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Kosher food certification is modeled after the Mob

It seems like a long time has gone by since the Rabbis declared New York water needs a hechsher due to them finding bugs. I always wondered how they would find bugs and suddenly out of nowhere the kasharus industry would have yet another thing it needed to charge you extra in order that it be “kosher”.

I myself have always thought of the kosher food certification industry as mafia-like. Let’s say you have a product that is perfectly kosher, these mafia guys in suits, hats and beards come along and tell you that unless you let them “inspect” the product and take a cut, no one will buy it. Sounds like the mob to me.

As stated in other posts, I understand the need for kasharus and don’t believe much in the oldschool orthodox way of merely “looking at the label” to see which ingredients the product contains. But, does water really need a hechsher?

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Yochanan January 8, 2010, 12:12 PM

    Water doesn’t need a hekhsher and neither does rubbing alchohol.

    • Michaltastik January 9, 2010, 7:02 PM

      Who the **** drinks rubbing alcohol?

      • Yochanan January 10, 2010, 8:35 PM

        Don’t know, but I saw an OU on a bottle.

  • sabros January 8, 2010, 12:14 PM

    I saw laundry detergent at the store recently with an OU heksher. Is that necessary? Maybe for washing kitchen linens?

    • Bobby Flay January 8, 2010, 12:53 PM

      No, it is not necessary. Nobody (rightly) will ever tell you that it is. Here’s how it works: Some advertising rep at Tide is trying to come up with a way to boost sales. He thinks “Hmmm, I hear these Jews like everything to be ‘kosher.’ Perhaps if we slap one of their marks on our detergent we will attract some of the Jewish market.” He then does his research, finds out the most reputable “kosher mark” and contacts, oh lets say the OU. There is no conspiracy here.

      Perhaps another scenario may play out in which the OU guy cold calls Tide and make a sales pitch saying that if Tide puts a hechsher on their detergent it will boost sales. The unsuspecting Tide guy (who doesn’t know that detergent does not need a hechsher) is duped into buying OU for Tide.

      The presence of a hechsher in no way indicates that the product in fact actually needs that hechsher (although most food products do in fact need one)

  • Bobby Flay January 8, 2010, 12:44 PM

    Who ever said that water needs a hechsher? First you need to know that this whole problem was restricted to New York, as they are the only retards that don’t filter their water for some reason. Thus, “bugs” were found in it. Also, I don’t recall anybody ever saying that water needed a hechsher. Those on the top merely said you should put a little screen on your faucet to catch bugs. Unless the OU started making “The only certified bug catching screen” after this advice was given, I don’t see the normal collusion here that you tend to see and often rightly point out, elsewhere.

    • Heshy Fried January 8, 2010, 12:50 PM

      The fact that they even have the gall to put a hechsher on water and other products that need a hechsher create this issue – it makes people – holier than thou and pits people against each other when someone realizes their neighbor drinks water without a hechsher – it happens all the time.

      • Bobby Flay January 8, 2010, 12:54 PM

        Hesh, read my response to sabros

  • Heshy Fried January 8, 2010, 12:59 PM

    I know we agree – what I’m saying is that people adopt chumros as halacha and that is one of the main points of this entire blog. One of my biggest fears is when zealots adopt chumras and put other torah Jews down for not being frum enough for their tastes, or even say that they are going against halacha – there are countless examples – 10 years ago it was pesach kitchens – if you didn’t have one – people wouldn’t eat in your house.

    I do understand that eating bugs is worse than bassur b’chalov and I myself am a chronic bug checker – this is not chumra – eating bugs is 6 lavim and considered an abomination, so don’t think I am mocking the bug police.

    • Bobby Flay January 8, 2010, 1:25 PM

      You are undoubtedly correct that the “chumra or die” society in which we live is doing harm. I will not defend it, although I do think there are many valid defenses. Also, I completely understand the point of your blog, and to an extent I extol that purpose. Nevertheless, if you want to be truly effective, you logic needs to be sound and parallel. For example, in your response to me you point out the pesach kitchen. But the “zealots” can not and never will be able to afford a pesach kitchen. In reality, only rich Lawrence people get a pesach kitchen. While it may in fact engender a feeling of inferiority among those that cannot afford them, you cannot seriously tell me that anybody’s frumkite is threatened by what these “flaunters” do. My point is that zealots, in the pesach kitchen example, are the wrong target.

      Likewise, the “mobster rabbis” are also the wrong target, at least with regard to water. The only thing that is marginally wrong is contained in the second example I gave in my response to sabros. In that case, the OU or whoever knows that this stuff doesn’t need a hechsher. Thus, maybe they are being marginally dishonest. But that’s sales. they are not doing it to convince Jews that water needs a hechsher, they are going it to make a buck. There is not a salesman alive, frum or non Jewish, that doesn’t face that dilemma every single time he picks up the phone to make a cold call. The proper target of this blog entry, argubaly, should have been the “zealouts” that buy kosher water in order to be frummer. And even in that case I don’t think they are the correct target. Anybody that buys water with a hechsher has absolutely no intention of showing off. My guess is that they were either told by there Rabbi that water needs a hechsher, in which case the “zealouts” themselves have been duped. Or they are buying water with a hechsher because it makes them more comfortable. In the end, the real target should be those that somehow find out that a given person bought water with a hechsher and decided to get all annoyed about it. Who cares? Did the guy that bought the water ever tell him he had to?

      The title of this post should have been something like this: “Why do people who see others buying water with a hechsher on it let it bother them? Go see a therapist and learn to love yourself”

    • Michaltastik January 9, 2010, 7:07 PM

      See, I actually need a new rabbi because I’m sick of my rabbi and his chumros. I’m not supposed to open pop bottles on Shabbos because they attached and it’s creating a bottle cap where one didn’t exist before but, every shul meal you go to, the bottles are not preopened. So, I asked about it. He said that I should insist on a steak knife so I can destroy the bottle cap, at which point someone would offer to open it for me. If I can allow other Jews to open a bottle for me, then why can’t I open it?

      • Meir January 10, 2010, 10:19 PM

        Using that line of reasoning, I think opening doors is a chillul Shabbos as well. After all, they are attached on the opening side in some way (via the bolt) and it creates a building entrance where there was not one before.

        Perhaps you should ask your rabbi about why this is not so.

  • SK January 8, 2010, 2:54 PM

    I think the outlaws here are individual rabbis who slap their black & white xerox-copied hechshers on stores that violate Shabbos. I’m talking to you, Maoz falafels. I’ll stick with OU.

    Also, when I see a Bukharian restaurant choosing the “Israel Mayer Steinberg” hechsher over that of the “Bukharian Rabbinical Council,” I’d ask this rabbi Steinberg exactly where he got the credentials to inspect Bukharian cuisine.

    • Michaltastik January 9, 2010, 7:13 PM

      Yeah, I was on a date with an uber frummy who later said I wasn’t on his level because I am a gyoress, I’m sure. He wanted to go into the Steinberg place on 108 over Chosen which is under the Vaad. I told him, “it’s not kosher.” He said, “well, it says it’s kosher.”

      And he thought I wasn’t on his level…..

      For those who are not in the know, it’s a known fact that this Steinberg will cover places open on Shabbos and/or serving Hebrew National.

      • Sergey Kadinsky January 12, 2010, 8:50 PM

        If your date wanted a legit Bukharian restaurant, there are a few that have the Queens Vaad certification. If not, Queens Vaad has a new sushi/pizza place on 108th. I off this street, so I can tell you where to eat.

  • Jen January 8, 2010, 3:22 PM

    I live in NY and my dad works for the OU, while all my boro park friends were putting filters on their sinks, we were getting good use out of the bug infested water.

    • Michaltastik January 9, 2010, 7:15 PM

      After living in San Antonio for a year and dealing with that nasty water… I’m not drinking tap water except to make tea when it’s boiled…. not a chumrah thing….

  • Frum Sistah January 10, 2010, 5:13 AM

    I flew home on El-Al and the passenger sitting next to me refused to eat the glatt food on the plane since she did not trust the hechsher.At a family simcha, a relative walked into the kitchen to double check the mashgiach at a frum shul. Do any of you believe that Mashiach will not come because we drank water without a hecksher or does he not come because of how we treat each other?

    • Chris_B January 12, 2010, 10:17 AM


  • CA (the real one) January 10, 2010, 8:51 PM

    First you need to know that this whole problem was restricted to New York, as they are the only retards that dont filter their water for some reason.

    Guess what, back in the Old Country aka the shtetl, they didn’t flter the water, either.

    • sabros January 11, 2010, 12:28 PM

      Something tells me they didn’t have triple-washed lettuce or light boxes to check for bugs back in the shtetl either, but they found a way to make it work.

    • Stephen Weinstein December 5, 2010, 7:54 PM

      In the old country, the water was removed from the lake, river, stream, or whatever, one bucket at a time, and the bucket filled slowly enough that the things that lead to “this whole problem” were able to get away. NYC uses massive pipe, large enough to drive a truck through them, that suck everything into them. These did not exist in the old country.

  • Eliyahoo William Dwek May 5, 2010, 2:55 PM

    When dayanim, rabbis and false mekubalim use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this behaviour is abhorrent.

    No other rabbi will ever act against another rabbi – even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

    Therefore, the rabbi, dayyan or false mekubal (kabbalist) will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

    The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Amm israel can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.

  • Eliyahoo William Dwek May 5, 2010, 2:56 PM

    Any man who chooses to be a rabbi (true teacher of Torah) or a dayan (judge), or a mekubal (kabbalist) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

    If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be heading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called earning a living.

    Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the rabbis have turned the Torah into their Profession, from which they earn money.

    We are commanded in the Shema to:
    LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.

    VEAHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha. (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

    Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give lovely shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

    The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

    Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or ravs pocket his pocket and position will always prevail.

    Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
    Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah sheein imah melacha sofa betailah vegoreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim

    Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven

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