Saturday, March 3, 2007

Vegitarian Chicken Soup?

I’ve waited a few weeks prior responding to the now month old chicken scandal which took place in Monsey. For those of you not familiar with the case you can Google it and get all the sordid details. The bottom line is the man was retailing chickens to unsuspecting haredi omand hasidishe jews in Monsey as meeting their khechsher standards, when in fact he was knowingly selling to them treif chickens. More than that , he not only knowingly sold them trif chickens but cleverly bought and disguised the treif for kosher. His behasvior was no different than the spiritual treason of the Jewish people. Adam Shapiro is to Israel what this guy is to the Jewish people.

Most interestingly was the response of the community as well as the bloggers. Unfortunately and as a matter of fact I would suggest that based upon those responses the community there and in similar communities around the country have set themselves up for similar scandals to occur. This isn’t the first time something of this nature has happened. As a matter of record it has happened numerous times around the country. Less than a year ago a butcher shop in New York’s Flatbush area was found to be selling regular kosher meat as strictly kosher. Another instance was when operator owned two slaughter houses one kosher and one not kosher. The Jewish owner was apparently marketing the non kosher meat under a kosher label. Again this isn’t the place to recite the multiple occurrences in detail, but you can do an internet search and find instances when kosher slaughter houses were involved in marketing treif meat to an unsuspecting public.

The response of the Monsey community and various bloggers to this recent scandal revolves round damage control. Dayan Rabbi Bezalel Tuvia Weinstein instructed the public what to do with pots and pans that were rendered unkosher. There are Poskim who have paskind that the victims will not be rendered with Timtum Halev, a spiritually negative condition of the soul because the transgression was B’onus . Another response from Rabbi shalom Nosson A Spiegel was to organize a public koshering of pots and pans. A member of the community commented that “all we did was scrape scrape and scrape from the cutlery to the glassware to the countertops oven and stove…we’re truly religious, so we don’t cheat in the cleaning”.

These exemplary responses are all based on halachic issues and do not get to the source of the problem It is because of these responses that these kind of things will continue to occur. Rather than have a public koshering of keilim there should be public classes on ethics of Jewish living or good old down to earth musar shiurim. There needs to be a reevaluation of yeshiva curriculum. Traditional methodology of teaching ethical behavior obviously hasn’t taken hold, especially in a world where gashmious is the standard of success. It would appear that what happened in Monsey is awarning signal that the ethical health of the haredi community isn’t all that healthy and is in need of serious attention. What happened in Monsey can happen in any one of a number of haredi communities because they are all subject to the prewssures of gashmius, but ill equipped to handle that pressure without better education. That education begins in the home but needs reinforcement in the yeshiva system. It isn’t enough to learn gemorah and poskim. There is a need to intrtoduce the systematic study of ethics as manifested in th elitvishe approach of musar or the hasidishe approach. Whichever, most important that it be taught not as an afeterthought but as part focurriculum based program.

Until the frum community puts a premium on musar and ethical living they are living with the possibility of this happening again. In my estimation the haredi community has a warped sense of values. They tend to live in sort of schizofrenic land of make believe. On the one hand they teach spirituality and good midos but on the other hand there is this understated worship of wealth. Expensive life styles impress them especially if that is combined with frum living. These two values are contradictory because you can’t really live a truly spiritual and religiously fulfilling lifew and at the same time actively pursue gashmiouus. They are mutually exclusive. The message sent to young avreichim is learn but get a rich shidduch. What does that do to your value system? Certainly a butcher or any other klei kodesh will have a jaundiced view of the world when he sees all that wealth but it isn’t accessible to him. If he has the means he may be tempted to cheat the system. Afterall his morals are the product of his environment.

Under normal circumstances when things go wrong I asked myself what plans have been put into place to assure that it won’t happen again. Any successful enterprise has to operate with that kind of mind set, otherwise you will be doomed to repeat the same mistake. Or keep yourself exposed to the same jeopardy. Unfortunately the type of remedies put into place in Monsey doesn’t reflect this kind of approach. I don’t see any preventive measures put into place.

In one quote the women says “we’re truly religious, so we don’t cheat on cleaning”, so what do you cheat on. It appears as though religion to these people revolves around the ritual aspects instead of what the ritual was intended for: the ethics of honest living.

It would seem that the only prophylactic measure that will assure that this will never happen again is to go vegetarian. Anyway, being carnivorous is Biblically a default life style. Perhaps the fine yidden of Monsey should toss out their treif pots instead of koshering them and brew a vegetarian chicken soup for shabbas.