Rabbi Moshe Dovid Gutnick, unedited
I write this advisory in response to an article that appeared in the Sydney edition of the AJN in relation to the kosher status of fruit juices. The article referred specifically to the policies of Kosher Australia which is Melbourne based. We fully respect their decisions in relation to their own community, as they in turn respect our decisions for our community. In order that the article not create confusion for local consumers I have written the following. It also addresses some other issues as well as some NSW policies in general.
The KA will investigate products and companies - even when they do not believe our market size is worth them investing in Kosher certification. I do not know why Berri (the fruit juice company alluded to in the Kosher Australia statement) stopped supplying information to Kosher Australia - but after receiving Kosher Australia's permission I called my contacts at Berri - offered them to investigate their products gratis - and earlier in the week they confirmed that they would be very happy to provide all the necessary information and fully cooperate with the KA.
For the sake of Sydney consumers I will demonstrate that all of our policies, and specifically those in relation to fruit juices, are based on sound halachic principles suitable for a "baal nefesh" ... a scrupulous individual.
I will divide our policies into two categories: Those which apply to licensees and certifications and those that apply to approved products. I suggest everyone re-read the introductory essay that I wrote as an introduction to the kosher guide which you can find on our website titled halachic standards today.
In brief the point of that essay is that halachically there is a vast difference between Australia, and the United States and Israel, when it comes to kashrus. In the US and Israel the kosher market is so large that it impacts on the decisions made by companies when they produce. As such it is possible that even when gentiles manufacture it is halachically considered as if the products are being made for Jews and none of the laws found in Shulchan Aruch in relation to gentile manufacture apply.
Furthermore, and indeed perhaps because of the above, in terms of the practical observance of kashrus there is no such thing as an approved list. All Kashrut information is via certification, is always paid for, and is subject to all the stringencies of Jewish production.
Therefore if a manufacturer uses an amount of non kosher material in production which would normally be nullified even if he is a gentile manufacturing for gentiles but also for certification - it is not nullified.
Let me give a paradoxical example from my own experience. Sugar is considered by the OU a "schedule one" for Pesach. "Schedule one" in the kashrus world means something that is able to be used without being certified or even investigated.
Although it is well known that sugar may contain chometz derived ingredients such as enzymes and the like - they are indeed botul - nullified and the sugar is used.
I was approached by a company to give kosher for Passover supervision to their sugar, as the sugar was going to be used in another company's kosher for Pesach production. However as they were seeking certification I could not rely on bittul and had to insist that they change ingredients. Yet at the same time I knew that the OU, who were overseeing the receiving company, would still accept that sugar for pesach whether or not I certified the sugar. I explained it all to the company - who to their credit are still trying to get the ingredients for proper pesach certification which to date they have not been successful - but their product is still being accepted in the OU plant, and I have not been able to certify it for Pesach.
This is the paradox. Torah tells me that the product is kosher for Pesach Lechatchila - provided however that it is not specifically being made for me. If it is being made for me - nullification may not apply and I may not use it.
This is a common theme throughout Shulchan Anich Yoreh Deah Chapter 114, There are many situations where we know there may be Kashrut problems with an item - but because of certain Torah principles such as going after the majority or nullification the product may Ichatchila be used. There is no "Mehadrin" classification for the extra frum. There is halocho which says that something ts permitted or not.
In fact the Shulchan Aruch actually gives guidelines as to when one can or should be machmir. The Ramo in Shulchan Aruch at the end of Siman 116 writes that if a rabbi has given a ruling on an animal based upon his own understanding and application of principles, and it is not something that is clearly written to be permissible, then a "baal nefesh'" should be machmir and not eat it. However, as the commentaries explain, if the ruling is based upon a clear halocho recorded as such, then even a "baal nefesh" does not have to be machmir.
What if the "haal nefesh" wants to be machmir anyway - this is subject to dispute. One opinion is that he may do so even though he is not obligated to do so - and it will be counted as a "mitzvah". The other opinion, favoured by the Darcei Teshuvah and others, is that there is nothing to be gained whatsoever in doing so - and in fact some poskim say he is not permitted to do so, for to do so denies torah principles and the person is guilty of "heresy". For example if a prohibited substance falls into kosher and is nullified one in sixty, the first opinion holds you may if you wish not eat it. The other favoured opinion is that you must eat it, for to refrain from doing so is rejecting the halachic concept of bittul b'shishim, and borders on heresy.
If a particular halocho is subject to dispute amongst the poskim - then even when the Halacha is like one view, you are permitted but not obligated - even as a baal nefesh - to be machmir. The only time a "baal nefesh" is obligated to be machmir is if the decision is not based on a clear ruling in Shulchan Aruch or the like, or if Shulchan aruch specifically makes this provision.
This is the reason why throughout Siman 114, Rabbi Yosef Karo, The Rosh, The Ramo and others all talk about eating all sorts of things that would clearly not get kosher certification and certainly not make it on to today's Mehadrin lists. I do not accept that they did not keep kosher as well as we do! The explanation for this is simple. It is because in Europe and other countries, in those years, the Jewish market counted for next to nothing and as such, the rules of bittul (nullification), roiv (majority) and the like all applied. The principles used were straight forward halocho, and the greatest sages of all time used those principles and partook of food that the Torah allowed. As stated above, in the United States today and other places where we are a substantive part of the market and companies seek our certification - the halocho is different.
That is why it is in my opinion, completely not correct to compare our situation to that of the US or Israel. Shulchan Aruch tells us that considering our circumstances we can use the same principles used by the Mechaber and Ramo in their circumstances. To be machmir unnecessarily is not only not necessary - but as above perhaps even contravention of Halocho.
Let us now return to our juice situation. I have dealt in the attached juice statement, with most of the aspects of juice. However I have not dealt with the fact that some concentrates from Israel may be used in Australia and does this pose a halachic problem? The answer is, in my opinion that it absolutely does not.
In Siman 114 the Shulchan Aruch and commentaries lay down rules in relation to the possibility of non kosher ingredients such as forbidden wine and even some biblically prohibited items being added to a product. When these rules are applied to our situation - bearing in mind the amount of Israeli produce in the market (almost nil due to its price - a factor also mentioned in Shulchan Aruch), and the nature of the prohibition (trumah and ma'aser according to most opinions only rabbinic - except for orloh, but the amount of orloh orange, apple or pear juice, even in Israel is insignificant), then halacha would permit purchase of a bottle of juice in Australia without question - because we do not have to assume that the prohibited juice is in our juice - and you are not even obligated to find out. IMHO this is simple Shulchan Aruch . IMHO this is such a clear din that I question whether one is even allowed to be machmir.
Lets put this in further perspective for our community. This is not the US or Israel. There are not a lot of juices available. I cannot speak for the Melbourne community nor should I. Their Rabbis have the responsibility to rule for them and I never try to impose my view on that community. But in our community: An average housewife trying to keep kosher, is told that almost all juices are not kosher, throws up her hands and says why on Earth should I bother at all? And why should I and the KA rule strictly - when I can find absolutely no basis in Shulchan Aruch for doing so?! The Torah was given to bring peace to the world; the commandments were given to refine human beings - yet kashrus has too often been used to create machloket and bring out the baser attributes within people. Judaism becomes a competition as to who is frumer than who. When Rabbi Twerski was here some years ago he was asked whether he is machmir in Chodosh/Yoshon. His answer was no. When asked why not his response was - "I don't want to add another reason why someone should not eat in someone else's house". Sadly the measure of frumkeit has become in how many houses one doesn't eat. I remind all to learn Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 468, and YD 112:15 and find that Shulchan aruch speaks also about keeping the peace, not embarrassing others - even when the chumra is legitimate.
We have in our community the ridiculous situation that children are instructed not to eat even in the homes of fully observant fellow jews and not even in the homes of Rabbis - because the parents have convinced themselves (with arguments that are really opposite of Torah) - that their homes are more kosher! This is a form of elitism that was not practiced by the Ramo, the Mechaber the Rosh or the Rambam. It certainly does not encourage the masses to keep kosher. Is this how we want our children raised? Shouldn't we as a community move away from this divisive behaviour?
Therefore the KA will continue to administer Kashrus to the best of its ability with sound halachic policies that are to the benefit of the entire community - and this means both lhachmir and lhokeil - without fear or favour and without looking over our right shoulder. This is the spirit that brought the union of the two previous Kashrut authorities in our city - and the spirit that I believe the vast majority of our community supports and indeed the spirit of Shulchan Aruch.
Now to some of the policies and standards that are unique to our community:
We insist that every meat establishment has a Mashgiach temidi, full time Mashgiach, whether the owner is observant or not. This is not the case in Melbourne.
Because we insist on this, the Monsey meat scandal that took place in the US could not happen here. At a conference in the US where I attended it was suggested that the answer to the Monsey meat problem was a mashgiach temidi! I looked on with incredulity - we are supposed to be the inferior Australia, yet we have had this in Sydney since the establishment of the KA.
Another outcome of this policy is that our mashgichim are present and therefore can be responsible for the checking of vegetables etc.
We have, according to our Shochtim that have shechted in Melbourne and throughout the world, in their opinion, the highest standard of Glatt anywhere. It is our policy (and this is not policy in Melbourne), that our butcheries must have a percentage ownership of a fully Shomer Shabbos etc jew.
Our fruit juice and soft drink policy has been dealt with at length previously. In a separate posting I will deal at length about oil in the same manner as the juice policy.
The KA is very active in making as many products as possible kosher. We are responsible for example, for Heinz-Wattie NZ, Masterfoods, Sanitarium and Kellog's products being in the approval arena as well as many more companies, and we have been instrumental in facilitating the revolution that Waldov products have made in local certified production. So significant are these advances that Waldov KA certified products are now in demand in South Africa and the USA.
Our standards for certified products are the highest in the world. They include fish produced with continuous supervision (not required by the OU), and Chalav Yisracl of the highest standards. Those who work with us know this and we are respected around the world. We have an especially warm relationship with Rav Landa's hechsher and The Eida Chareidis as well as of course the OK and OU.
In conclusion - every one of our policies and standards are based upon sound halachic principles that are applied in the best interest of our community. These policies are not kept secret and are in our directory. They are made and applied with Hashem's help , with the fear of Heaven uppermost in our minds, and the well known prayer that the modern machmirim seem to have forgotten - we pray to Hashem both "not to make the pure impure nor the impure pure, (both) not to make forbidden that which is permitted and not to make permitted that which is forbidden".
Yes, the KA is not a private organization or a business - and yes maybe it is not as polished as it should be and maybe we need some more employees - and we are trying to address those problems , and yes there is always room for improvement and we constantly strive to that end - but it is a little bit of unity in a sea of discord , and we have an organization and standards that the entire community can be proud of, and that is the envy of many a community. We seek not to impose our standards on others nor are we critical of the decisions those communities make for themselves. Indeed we remain available to assist communities throughout Australia and NZ. Assist - not usurp. Let us all work together to ensure that unity remains. Let us grow together as a community where kashrus is a tool "ltsaref bahen es habriyois" - to refine people - not G-d forbid the opposite..
Sincerely Rabbi Moshe D Gutnick Rabbinic Administrator