Article HaModia August 2011 Supervising Kashrus is a twenty-four-hour-a-day operation. Hundreds of Mashgichim are deployed all over the world, and HaRav Landau supervises them all. In fact, our conversation was frequently interrupted by phone calls from Mashgichim stationed in different parts of the world with questions in practical Halachah.
We asked Rav Landau to describe the establishment and early years of the Hechsher operation. "My father firmly refused to accept a penny from the factories or stores under his supervision. There was no currying favor with him. A factory owner once brought him a large Mishloach Manos on Purim, and there was a check in the basket. He asked the man why he had given him money. The man replied that it is customary to give a Rav money along with Mishloach Manos My father asked him, `How much did you give the Rav of your community?' Only after ascertaining that the sum was the same as the check he had received did he agree to accept it.
"To him, giving Hechsherim wasn't a business; it was all LeShem Shamayim.
"My father claimed that bribery blinds a person and can convince him that there are 150 reasons to permit something prohibited. His salary as Rav, which he received from the municipality, was paltry, and he could barely support his household. Half of the salary went for rent, and we didn't eat chicken on weekdays. Sometimes there wasn't enough money with which to make Shabbos."
'Hechsher Is Not a Business' "Everyone knows that our Hechsher is not a business, and it is not affiliated with any specific entity," Rav Landau says. "The owner of a salad factory, certified by another Hechsher visited a factory that we supervise. He observed the factory for a while, and then said to the owner, `I don't understand. You have Kashrus issues from morning till night, Bishul Yisrael, looking for worms in the legumes, vegetables, onions, and potatoes; I don't have any problems except for my monthly check.' Any factory owner would be thrilled to give a monthly check to be rid of the all the `problems' we make for them. When a Hechsher becomes a business, the quality of the Kashrus suffers. Unfortunately, in recent times there has been competition in the Kashrus field.
"The Rambam in Hilchos Melachim clarifies that there is a mitzvah [in this week's Parashah] of LeShichno Sidreshu, to bring about the presence of the Shechinah wherever possible. This mitzvah was foremost in my father's consciousness at all times. In his later years, he was once bedridden and an airline asked us to issue a Hechsher on its `special kosher' meals. `Truthfully,' he said, `at my age' - he was ninety at the time -'I don't have to undertake new projects. Let someone else worry about it. But if they are ready to change all their food to kosher food, then I am willing to undertake it.' In other words; if he could work to enhance Kvod Shamayim - LeShichno Sidreshu, - then he was willing even at age ninety!"
When did the Rav's father begin giving his Hechsher "My father began separating Terumos and MaAsros in the city's stores as soon as he arrived in Bnei Brak. Simultaneously, he began working on the Kashrus of meat, which was severely lacking. There was one butcher in the city. At the time, a health ministry official came to inspect a sausage factory the butcher owned outside the city and found that he mixed camel meat and fat into the sausages. So you can understand how much his butcher shop in the city could be trusted ... My father decided to put an end to it. He encouraged two other people to open kosher butcher shops, until the seller of the Treif meat no longer had a place in the city.
"My father personally supervised the entire shechitah process. But at the time, the Kashering, or MeLichah, of the meat was done in each individual's home. If the meat was not sold for three days, and hence not Kashered, it would be rendered unfit to cook. To prevent this from happening, the meat needs to be doused with water. The butchers didn't like this solution because it marred the appearance of the meat and blackened it. Therefore, they only partially rinsed the meat, with a drop of water, and called it `rinsed.' But my father was particular that only the Mashgiach pour the necessary amount of water.
"A butcher once claimed that he had already poured water on the meat and didn't let the Mashgiach do it. My father summoned the butcher and warned him that he would remove his Hechsher The butcher countered that he had `Chezkas Kashrus’ and rudely refused to comply. The Rav sent him out of the house. But later, he became one of my father's closest friends because he realized my father was acting solely LeShem Shamayim.
"There were times that people were offended by my father's firmness and threatened him. He was also the Rav in Ramatayim, and he twice removed the Hechsher from the local butcher shop. The butcher, a violent man, came to our home and threatened to stuff my father into a sack and throw him into a pool ... My father did not flinch.
"There was no such thing as compromising in Kashrus When someone betrayed my father's trust, even mistakenly, he would immediately rescind the Hechsher no amount of pleading or crying would help. Once he discovered that a butcher had given someone a cut of meat that had Cheilev fat on it. The butcher was a Gd-fearing Jew, and upon investigation he found that the butcher was unaware of the Cheilev Furthermore, it was the Mashgiach who was guilty of negligence. Still, my father rejected all pressure to reinstate the Hechsher He declared that if a pharmacist mistakenly gives a customer poison instead of medication - even once - and the customer dies, that pharmacist will never get his license back..."
What was your father's secret? "Two polar opposites dominated my father's personality, and only he knew how to balance these two traits. On the one hand, he was known to be infinitely firm and decisive, and that is how he acted when he had to take a stand on an issue as Rav. Yet, simultaneously, he was exceedingly humble and submissive to others:"
Today, the Rav's Kashrus spans the globe and covers multitudes of factories. Did you ever dream that the MaAsros and Shechitah, locally would grow into such a vast endeavor? "Originally, my father did not want to give a Hechsher to any business outside of Bnei Brak. He perceived himself as a public servant in the service of the city residents, and in this capacity he had to give Hechsherim. He turned down many companies outside the city that asked for Hechsherim However, Bnei Brak represents a large segment of the Chareidi population in Israel, and to serve such a large public, we eventually had to issue Hechsherim for factories outside Bnei Brak as well:"
The first factory that received Rav Landau's Hechsher was Osem, which was established in a courtyard in Bnei Brak on a very small scale. When part of the factory moved to Yokneam, Rav Landau refused to give it a Hechsher because he could not personally come and supervise. Later, he had no choice but to expand his Hechsher certification to factories outside Bnei Brak, because their products were used by Bnei Brak establishments and consumers.
Upgrading of Technology Naturally, over the years technology has developed, and now every product contains dozens if not hundreds of extracts and raw ingredients. In the past these were often synthetic materials, which were easier to certify, but today more and more natural ingredients are used, causing many, many Kashrus issues. Under Rav Landau's directive they do not rely on laboratory analysis of the final product, but rather they inspect each and every ingredient at its source. The entire production process is supervised in the strictest fashion, and often the Rav himself travels around the world to supervise the complex process.
Experts point to the famed Coca-Cola factory in Bnei Brak that bears Rav Landau's Hechsher. The product contains numerous extracts that are manufactured in foreign countries. The certification involves a range of Kashrus experts working together under Rav Landau's able direction, with indescribable devotion and effort.
Consumers who drink Coca-Cola products cannot fathom the labor that goes into providing the Mehadrin Hechsher supervising the production process from beginning to end. This is in addition to Kashering, the production lines for Pesach in all the factories that produce components of the beverage. There is even a special Mashgiach whose job it is to check the empty container trucks that transport the ingredients. [It should be noted that Rav Landau's Hechsher is only on Coca-Cola products produced in the Bnei Brak factory.]
Rav Landau told us, "Many years ago, the Sanz-Klausenberg Rebbe, zy'a, asked my father to give a Hechsher on a certain establishment in Netanya. `I don't know what my end will be in BeisDin shel Maalah for all these Hechsherim I am giving,' my father replied, `but I must do it as part of my job as Rav of Bnei Brak. How can I accept responsibility for more in Netanya!' The Rebbe, a close friend of my father, did not press the matter; he understood him."
Perpetuating His Legacy "He wanted everything to be Mehadrin min hamehadrin. Let's take, for example, Orlah. No one can imagine how much work goes into Hashgachah on Orlah. and the work grows from year to year. There wasn't a wide variety of fruit in those days, but each new fruit that entered the market raised new problems with Orlah. The Rav dealt with all of them in his uncompromising way. There were some Kashrus organizations that noted that their supervision was only regarding Terumos and MaAsros but not Orlah. But my father refused to do this under any circumstances. `Kashrus means that the food is completely kosher,' he would say.
"The same is true for worm infestation. A person goes into a bakery and buys a cake. The cake has a few bits of citrus peel. How much time and effort goes into making sure the bugs are removed from those peels! There has to be Hashgachah in the packaging house, in the processing plant, in the extract factory where they are added..."
"My father saw himself as the servant of all the city's residents, from all sectors. A prominent Sephardic Rav once came to me and raised the issue of Bishul Akum, since the Mechaber, Rav Yosef Karo, whom the Sephardim follow, and the Rema, whom the Ashkenazim follow, rule differently regarding closing the oven. We told him that we follow the Mechaber LeChumrah in all areas of Hashgachah because we cannot write on our restaurant Hechsherim that it is kosher only for Ashkenazim. Therefore, under our Hechsher a non-Jew cannot put a pot on the fire even if a Jew lit the fire, following the Mechaber's ruling. Even in Chinese restaurants, where the experts in Chinese cooking are usually non-Jews, a Mashgiach stands next to the cook and puts the pots on the fire, or alternatively, he cooks the food partially and then allows the non-Jew to finish the process. The Sephardic Rav was very impressed; he was unaware of the Kashrus complexities that a Chinese restaurant entailed for Sephardim.
We noted that since Rav Moshe Landau succeeded his father as head of the Kashrus network twenty five years ago, it has grown exponentially. Rav Landau modestly remarked, "I don't even reach my father's ankles, Zichrono Livrachah, and I wish that his sense of dedication would be ingrained in any soul as deeply as it was in his. But we invest extensive efforts to ensure that nothing he instituted should change, whether it has to do with meat or poultry or Shemittah. There were times when we had trouble finding solutions, such as making sure there was kosher-for-Pesach baby food. There are dozens more problems that need to be solved, and yet we try not to change anything that my father established.
Kashrus Influences a Person's Soul [Harav Landau stressed the importance of maintaining strict standards of kashrus.] "In Yoreh Deah (81:7), the Rema writes: A nursing woman ... should not eat forbidden foods, and the baby should not either, for this can harm him in his old age. This is puzzling: Why say that the nursing woman cannot eat because of the baby? She is Jewish; she cannot eat forbidden foods because of her own well-being! The Shach and Taz both explain that even if the nursing woman is dangerously ill, and therefore is permitted to eat forbidden foods, it is incumbent on the father to make sure that the baby does not nurse from her during that period so that he will not be affected by the forbidden foods later in his life.
"We see here what the outcome of laxity when eating can be. If one discerns bad character traits in a child, such as a lack of compassion, one can suspect that he has eaten non-kosher food. The Ramban in Parashas Shemini writes that kosher animals and birds are not animals of prey. The Torah was concerned about the middos of Am Yisrael because what a person eats becomes part and parcel of him and influences his soul. When one sees a person deteriorating, one can assume that he has become lax in the kashrus of his food.
"The Keser Shem Tov brings down that in one country the people did not believe in techiyas hameisim. The Rambam wrote to them that the brain is nourished by blood containing nutrients from the food that a person consumes. Therefore, if the people are lax in kashrus, the blood that feeds their brains leads to thought of heresy.
"The Shelah too writes that the type of food someone eats influences his mind, so the kashrus of the food affects it even more. For example, people who live in cities and consume foods that are more refined are often intellectuals with developed minds, scientists, more so than villagers who consume coarser foods."
(Rav Landau continues very firmly) "Once, being careful about what one put in one's mouth was part of Jewish chinuch. Today, even when one knows that the hechsher is questionable, people say, `It has a hechsher' [and that is sufficient.] Others say, `I'm eating on the responsibility of the Rav who gives this hechsher. He'll burn in Gehinnom and I'll enjoy my food...'
"Unfortunately there are even mashgichim who are fully aware of the kashrus problems under their watch, yet they say the rav hamachshir will `burn in Gehinnom on their behalf,' so to speak. This whole thought process is flawed. It is true that in essence, in the Heavenly court, there will be someone to blame, but in the meantime, who becomes coarse? Who loses his yiras Shamayim? The Jew who eats the food! When a person eats such food, he becomes apathetic to nonkosher food. This is referred to as timtum halev.
"A person who stumbles in this area, and has `timtum of the brain and the heart,' will find that the tremendous fear he once felt before Pesach to ensure he has no chametz has faded. He beings to think, `Nu, I don't have to be so machmir ... I'm not such a big tzaddik anyway' or `It's only an issur d Rabbanan, it's not so bad ..: and the like. This is how the process starts until it deteriorates to severe transgressions, R"L1.
"The following amazing story, which I witnessed with my father, proves that what you eat influences the soul. The milkman in Bnei Brak would come around each morning with a pitcher of milk to sell to the residents. My father always asked the milkman to bring him milk that he had personally supervised from the time of the milking. So the milkman would come with one large pitcher of regular milk and a smaller pitcher with my father's special milk.
"Each year, in the week of his birthday in Iyar, my father would travel to Yerushalayim and stay at the Beit Hakerem boarding house, where they prepared food especially for him. The food was all vegetarian, with no meat, and he was able to relax a bit and learn undisturbed. The rest of the family remained in Bnei Brak.
"When my father returned from Yerushalayim and the milkman came by, my father looked at him and asked, `Why are you tricking me?' The milkman blushed, and a few seconds later admitted to his guilt; indeed, it was hard for him to take the time to personally supervise my father's milk, so he just put some regular milk in a small pitcher and brought it to my father.
"When the milkman left I asked my father how he knew that he was being tricked. He replied that when he was in Yerushalayim he felt that he was davening better, and that his kavanah was more sincere. After thinking about it, he realized that the only difference between the two cities was the milk he drank in Yerushalayim and surmised that something was wrong with his milk at home. He felt it influencing his soul. Unbelievable!"