Culture, Religion

Jackie Mason, Kashrut Maven?

The Forward reports on the not terribly new news that it is now possible to eat a kosher cheeseburger by putting parve soycheese on a burger (or, also, of course, although not at a meat restaurant, by putting real cheese on a soyburger, or even soycheese on a soy burger). SO what’s the news exactly? Well, apparently a real meat kosher restaurant has begun offering said real meat with fake cheese burger at its location. The Forward excitedly noted that in the original New York Post article, Jackie Mason, the comedian, is nauseated by the prospect of eating a cheeseburger. Rabbi Basil Herring, the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America is also not thrilled at the prospect, although his complaint is at least not ridiculous. He’s worried about marit ayin – that some young kid might walk into the restaurant and see people eating cheese on a burger and think that it’s Kosher.
I will note that, while Marit ayin is a legitimate problem, there are ways one could take care of this quite easily. For example, posting a giant sign everywhere in the restaurant saying something like, “This is a meat-serving kosher establishment. No dairy products of any kind are served here. ‘Cheese’ in the ‘cheeseburgers’ is completely pareve and contains no dairy ingredients.
Tanchuma Shmini 12, Hullin 109b:
“God said to Moshe: Warn Israel not to eat bad things, and they
shouldn’t mislead you by saying that God forbade Israel to eat good
things. God said that everything I have forbidden to you, I have
permitted something else in its place… I forbid pork, and permit the
tongue of the fish known as shibbuta which has a similar taste to pork… And why? To give a good reward to Israel for keeping my mitzvot.”
But not only that! The Yerushalmi Kiddushin 4:12 says:
“In the future, we will all have to answer to God for all that our eyes saw of God’s wonderful world but did not partake of.”
Dude, it’s kosher! If the kid isn’t old enough to read, she’s not old enough to be by herself in a restaurant without parental oversight to explain what soycheese is.
So, Jackie, Rashi quotes Sifra Kedoshim,11: 22 on Leviticus 20:26 (And I have distinguished you from the [other] peoples to be mine), saying,
“Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaria says: How do we know that a person should not say: ‘I am disgusted with pig meat, it is impossible for me to eat’ but rather he should say: ‘I can, but what can I do? My Father in Heaven has decreed upon me (that it’s not permitted). The verse says: “And I have distinguished you from the other peoples to be mine,” that your separation from them should be for My Name’s sake— he separates himself from sin and so accepts on himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
On the other hand, who the hell thinks Jackie Mason ought to be cited as a source of halakhic – or any other- advice?
By the way, I just can’t help myself here, does anyone else think Al Lewis (grandpa Munster), Jackie Mason, separated at birth? Although I hear the late Al Lewis was a fabulous and lovely guy.

jackie mason grandpa munster

10 thoughts on “Jackie Mason, Kashrut Maven?

  1. Um, Rubin’s in Brookline has had a burger with soy cheese for as long as I’ve been up here (3+ years). There are no signs about it.

  2. Jackie Mason’s repulsion seems more honest to be that the marit ayin argument. You grow up with an aversion to something, and you will have an aversion to a simulacrum of that thing.

  3. Apparently it’s only considered newsworthy when it happens in New York. Ken’s Diner in the Chicago area has had “cheese”burgers since I was a kid. (But I don’t see it listed on their online menu – maybe they got rid of it under pressure from Jackie Mason? Still, they list ice cream and milkshakes without disclaimers.) They also have the “Bay-Ken” burger with beef bacon.

  4. Maris ayin is absolutely not an issue. Unless Chazal brought down that maris ayin applies to a specific case, then the concept cannot be applied to that case. Unfortunately, rabbis often rely on maris ayin as a general catch-all for things that they pashut don’t want people doing or that make them uncomfortable. This is a clear misapplication of the halachah. In the shulchan aruch it’s pretty clear, in a debate over eating fish blood (permitted) if one needs to mark it as such even in a “cheder chederim,” or a room within a room, a halachic concept implying that one is in a completely private place, where there is on chance of anyone seeing. The argument is that either maris ayin is a specific issur bein adam l’makom, in which it applies ONLY to the cases brought down by chazal, but it ALSO applies even in a place where it is impossible for anyone else to see, OR it is a general issur bein adam l’chavero and it can be applies to other cases, but it doesn’t apply where no other person can see.
    The outcome of the argument is that it applies even in a cheder chederim, and can not be applied to other situations where chazal didn’t apply the concept.
    To the best of my knowledge, chazal never mentioned the phrase “soy cheese,” and therefore the application of maris ayin is incorrect.

  5. As someone who came to kashrut later in life I can tell you that marat ayin is a legitimate issue in terms of causign confusion about what is and is not permissible. But it goes beyond that. You suggest that G-d wants us to eat (soy)cheeseburgers or explain ourselves. Look, don’t kid yourself that a soycheese burger is a cheeseburger. (Like I said, I didn’t always eat kosher.) I have a hunch that G-d also could care less if you pass on soy shrimp in your chinese food. (But DO NOT pass on shibbuta tongue. Fry that up like bacon on your next burger.)
    But there’s also the aspect of it just not being a Jewish thing. Like mayonnaise on a deli sandwich. Go ahead and eat it if you like it, if it’s a personal preference, but let’s not elevate it to the level of something that we have a right or an obligation to do. As Jews or individuals we don’t have to do what everyone does. We don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. There’s something comforting in having a boundary, in saying “that is not for me- I do not do that.” I took the same position when I was a vegetarian. No fake meats. It’s celebrating something you don’t believe in.

  6. I never said it was an obligation; I said it was permitted and totally kosher. And it’s not celebrating something I don’t believe in, it’s eating something that (theoretically) tastes good. Although, I have to admit, I’d rather just have a grilled cheese with all the usual toppings (mustard, mayo, pickles, onions, mushrooms, etc – no ketchup, which is the devil’s condiment) and skip the meat entirely. I just don’t think it loses anything compared to the taste of soycheese which I don’t love.

  7. There’s actually a very easy solution to marit ayin- food coloring.
    No, seriously. If someone started making pareve cheese and deliberately dyed their products blue, or purple, or some other colors not found in nature (I was going to include green, but that might be off-putting to customers), one could basically be free and clear as far as what assumptions people might have “if they happen to be walking by and see you eating a cheeseburger, God forbid.” It’s not anyone could claim there’s naturally occurring purple cheese. If nothing else, they’d have to concede *something* had been done to it. And as of right now, no one else is doing it.
    One could do something similar with turkey bacon- maybe orange with stripes.
    The best part is that it would presumably be onerous enough to *fake* a dyed piece of soy-cheese that it would preclude the argument, “Well, you could have just colored it yourself 5 seconds ago when my back was turned.”

  8. As Jews or individuals we don’t have to do what everyone does. We don’t have to keep up with the Joneses.
    Excellent point. Of course, I don’t feel obligated to keep up with the Schwartzes, either.
    People want to keep kosher, more power to them. Personally, I could care less. Bring on the sushi.

  9. OK, the Al Lewis reference is priceless 🙂
    This is the exact reason why the kosher Subway in Cincinnati can have fake cheese on its subs, but the kosher Subway in New York was told by its hechsher that they couldn’t (and had to eventually almost completely heimish-ize their menu due to the market, now offering shwarma and pastrami).
    I’m sure the whole restaurant will be banned anyway so this is kind of a moot point.

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