May 5, 2011

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink: "Agudath Israel Misses the Boat on Magen Tzedek"

Agudath Israel Misses the Boat on Magen Tzedek

by Rabbi Eliyahu Fink  on MAY 4, 2011 

http://finkorswim.com/2011/05/04/agudath-israel-misses-the-boat-on-magen-tzedek/

A few of the "news for Jews" blogs posted a statement from Agudath Israel regarding Magen Tzedek.

See: Agudath Israel statement on "Magen Tzedek". Of course Agudath Israel can't post it on their own website because they don't have one since the Internet is prohibited. Nonetheless they managed to leak the statement to the sinners who have blogs and news sites so that pretty much every single orthodox Jew will see the statement on the Internet. Ahhhh, the games we play…

Anyway, the statement makes a gross misrepresentation of Magen Tzedek, misunderstands its purpose, injects non-existent agendas into an otherwise somewhat worthy cause and as per usual, weakens the clout with which orthodox Jewish leaders have in the lives of orthodox Jews.

The statement makes the claim that Magen Tzedek seeks to redefine Kashrut and by implication, do away with the orthodox hechsher system. The effort is called a brazen one and its purpose is to undermine the religious tradition. The statement tells us to "regard the new seal for what it is, a falsification of the Jewish religious heritage, and treat it accordingly."

I am embarrassed for them.

Hechsher Tzedek is not what Agudath Israel thinks it is. As I wrote way back when it was announce in December (See: Kosher Supervision and Ethics Supervision) the seal is supposed to run ALONGSIDE traditional hechsher symbols. The traditional symbol vouches for the kashrus of the food per halacha and the Hechsher Tzedek symbol vouches for the ethical concerns in mass food production.

It is NOT an attempt to undermine the mesorah. It is NOT a redefinition of kashrut and quite frankly, seems necessary in many instances to augment the failing oversight of the government in food production practices.

It has been argued that the new symbol would perhaps cause an unwitting kosher consumer to trust the hechsher Tzedek for the halachic kashrus and cause them to sin by eating food that is not in fact kosher, rather is ethically produced. In my opinion this is a ridiculous concern. No responsible kosher eating consumer buys food if there is a random kosher symbol printed on the label. All kosher consumers know that they need to vet any and all kosher symbils before relying on them. Hechsher Tzedek would be no different. There are already plenty of kosher symbols that are not relied upon by huge swaths of the Jewish community. I see no reason to be fearful that this particular symbol will cause sin.

I believe this statement was a mistake. The greater Jewish community would benefit from a Hechsher Tzedek alongside traditional kosher supervision. Agudath Israel is needlessly poking its head into a non-issue. By doing so they lose credibility and cause anguish and animosity among Jews for no reason. (And wouldn't it be nice if Agudath Israel spoke with such gusto against sex abusers and orthodox Jewish criminals…?)

I hope Agudath Israel rethinks this statement.



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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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