Culture, Israel, Justice, Religion

Eating Right, Without a TV

I just learned a new halakhah yesterday. According to the Jerusalem Rabbinate, having a TV in your dining room makes your food not-kosher. At least that’s what they told the little sandwich shop around the corner from me. Well, actually, that should be qualified a bit. The Rabbinate is willing to call your food kosher if you have a television set, but that’s only the pedestrian kashrut. If you want what they insist is the real certification, the mehadrin certification, the certification that tells you that it’s kosher enough for the supervising rabbi to eat there himself, then you have to ditch the tube.
I wonder what else is on the not-kosher list. Does having a radio treif up your dishes? Perhaps having an encyclopedia would make magical lesions appear on your cows’ lungs? Watch out, the word is that women workers often sneak in a little yayin nesach at the counter.
Bottom line, while we’re having our genteel debate on the virtue of bundling commandments, and whether eco and tzedek kashrut are valuable and worth pursuing, the Jerusalem Rabbinate (a state organization) has long ago expanded the meaning of kashrut, and our priorities are nowhere on their radar.
Clarification: The problem was having a TV in the dining room of the restaurant. To the best of my knowledge, no kashrut organization investigates a store owner’s private home.

19 thoughts on “Eating Right, Without a TV

  1. This is pretty incredible. To many (myself included) who find little enjoyment in navigating the web of hechsherim in Israel, but who take the issue quite seriously in terms of the food that we purchase, the accepted common knowledge was that Badatz certification took into account extra-kashrut related considerations (tv, the attire of the staff and clientelle, location, etc…), but the Rabbanut was above that. The Rabbanut Mehadrin certification was supposed to be something in the middle, a hechsher that relied on no leniencies, but that didn’t look at all of the other mishegas.
    The kashrut mafia continues to find new ways to push yidden away from true Judaism.
    My proposed (and highly untenable) solution: Establish a non-profit organization that offers a FREE or even subsidized (i.e., we’ll pay you to be hechshered) hechsher, that follows the halachah stringently (or maybe even offers levels, such as the rabbanut with their stam certification and their mehadrin), but that takes nothing into consideration aside from the FOOD. It would need to be under the auspices of a gadol the likes of whom does not exist in the world today…. A pipedream I suppose.

  2. having a TV in your dining room makes your food not-kosher
    Well, that’s one way to “out-frum” the Amish.

  3. I don’t understand. What is the issue with a TV? Does that mean that Deli Kasbah isn’t kosher (they have tvs with 24-7 videos of the Rebbe)?

  4. I’m the first guy to jump on the anti-koshernostra bandwagon, but frankly, this isn’t an issue. You don’t need a hechsehr in your home, so that whole issue is just a red herring. I for one think it’s entirely reasonable to give a basic hechser, and then give another level of hechsher to certify more than just kashrut. For some communites, the tzedek hechseher will be most important, for others, the no-tv or modest-dress-staff hechsherim will be more important. Live and let live.

  5. I do not understand why Halacha has suddenly become your standard for deciding which extrinsic factors are in or out. The Rabbanut really means that they do not accept things, or frown on things, like TV, which are outside of their cultural ambit. Since their culture does not have such a problem with exploitation of workers and other tzedek issues, they do not take that into account in their hecksher. This is a consistent position. If you do not like it then stop associating whatever your culture is with theirs. Which would mean starving yourself of rubashkins meat, perhaps for the better. But if you let them do “kashrut” for you and then your kashrut is different from theres, you have noone but yourself to blame for that abdication.

  6. I wonder if this same crowd would complain if the badatzes decided to condition their certification with stuff like: cleanliness and hygiene, and/or negligent issues like the fair rights of employees on the premises vis a vis minimum wage and stuff like that.

  7. To Josh
    Your speaking to the exact point I’m raising. Many people I know, on this blog and in other places have been debating the merit of giving certification for following the halakhot that deal with workers and other financial obligations, and we have thought about including them in the ordinary certifications that we give to the food industry. Many of the Orthodox certifications have raised the counterargument that even if these halachot should be followed, we would be doing a wrong by conflating those concerns with kashrut, and that a kashrut certification should mean kosher food and nothing else.
    However, while we continue to debate, the Orthodox world has already began expanding the boundaries of kashrut. I made this same point in But Is It Kosher? So, what is left is for us to engage them in this forum, and to stop debating. I am prepared to say, o.k., you can insist that there be no TVs in venues you give certification to, but I insist that those same venues also follow the halakhot of Choshen Mishpat.

  8. I think we are attacking this from the wrong perspective……Who needs a kosher certification for food at someone elses house anyway?
    How many of you go around asking your friends for their certification?
    You either trust your friend or not, no one has a teudah!

  9. “The Rabbanut really means that they do not accept things, or frown on things, like TV, which are outside of their cultural ambit.”
    whose ambit is “theirs”? Its a government agency, funded by *my* tax money – so i think my cultural ambit should have a say.
    This is also technically illegal in Israel – there was a high court appeal regarding a similar issue in the ‘fifties (áâ”õ îøá÷) which limited the discretion of the rabbanut to technical matters of kashrut only. This is why it is only an issue for “mehadrin” kashrut.

  10. It’s a mehadrin kosher issue. Someone relyng on a mehadrin kosher certification wants to know that the establishment serving it meets certain requirements. Many of those that follow mehadrin standards do not own a TV and do not want their families exposed to TV when dining. Thus it makes perfect sense not to give a mehadrin certification to an establishment with a television. They’re not saying that TV makes food unkosher, sheesh. This is such a non-issue I can’t even believe it was post-worthy.

  11. “Many of those that follow mehadrin standards do not own a TV and do not want their families exposed to TV when dining.”
    That’s very nice. and many of those that follow said standards do own a TV and have no problem watching it when eating their pizza. so maybe we can cut the patronizing and let people decide for themselves?

  12. Please, everyone. The issue is not the TV per se. I am perfectly fine with that. The issue is that the certification can be revoked for having a TV, but exploiting workers is fine according to the rabbanut.That is what needs to change. We need to refocus priorities. In particular from a halakhic perspective, I can give you a whole tur that deals with question of financial propriety, but you would be hard pressed to find me a se’if that says you can’t own a TV.

  13. Fran,
    there’s a thing called ‘hazaka’ when eating at ‘private’ people’s homes. If they talk the talk and walk the walk, then it is assumed that their kitchen is fine. I think that most rabbis also recommend that you avoid asking questions like where the meat came from or if the lettuce was washed once you are in the door. The Rabbis tell you that it’d be best to avoid the situation if possible if there is more doubt than not, or if you know for sure that there’s a high probability that the people don’t have the same standards (whether higher or different).

  14. Josh, you’re wrong.
    The reason you can eat at someone’s house, or the reason you can listen to a mashgiach for that matter, is a principle that “a single witness can be trusted in issues of ritual law” In other words, if anyone tells you food is kosher – it’s kosher. So, why do we need a mashgiach at all? Two reasons: a – this rule may only apply to shomer shabbat Jews (though, that’s not so simple) so if your store owner is anythign else, you would need a mashgiach. b – there’s another ‘hazaka’ (well founded assumptio)n) though its’ never written in the Talmud, and that is ‘people lie to make money’ so in a business establishment, it’s always best to have someone looking over your shoulder. However, that second principle is not a halakhic one but only a common sense one. So, at the end of hte day, if you wlak into a restaurant,(or into your friend’s home) and even though there’s no certification fi the guy behind the counter tells you it’s kosher, well guess what then – it’s kosher.

  15. Josh F– haven’t you also written about your experiences as a mashgiach in which reporting something might have resulted in losing your job?
    seems a mashgiach isn’t necessarily more trustworthy on that count than the guy behind the counter.

  16. this rule may only apply to shomer shabbat Jews (though, that’s not so simple)
    But how many witnesses does it take to tell whether someone is a “shomer shabbat Jew”?

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