WWYD – Feelings vs Kashrut

A friend was recently visiting relatives who put out some yummies for kiddush Shabbat day. There were cheeses and chocolates, pastries and cakes – the table was groaning under the weight!

My friend happened to walk into the kitchen for a glass of water, and saw an empty package from one of the foods. She saw that the hechsher was Tablet K – a certification that she has been told is not trustworthy. (Full disclosure – in the HSM household we don’t hold by that hechsher).

She tried to call her husband into the kitchen, so that he should know that he should stop eating, but wasn’t sure how to go about it without drawing attention to the issue.

Everyone kind of gravitated toward the kitchen, having eaten their fill, and were clearing the table. She caught his eye, and surreptitiously showed him the package. It was one of those moments when everyone goes quiet at just the wrong moment. It was a very awkward silence.

What would you have done? Would you have just waited until later and spoken to your spouse in private, risking him eating something you don’t consider kosher? And then, how do  you go about dealing with the fact that now you are not sure that you can trust the kashrut in this house? What if you feel it’s just ignorance, and that this person does not know the hechsher isn’t widely accepted? Do you broach the subject?

What would you do?

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34 Comments

  1. Alan Broner says:

    Why couldn’t she take her husband aside, at any point, and tell him? Did she need to show the package? Did it have to be in the kitchen? A discreet “c’mere” with hands, and a whisper?

    I am very careful with kashrus, and will not eat in the home of someone I don’t know. I hope all the guests I’ve had in my home feel comfortable, however casually they know me.

    • Mark says:

      Yeah. I don’t get it, wives and husbands often step aside for a moment to share a private word. Why would that be so difficult in this case?

  2. anonymous says:

    People were crowded around, there was no more discreet way than silently showing the package. He was reaching for the package to eat its contents at the time.

  3. Mark says:

    It is a sad commentary on the state of frumkeit nowadays that it was more of a priority for this person to warn her husband about a product – one that is not “treif,” mind you, but just with a hechsher that not everyone relies on – than to avoid publically embarrassing her host.
    Bein adam le’chaveiro has been tossed aside in favor of the endless quest to appear frummest. The solution is obvious to anyone with any common sense.
    If this was so important to her, it would have been quite simple to walk up to him and ask for a word in private.

    • Mark says:

      And I very much agree with this, [other] Mark.

      • I agree with both Marks that bein adam l’chaveiro should have been more of a priority in this case & the Tablet K, even though it’s not considered to be reliable, is not pure treif as others have commented. If there was no way for “anonymous” to have discretely mentioned it to her husband without having embarrassed the host, I would have let it go & mentioned it to my husband afterwards.

        This reminds me of when my daughter was in seminary in Israel & got the anti-rabbanut speeches from her teachers where she was told that ONLY mehadrin was acceptable but I made it clear to her that if she were to attend any religious friend/relatives’ Smachot or spend shabbos with them, she was NOT to embarrass them b/c in this case bein adam l’chaveiro came FIRST no matter WHAT her rabbeim at seminary told her. I also made it clear that whatever chumras/strigencies she wished to take upon herself (with dress etc.) was FINE with me but not when it involved embarrassing another person (especially a friend or relative who is shomer shabbos).

        • %Shocked% says:

          The situation in Israel is probably the worst in the world when it comes to kashrus. I was given 3 classes on kashrus in Israel when I went to yeshiva there. The rebbi in the yeshiva who gave the classes is open-minded and not one to be taken in by anything but halacha, and he told us, “no.” Not that “it’s ok if you find yourself in an exceedingly awkward position,” but “it’s treif.” I don’t know the halachos of what “treif” means exactly, but what it means is, do not eat under any circumstances. In Israel especially, with ma’aser and all that, it really could be a problem of an issur from the Torah. In that case, I don’t think you can apply bein adam l’chaveiro.

    • Avi says:

      That’s my answer, too. Embarrassing the host is prohibited by the written Torah. Not eating a questionable hechsher is, in most cases, not a problem at all. Or it means relying on Rabbinic leniencies when you’d prefer not to.

  4. @wifeofmottel says:

    I would have used one of my babies as a means of extricating my spouse immediately– at that very second, and I would have discussed the situation with him. If I had close friends on my side of the mechitzah and I knew that they didn’t hold by whatever hashgacha was in question, I would very subtly pass along the message. I would plan to have a longer discussion with my spouse later– depending on our relationship with the hosts and what we know of their “hashkafa,” either we’d plan not to eat there in the future or mention to them in a very sweet way that we just happened to notice one hechsher which they might want to look into in the future… One more note: We’re fairly discerning concerning where we eat and in whose homes– I wouldn’t expect to be actively eating in someone’s home and then later realize that they eat things that we don’t.

  5. LeahT says:

    I wouldn’t have done this in the kitchen, in front of others. I would have figured out a way to pull my husband aside and tell him discreetly what I saw. I would keep my face and body language pareve. We’re very careful where we’ll eat, too as we have the extra layer of cholov Yisrael. What’s trickier for us are family members who aren’t stringent about kashrus. That’s harder to navigate.

  6. Tzip says:

    I didn’t read the other comments yet but my first thought is that it is NEVER okay to embarrass someone like this, especially someone who is hosting you. In my home we have a rule that if we go somewhere and find that our hosts don’t meet our personal level of kashrus then we finish our meal and don’t go back. Never do we stop eating or spit something out etc. That would be mortifying to our hosts. Humiliating someone is a wretched thing to do, not to mention against halacha.

    That said, regardless of any person/family/community holdings, that particular hechsher IS a hechser, despite that it isn’t widely accepted. It isn’t like they handed their guests a pork and cheese sandwich. They are following kashrus, only to a different level–which is a very personal issue.

    If I had to bring it up–which I have in the past–I would ask about it very causally when we are not in front of others such as, “Oh I didn’t know this brand was kosher! What hechsher do they use?” and see if that opens way for conversation. If it stands that they are comfortable with the hechsher then I stay out of it. But it could also turn out that they didn’t know of it’s “status”. You never know.

  7. Tzip says:

    oops I wanted to clarify–I wouldn’t keep eating if it were like pork or shrimp or something completely not kosher… not that I would make a scene of spitting it out either. ( Though I can’t think of a circumstance such an occurrence would even happen in the first place!)

    I meant to say as far as such things as hechser–if someone used one I wasn’t comfortable with etc. Then I would just choose not to eat there in the future, but I would be polite and finish the meal I was given.

  8. anonymous says:

    It was never my intention to embarrass the host. The way I went about showing my husband the situation was as subtle and silent as I could figure out in the seconds I had before he ate what I consider to be treif. It’s not accepted in my community, my former community or hers. I don’t know anywhere that it is acceptable, even in the conservative kashrut world.

    This is not somewhere that we can choose to not eat anymore. It is a very close relative who hosts all family get-togethers.

  9. First of all, I think everyone involved needs to spend more time living outside the greater NY area in a Jewish community of less than 500,000. It will change the way you understand kashrut and the way you view what is or is not acceptable.

    Secondly, the point at which a rav puts a hechsher on a product is the point at which HE is responsible, more so than the person who bought the product.

    What we’re talking about here is not about whether a product is “kosher” or not. What we’re talking about is whether a person chooses to follow the teachings of a particular rav. Either the rav whose hechsher appears, or the rav of a community who is advising his people as to which hechsher is or is not acceptable. Since that is a highly personal decision, one should be respectful of the opinion of the host, who clearly does accept this rabbi as valid. And as to one who has eaten from it, s/he has not eaten unkosher.

  10. Farrah says:

    Why won’t someone once and for all have a solid reason for why Tablet K isn’t “kosher enough”? In my group of friends I’m the only one who doesn’t hold by Tablet K, but only because my friend’s mom told me years ago without reason that it’s not good. I eat in my friends’ homes because I don’t want to insult them, but I feel comfortable to ask if a certain cheese is under which hashgacha and I make my own choices whether or not I’ll eat it.

  11. moshe says:

    about as silly as it gets. If there’s a hechsher, somone has taken the time to certify the product. If someone else who certifies hasn’t gotten the graft, then it’s easy to criticize the competition, usually unjustly

  12. The tablet k is accepted in the conservative kosher world in my area. That being said, if I was hosting someone I would ask before , what is acceptable and what isn’t.

  13. anonymous says:

    @Farrah -

    Here are two stories that convinced me that they care more about money than Kashrut:

    http://mamaloshen.blogspot.com/2009/08/kosher-catfish-i-think-not.html?m=1

    http://www.dartblog.com/data/2012/01/009666.php

    • If you want Kashrut Horror stories, having worked in the Kosher industry I can give you Kashrut horror stories. Let’s see how about my OU-Dairy Clam Chowder made with real clams. Or my OU-Parve Green Beans with Ham Bits(made with real Ham), or my KAJ-Glatt Kosher Ham Hocks. Oh I know, what about the famous Challah Bakery in Philadelphia that used to Bake it’s Challah’s(Pat Yisrael) on Shabbat(Yup with the mashgiach Tamidi lighting the ovens).
      Or you can watch this vid of an Eidah Rav talking about how various Hekhsherim play games(including the Eidah).

      In other words these are just stories, you won’t find heksher without them. What is important is that if the item has a hekhsher you can feel fairly comfortable that it is at least minimally Kosher.

  14. opinionbysheli says:

    Many years ago I bought a friend of mine’s kids suckers for Purim. They are more observant than i. i was very careful to make sure there was a hechsher on it and it was made in Israel, I bought it in a very frum store. In those days I knew nothing about different Pesach rules between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. When I arrived the husband opened the door, grabbed the package and began to scream at me so loud that the neighbors ran out. The gist was that I had made his house treif because the hechsher might have been from a Sephardic Rabbi. I left and never returned. A year later she caught him in an affair with a non observant girl and divorced him. He married the girl of the affair and they did not keep kosher. I, obviously, have never forgotten the embarrassment. Rabbi Samlan puts it well.

  15. Mark says:

    From my limited understanding of this, Tablet K relies on an opinion of Rabbeinu Tam regarding the making cheeses. R”T’s opinion, while obviously based in halacha, is a minority opinion that most do not subscribe to.
    Thus, again, it’s not that Tablet K is treif. It’s certified by an orthodox rabbi, who has decided on a certain standard. So, unless, you can accomplish this without 100% certainty of publically humiliating another Jew, best to keep silent and deal with this later.
    Having grown up in the northeast, but spent a good chunk of my life now elsewhere, I think Rabbi Samlan’s words are quite wise.

  16. martyne says:

    It makes me sad that this is even a discussion. Sometimes our worst enemies are in our very own communities. Shame on us for judging our friends/neighbors and their kashrut.

  17. Ruchi says:

    I’m not really sure where the harshness is coming from. She tried to be really discreet. The embarrassing was a mistake. Not every kosher consumer is privy to every hechsher’s strength and weakness. When you keep strictly kosher, it’s like a spiritual allergy. Of course no one is *trying* to hurt others’ feelings, but eating what you’re unsure of is simply not an option.

    • RubyV says:

      “Spiritual Allergy?” My family deals with real food allergies. I’m sorry, but unless it is something that can kill you, or is blatant (pork, shellfish, cheeseburger) you don’t embarrass them. We have a serious life threatening allergy, and I have managed to never embarrass a host. Tablet k may not be a heksher you use, but its still a heksher. They aren’t out to feed you treif.

  18. Ruchi says:

    Also, for those that are indignantly valuing the feelings of others over all else, have you noticed that the main character is on this thread? What about bein adam lachavero to her?

  19. Mark says:

    Ruchi:
    A little perspective is in order. 1)The “main character” has remained anonymous. Thus, no one is being embarrassed or humiliated here. 2)Our comments were REQUESTED to be posted on this very public of forums. 3)Yes, people are being critical. I believe that her behavior was inappropriate and warrants ciriticism. But, I don’t see that anyone has crossed the line from honest and frank criticism to nastiness.

    If she didn’t want criticism, she should not have asked for people’s opinions of this scenario!

    Shabbat shalom.

  20. P. Almonius says:

    All couples should agree on a private signal that means “immediately stop whatever you’re doing and step outside to talk to me”.

  21. fille says:

    I think it’s strange you should call something that has a hechsher “treif”… (unless you see with your own eyes it is treif and the hechsher was on the package by mistake-)

  22. shilohmuse says:

    These stories/events/foods aren’t about treif. A lot of it is politics and money. And when living in the world I do with all of the eidot with different psak/instructions/hechsharim etc even in one immediate family, you must trust the hosts or don’t eat out.

  23. Samantha T says:

    I honestly don’t know what I would do… I think I would try my hardest to get my husband’s attention to let him know. If impossible I would let him know later. We keep strict kosher in our house but a “basic kosher” outside of our house when necessary. I would also probably pull the host(ess) aside and let them know privately. However, at this point still being new to strict kosher I may not even realize that it’s not “kosher”.

  24. Princess Lea says:

    The thing is, there is a difference between questionable hechsher and treif. It does not automatically mean because the hechsher is something one doesn’t abide by that there is gelatin floating around in it. We’re talking about rugelach here, not meat.

    She went to people’s house, trusting their judgment when it came to their kashrus keeping. By that premise, she is free from “transgression” on her part, sort of like the “chicken incident” in Monsey (anyone who ate non-kosher chicken was not guilty of any wrong-doing).

    Because she saw the package, she didn’t have to eat anymore (“Oh, I had the brownie and it was wonderful!”) but for the sake of her hosts’ feelings, it would have been okay, in my view, not to inform her husband. Again, this is not a meat issue, which has clear lines regarding kashrus, but I don’t see what sort of terrible ingredients could have been in a cookie.

  25. %Shocked% says:

    I don’t think there’s any easy answer to this one. As was mentioned, we are talking about brownies here. Transgressing an issur from the Torah for something like brownies isn’t so easy, especially if they’re parve. D’rabbanans can’t be ignored, but as a “lesser of the two evils” sort of thing, I’d guess the bein adam l’chaveiro takes precedence.

    On the other hand, some hechsherim have no halachic standing whatsoever. Unless you’re familiar with all of the halachos (and politics) of kashrus as well as a thorough understanding of all the ingredients, we simply don’t have the knowledge to make decisions as to what’s kosher and not. And it’s not only the ingredients that matter but how the food is made and processed, i.e. the plants that they are made in. Who really knows what’s kosher and not? Halacha plays a role and politics play a role as well. It could be that some hechsherim are perfectly fine, but for political reasons “aren’t.” KSA in Toronto is one example. They’re perfectly kosher in LA, but when they moved to Toronto, nope, not so kosher. So, all we can do is go by what our rav tells us are acceptable. Nothing more to do, no?

    I don’t understand how “it’s okay because the Conservative eat it.” For example, looking at this page (http://www.pjtc.net/PJTC_Features/Kashrut.html), how could anyone assert such a thing? Their standards, frankly, aren’t ours and therefore aren’t kosher. I don’t know if PJTC’s standards are the universally accepted norm, but it’s what I found at first glance. “Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University, who…. declare[d] the need to recite Kaddish for our allegedly-dying movement (Conservative) in a recent Jerusalem Post interview,” says everything about what we think of their standards.

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