out of our complacency with dishonesty.”

    Well said, charedilite.

  73. Tzvi says:

    Is there a difference between a Kashrus agency and this specific hechsher? I think so. While the agencies, like the Star K run by R Heinemann, will tighten their procedures, the local machshirim will continue to rely on the shulchan aruch alone.

    Would this decade-long fraud have been perpetrated if the Rav Hamachshir had used stronger measures similar to the agencies?

    That is why we have agencies. Let’s see some real unanimity from the Monsey Rabbonim and let’s see them centralize the Kashrus field.

  74. Tzvi says:

    R Adlerstein makes a big fuss about his non-comment and insinuates that all who comment on the scandal or take a side in it will soon need strong suntan lotion.

    Well then, why did he bother to post and allow comments? What did he think would happen? Chacham eiynav b’rosho. Lifnei eever lo seatin michshol. Avak lashon horah b’kulom.

  75. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Tzvi, wouldn’t tighter Kashrut standards to prevent this kind of cheating be considered a fence around the Torah? If the Torah leaders of Monsey were to decide that standards need to be tighter, wouldn’t all Rabbis in Monsey have to follow the tigher standard from now on?

  76. Aryeh says:

    As an interesting thought, did anyone wonder what would have happened had all of the US kashrus agencies NOT relied on “shulchan aruch alone,” and if all the mashgichim had criminal investigation skills. Why the price of meat would be so much higher! And the same people who are now complaining about how you can’t rely on shulchan aruch alone and how rabbanim were negligent would complain about “how the rabbis are imposing unnecessary chumras on the community and using kashrus to squeeze more money out of hard-working baalei batim to do things that shulchan aruch doesn’t require in order to provide failed kollel guys who couldn’t get a job in the real world cushy sinecures as mashgichim.” Isn’t that what most people who’re yapping away right now would say?

    Tal–“We’ve got to have all those derashos about kavod ha rabbonim.”
    Based on your comments, they’re necessary for you.
    If you want to be machmir and not rely on “shulchan aruch alone,” that’s fine. If the entire community wants to, that’s also fine. But it always struck me as very odd that I’ve never heard people adopting chumras in Loshon hora. Your comments weren’t constructive criticism, they were disrespectful criticism, which is loshon hora m’ikar hadin.

  77. Tzvi says:

    Ori,
    I don’t see why one would necessarily cause the other and I don’t see the problem if it does.

    Aryeh,
    It seems that the Agencies are more vigilant and do keep more than just the shulchan aruch alone and people do pay the prices without complaining. See R Menken’s comments about R Heinemann and the Star K on this blog for an example.

    If I knew that a rav hamachshir was not visiting the site, auditing invoices or doing some sort of monitoring then I would balk at paying a higher price in order to subsidize the hashgacha. Why do I need a Rav to tell me that ‘eid echad neeman beissurin’? I can do that by myself and keep the change – especially in this case where the butcher was so well known – why did he even need a mashgiach?

  78. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Aryeh, I agree that training all mashgichim in criminal investigation skills would be too expensive to be worth doing. In the real world, security is always balanced with cost.

    However, that does not mean that there are no improvements that can be done at a reasonable cost. Business processes can provide the benefit of skills to people who don’t have them. Having an auditor go over the process to improve it won’t cost that much.

  79. Tal Benschar says:

    Aryeh:

    You do not know me nor my hanhagos, so how you know that I lack kavod ha rabbonim is beyond me.

    As for my comments, you seem to have missed the point so, let’s recap. R. Adlerstein told a maaseh from R. Schwadron, which you can read. His point was that there were many who got involved in that machlokes who had nothing to do with it and merely wanted to get involved for its own sake. That is a fair point. Other than the few persons involved, no one had any interest whatsoever in the machlokes. So they should have kept quiet.

    My point is that, here, in contrast, the entire tsibbur has been effected, not only in Monsey, but anyone who ate in Monsey. People were caused to be nichshal in an issur Torah. Repeatedly. An issur that Chazal say has serious and deleterious spiritual effects.

    Those people are entitled to ask serious questions about how it happened. R. Adlerstein’s attempt to tell us to keep quiet (with threats of gehennom yet) is resented, at least by me.

    As for the rabbonim involved, R. Menken seems to feel that they have no responsibility whatsoever. Not only no fault (which I agree, they were duped by a pious crook), but no responsibility. So the name Rabbi X on a hasgacha means nothing. You can end up feeding thousands neveilah under that name, but then kavod ha rabbonim means that those who ate neveilah for many years under your name are not permitted to even ask how it happened and what you intend to do in the future to prevent it. That position I find utterly amazing, and, IMO, contrary to the gemara that be makom Chillul Hashem ein cholkin kavod la Rav.

  80. Bob Miller says:

    No system is foolproof, but since our personal sanctity depends on it, the implementation of the kashrus system should periodically be reviewed and upgraded as needed. As noted in comments above, there is some tension between our desire to prevent error or fraud and our desire to afford to buy the product. Now, a new consensus will develop.

    There will always be some role for small or one-man hashgachot, but clearly some situations (depending on the scale and complexity of the supervised operation, etc.) now require a top-level, large supervisory organization. I can see some value in having cooperatives of smaller hashgachot. A cooperative could create a central front office, database, uniform procedures, and outside audit team, so its members can deliver the level of service expected by consumers of products they supervise.

  81. mycroft says:

    Am I correct in stating that the public concern seems to be more about halachic inquiries re Yoreh Deah as opposed to Choshen Mishpat? Even if the person in question was perceived as a Baal Chesed or Baal Tzedakah, the facts are that the means to do so were acquired via a defrauding of the residents of Monsey.

    Steve Brizel hits it on the nose of the problem-many people both MO and RW who believe that Yahadus is essentially Yoreah Deah. Read the Yom Kippur haftatrot and see if you get that impression.

  82. Tal Benschar says:

    R. Menken:

    One other point I feel compelled to mention. Your posts assume that I have already condemned the Rabbonim and held them at fault for the Chillul Hashem. But that is NOT what the gemara in Eruvin says.

    The case there is that a rebbe and talmid were walking somewhere, and they noticed someone violating an issur. The talmid spoke up and chastised the person, apparently effectively. The gemara asks, what happened to the halakha of ein morin halakha bifnei rabbo? The answer is bemakom chillul Hashem, ein cholkin kavod la Rav.

    The rebbe their certainly was not at fault, he was just a passerby. Yet when the issue was stopping or mitigating a Chillul shem Shomayim, the talmid was obligated to act, and was NOT ALLOWED to defer to his rebbe. That is the halakha.

    What amazes me is that you do not seem to grasp that the “Be Quiet” attitude is itself a major turnoff for many. The blogosphere is filled with cynical people, some of them who have almost a Korach-like attitude towards the rabbonim. I do not share that attitude, and when I respond at all usually push it aside forcefully. Most rabbonim sincerely act to uphold the kavod Shomayim and the needs of the tsibbur.

    But here we have had a major breakdown in an Orthodox public institution — the hasgacha of a major town. Thousands have been nichshal. To say the Rov whose name was on the hasgacha bears no responsibility — again not fault, responsibility — plays right into the hands of the cynics who view the rabbinate as a cabal looking out for its own interests. The tsibbur who was nichshal is entitled, IMO, to ask how this happened and how it will be prevented in the future. Answering those questions is part of the responsibility which comes with putting your name on a hasgacha.

  83. Tzvi says:

    If this type of incident had happened at a Mikvah L’nashim, would Tal be allowed to voice protest and indignation and calls for responsibility and corrective procedures, or would it still be bizuiy rabbonim? (I guess I’m trying to extremitize/polarize the situation to get more definitive views; I don’t mean to imply anything).

  84. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “R. Adlerstein’s attempt to tell us to keep quiet…”

    Maybe he was just urging caution and judicious discussion of the issue. There is an editorial in this week’s Jewish Press and it was in the NYT, so the issue is getting wide exposure in any event. However, if it needs to be discussed, it should be done in the best manner possible.

  85. Aryeh says:

    “so how you know that I lack kavod ha rabbonim is beyond me.”–Ein l’dayan elo ma she-einov roos. The only thing I have to go on is your comments which did not display kvod rabbonim.
    And I didn’t miss your point. My objection was not to the substance of your comments but to the style. That’s exactly what I was saying. Ein cholkin kovod l’rav doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to be disrespectful.

  86. SephardiLady says:

    One poster here raised the issue of yashrus. Let’s do a thought experiment: imagine this same person had instead been caught in a financial crime, a stock swindle, maybe, or tax fraud. What would the reaction have been? The same, less or more? If less, why?

    Thank you Tal Benschar for brining my point back up. To me, this scandal is not a whole lot different than any other “white collar” crime of recent memory which has sadly occured in one of our communities. The only difference. . . . people are mad as heck that they ate trief. I personally experience great pain when I hear about financial fraud, and I experience even more pain when it is all excused as being for a “good cause.”

    ***In addition, Ori Pomerantz has excellent points. There is a concept in auditing called Professional Skepticism. It is a skill to develop such (I know what I’m speaking about here :). As a former auditor, and hopefully a future auditor or investigator, I will say that there are myriads of techniques that are already developed to improve internal controls and to detect impropriety.

    Does fraud still happen? Absolutely. And, when fraud shakes the foundations of the professional world, procedures are changed and regulated. But, a sound system in place tends to make it a whole lot harder to pull the wool over the eyes of a community.

    (There is also something called “peer review” where collegues review the work of each other to do “internal policing.” This also helps keep businesses on the straight and narrow).

    Are the Rabbonim bad guys? No. But, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t more that can be learned. And, there are plenty of people out there that could share their knowledge.

  87. Baruch Horowitz says:

    SpherdiLady,

    From a JTA article, linked below, about an unnamed Kashrus agency:

    “The agency started the laborious process of checking invoice receipts against sales receipts the week after the Shevach Meat scandal was exposed, the rabbi said, adding that it could take several months to complete the initial check and that its stores would be subject to rolling, random checks in the future.”

    Rabbi Genack, of the OU, also talked about a global accounting system to trace meat products through the distribution chain.

    Auditors might design statistical sampling tests to detect Kashrus fraud based on levels of risk. There is no concept of materiality in Kashrus, but one can talk of audit procedures designed to provide consumers with a reasonable level of assurance. This would be cheaper then having a mashgiach temedi at every point in the distribution chain. Arthur Anderson(before Enron) originally had a contract with the FBI to a review management and recordkeeping practices, so accountants can also bring their expertise to the Kashrus industry, as Ori mentioned.

    As an aside, one of the poskim in the kashrus field mentioned this past Motzoei Shabbos(NYC Zev Brenner Show) that one can not totally abandon the assumption of chezkas kashrus in the meat or any other food supervisory area.

    http://www.jta.org/page_view_story.asp?intarticleid=17124&intcategoryid=4

  88. SephardiLady says:

    Thanks for the link Baruch.
    A mashgiach temidi at every point would be far too costly and (in my opinion) would not give the same level of assurance as proper internal and external controls, like R. Genack alludes too.

  89. Bob Miller says:

    Plus, a mashgiach may be in the facility all the time, but he can’t be everywhere in the facility all the time.

  90. M. Cohen says:

    Although this issue is now recent history, I wanted to mention that a short book was published in 5741/1981 entitled “The City of Crakow” by Rabbi Sholom Yehuda Gross. It chronicles an event that took place during the time of Rabbi Noson Nota Shapiro, the “Megale Amukos”, when the butchers of Crakow supplied the city with non-kosher meat. Copies of this book were distributed in my community before Rosh Hashana both to remind people of the power of teshuva/repentance and the severity of the sin of eating non-kosher food. Although it is out of print, I highly recommend this book, especially in light of (not so) recent events.

  1. September 26, 2006

    […] Read this article from Yitzchok Adlerstein of Cross Currents […]

  2. September 28, 2006

    […] Rabbi Adlerstein’s non-response to the “Monsey chicken story” resulted in the largest comment thread in recent memory—thanks to people responding to the story. Something about fools rushing in comes to mind, but still more apropos and timely is a Mishnah in the first chapter of Maseches Yoma. […]

  3. September 29, 2006

    […] A second follow-up to Rabbi Adlerstein’s non-response to the “Monsey chicken story:” In the comments thread, I wrote that there is a butcher here in Baltimore who carries no hechsher (Kosher certification). I also said that “I imagine that when the deli owner retires, this situation—at least in Baltimore—will retire with him.” […]

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