Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An interesting holiday weekend

Now that I have a minute to spare--I've been up to my ears in typing-editing-formatting assignments, recently--I just wanted to mention what an interesting Thanksgiving Day weekend we had.

Saved by the, er, minyan
This year, it happened that, after speaking with friends from three different households, all of whom had family obligations on Thanksgiving, we found ourselves comtemplating making reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at a kosher restaurant. But then I ran into an old buddy of ours at my "kaddish minyan," which he sometimes attends when not helping another shul get a minyan.

It helped that I know he enjoys cooking.

"What are you doing for Thanksgiving, having everyone and his cousin over for dinner?"

He didn't miss a beat, bless him. "Yeah, you wanna come?"

It was a most unusual Thanksgiving dinner--since our host and hostess don't like turkey, they cooked up enough chicken to feed an army, with a white-potato dish instead of stuffing. The cooks among the guests brought homemade cranberry sauce, homemade parve pumpkin pie, and homemade parve muffins. The non-cooks--namely, us--walked in with store-bought parve sugar cookies and parve chocolate almonds bought from a kosher store, not from Fairway. (Note to self: Remember to bring those sugar cookies often, 'cause they like 'em.) We all stuffed ourselves silly.

It got more interesting after dinner, when the hosts' child handed out those tiny bottles made of chocolate and filled with liqueur. Chocolate? Liqueur? These ingredients opened the door to some major kashrut questions, and led to a "he said, she said" story.

He said: "They're kosher."

She said: "I'm not so sure."

So I said: "Let me see the box."

Long story short: They weren't even kosher, much less pareve.

Our hosts cook kosher meat only and have separate dishes. But this isn't the first time that we've had to deal with a dairy/chalavi dessert after a fleishig/b'sari (meat/poultry) meal in their home. I don't get it. And one time, when I asked whether the dessert was parve, the host got downright insulted. I concluded that we should always bring our own parve dessert to their home rather than risk causing offense simply by asking that question.

This reminds me of another friend who also keeps a kosher kitchen, but serves dairy desserts only an hour after a meat meal. I don't think she's of Dutch ancestry, so I don't understand why she follows the Dutch tradition of waiting only one hour between meat and dairy when most folks follow either the three- or six-hour traditions. Again, we just bring our own parve dessert.

Bringing a parve dessert also helps in situations in which we're not sure that our hosts understand even the basic rules of kashrut.*

Moral of the story: Don't make a scene, just bring your own.

I wish we all had our hang-ups :(
One of our would-have-been hosts for Thanksgiving dinner invited us to what she dubbed a "Thanksgiving Sheini" (Second Thanksgiving) dinner on Sunday because she wanted to have a turkey dinner with friends after having fulfilled family obligations. The food was great--our hostess is a wonderful cook--but some of the other guests were not so much so. One guest not only made several cell-phone calls during the meal, but even put on a pair of earphones right at the dinner table just to listen to some sports event. How rude can you get?

Look, if you want to spend your time on the phone and/or watching or listening to a sports event, do all of us a favor and just stay home.

*See also: Milk and meat mix-ups, or the missing-mashgiach mishaps--(mis)adventures in kashrut


Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

My mother (also not of Dutch ancestry) would serve dairy dessert an hour or so after a meat meal - the guests would move to the living room to chat and she would change the dishes and the table cloth. Interestingly, that position is supported in the Talmud, although it isn't the ruling any contemporary O group follows.

For example, some believe that Chazal prohibited eating meat and milk during the SAME meal, and therefore require only a formal break between meals, such as birkat ha-mazon and/or siluk ha-shulkhan (Tosefot). Others are concerned with the physical remnants of meat in one's mouth, which may later be swallowed together with milk, and they therefore require either cleaning one's mouth (Rabbenu Tam/Behag) or waiting until all food remnants or aftertaste have disappeared (Rashi/Rambam).

Wed Nov 30, 06:41:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

My understanding, is that two generations ago, before the Yeshivization of Jewry, the predominate American Jewish custom was:

Meat meal:
Clear table/wash dishes (around an hour)
Dairy desert

This was the predominate behavior of the "normal" observant Jews in the midatlantic area in the post-war era, and presumably was how traditional Jews operating in pre-war Europe.

While none of the Orthodox groups consider this acceptable now, that was NOT normative American behavior two generations ago.

However, the generations that were Yeshiva educated have decided that despite their parents/grandparents acting in this manner, only the "Dutch" act this way, and adopted the 6 hour minhag, despite there being no evidence that it was common or normal behavior outside of the Lithuanian Yeshivot.

I'm not disputing the textual justification for "prevalent Ashkenazi Minhag" -- I'm disputing that this behavior was at all common amongst observant Jews until 40 years ago.

Wed Nov 30, 11:37:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry and Al, thanks for the information. My parents went kosher rather late in life--after all of us kids had grown and flown--so I wasn't aware that the one-hour minhag/custom had been so widespread.

Thu Dec 01, 10:20:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Going all the way back to the Rema, he says that waiting 6 hours is an excellent minhag, but that the majority of people in his area only wait 1. How that evolved into 6 hours being standards for Eastern Europeans would make an interesting topic for an essay.

Sephardim held by 6 hours at the time of the compilation of the Shulchan Aruch.

Thu Dec 01, 10:29:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

Shira, I don't think a "our hour wait" dominated anything. I think that most "observant/traditional" Jews, like my wife's grandparents and their "generation" (siblings, cousins) did NOT eat meat and milk together, had two sets of pots/pans/dishes/etc., but didn't have a set waiting period.

Indeed, the fact that 6 hours has become common is somewhat shocking, given how few Jews likely ate that way.

The German/Yekke custom of 3 hours makes perfect sense for the more cosmopolitan (and wealthier) German Jews, BTW, you could have a meat meal with lunch, then have milk with your tea in the afternoon. It wasn't necessarily someone with a clock and 3 hours, but the gap between lunch and tea was about 3 hours.

Also, where 6 hours was supposedly the minhag, there was virtually no meat to be had. Waiting 6 or even 24 hours wasn't so hard. The level of poverty of eastern Europe is nearly impossible for Americans to comprehend.

Thu Dec 01, 10:30:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Larry, I didn't know that Sefardim traditionally wait(ed?) 6 hours. Thanks for the information.

Miami Al, my husband and I had been cooking kosher meat only, but didn't start using separate meat and dairy dishes, etc., until after our son was born, on the assumption that it would be easier for him to keep kosher as an adult if he'd grown up in a kosher home. We chose the minhag/custom of waiting three hours because it seemed to be a reasonable middle-of-the-road compromise for those of us who came to kashrut as adults. Does that make us honorary "Yekkes?" :)

Believe it or not, now-Rabbi Steg said it was crazy frum (Orthodox) to wait three hours instead of six between meat and dairy, and he had the texts to back up his contention.

Thu Dec 01, 11:03:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

You know the predominant custom amongst Conservative Jews is NOT to wait, at least not an extended period of time. You know that you wait some period of time. You also know that the predominant custom amongst Conservative Jews is to eat dairy without supervision.

Unless you brought the desert, it's probably dairy and may (or may not), have proper supervision.

In those situations, it's best to just say no thank you, rather than embarrassing your hosts by asking.

Thu Dec 01, 11:56:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

The reason I make that suggestion, is that we have four competing values here:

1. Your custom to wait 3 (or 6 or whatever) hours after meat to eat dairy.
2. Your behavior of only eating dairy with supervision.
3. Your obligation to NOT embarrass your host in their home.
4. Your desire to eat the desert.

Given that you can fulfill 1-3 by merely sacrificing #4, especially since #4 is only a personal desire and not a need (halachic or physical), I would sacrifice #4 to protect 1-3.

Thu Dec 01, 12:01:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Good points, Miami Al. I must admit that I've never really asked around regarding how long my fellow and sister Conservative Jews wait between meat and dairy, if at all. As for the dairy-after-meat problem, my experience has been that I can rely on some of my friends and not others. So I've adopted the practice of always bringing a parve dessert, in order to avoid embarrassing the host(s) while having my cake and eating it, too. :)

Thu Dec 01, 12:40:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ STeve said...

Miami Al's experience is very consistent with mine -- there was a break between dinner and dessert, and dessert usually was dairy. Table was cleaned off and dishes changed. They were kosher, but they didn't know from bentsching.

Now that my immediate family follows the (relatively) machmir custom of waiting 3 hours, we either bring a pareve dessert or simply forego the calories, which is my spouse's preferred approach. I was always impressed by my daughters' discipline, after we all decided to wait the 3 hours, to have no problems with passing up ice cream after a meat meal, while their cousins, to whom they are close, enjoyed.

Thu Dec 01, 01:06:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

3 hours seems very common among contemporary committed C Jews of my acquaintance. Given C's origin in Germany, it even makes historical sense.

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I agree that the clear the table w/o benching was a common approach among Jews who kept kosher at all. I even called it 'minhag America' (a term I wrongly thought I made up) and asked my rabbi why we were stuck with the rules based on where our ancestors came from instead of where we were living now. I can't remember his answer, so I'd have to say it wasn't memorable.

Thu Dec 01, 01:21:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, I've been thinking about your last two comments, and I must admit to wondering just how typical of Conservative Jews my particular (peculiar?) observance of kashrut is. I do try to wait three hours between fleishig/b'sari (meat or poultry) and dairy products. And I now buy only hechshered dairy products, though the Conservative rabbinate officially permits US dairy products without a hechsher, relying on the US Department of Agriculture's regulations regarding what animals' milk is permissible. Is that unusual for a Conservative Jew?

Before you get all excited, however, I must clarify that my decision to use hechshered dairy is location-dependent. Just as, in places in which kosher restaurants are not available, I eat in non-kosher restaurants but avoid eating meat, so, too, in places in which hechsher cheese is not available, I would certainly eat non-hechshered cheese.

One of the more interesting things I've learned from the "Keeping Kosher in a Non-Kosher World" shiurim/lecture series currently being taught by Rabbi Ethan Tucker at Mechon Hadar is that there's actually halachic precedent for my approach.

"תורת חטאת יז:ד, רמ"א, פולין, המאה הט"ז
...אמנם אם נשתמשו בו איסור צונן מותר להשתמש בו היתר צונן לכתחילה...ומכל מקום נראה לי דלכתחלה יש
להחמיר בעל ענין ובדיעבד שרי בכל ענין. ושעת הדחק כגון שנתאכסן בבית עכו"ם כדיעבד דמי.
Torat Hatat 17:4, Rema, Poland, 16th c.
… In the case of a plate used for cold non-kosher food, one would be allowed to place cold permitted food on it lekhathilah…Nonetheless, it seems to me that lekhathilah we should always be strict and bediavad we should always be lenient. And a pressing circumstance, like staying in the home of a non-Jew, is like bediavad."

"שו"ת נודע ביהודה מהדורה קמא - יורה דעה סימן לו
על דבר קאפע שאלין /ספלי קפה/ של אינם יהודים בקאפע הייזר /בבתי הקפה/ שלה. יפה הורה לאיסור שאין כאן שום
ספק ובודאי הם בני יומן שבכל שעה שותין מהם חלב של אינו יהודי...
ולהלכה למעשה בדרך באושפיזא שאין שם כלים אחרים מיחשב דיעבד אבל בעיר במקום שיש כלי יהודים ודאי אסור
ואם מערה מכלי ראשון אפילו דיעבד אסור.
Responsa Noda Biyehudah I YD #36
With respect to coffee mugs found in Gentile coffeehouses. You were right to rule strictly, there is no doubt here, they were certainly used in the past day since they are constantly used for Gentile milk…
As a practical ruling, when one is on the road and has no other utensils, that is a bediavad situation [and therefore it is permitted to drink out of such mugs if doing so would be permitted had the tea already been poured into them]. But when in a city, in a place where there are Jewish utensils, it is certainly forbidden…"

(Copied from Mechon Hadar source materials.)

Thu Dec 01, 01:42:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Miami Al's experience is very consistent with mine -- there was a break between dinner and dessert, and dessert usually was dairy. Table was cleaned off and dishes changed. They were kosher, but they didn't know from bentsching."

TOTJ Steve, maybe the reason why I'm confused is that my parents and and grandparents *always* served parve desserts with a meat meal, even before my parents went kosher and even though my grandparents didn't keep kosher!

"3 hours seems very common among contemporary committed C Jews of my acquaintance."

Larry, you would think that *I* would know that, not having jumped ship.

"Given C's origin in Germany, it even makes historical sense."


"Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I agree that the clear the table w/o benching was a common approach among Jews who kept kosher at all."

So the consensus among this small sample is that many people who kept kosher "didn't know from" bentsching (didn't know about and/or recite Birkat HaMazon/Grace after Meals).

Thu Dec 01, 02:11:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Miami Al said...

"TOTJ Steve, maybe the reason why I'm confused is that my parents and and grandparents *always* served parve desserts with a meat meal, even before my parents went kosher and even though my grandparents didn't keep kosher!"

Perhaps it's as simple as, that's what their parents did so that's what they did, and never really thought about it. Given that you have (apparently), never lived outside NY, is it possible that they never really thought about it and just did what they grew up with. Perhaps they moved into a neighborhood in greater-NYC that let Jews live, and that's what they did at home, and that's what their neighbors did. I'd presume that many Jews that never thought of themselves as "keeping Kosher" went to the Jewish butcher down the street, because that's what you did.

A guy I met playing softball, completely secular Jew, stunned some people at a table that he had never had pork... He didn't grow up with it, never had an interest in it. Didn't think of himself as keeping Kosher, just that he didn't eat pork.

Lots of customs stick around a few generations after the reason is lost.

Thu Dec 01, 03:01:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Perhaps it's as simple as, that's what their parents did so that's what they did, and never really thought about it."

That's likely.

"Given that you have (apparently), never lived outside NY . . . I'd presume that many Jews that never thought of themselves as "keeping Kosher" went to the Jewish butcher down the street, because that's what you did."

Nope. I lived in New Jersey until I was in my mid-twenties, and I can assure you that there was never any kosher butcher down the street. My mother stopped buying treif meat when we were teenagers, and she had to go out of her way to buy meat from a kosher butcher.

Thu Dec 01, 03:50:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous TOTJ Steve said...

We are not nearly as strict as many of my friends believe us to be. Nonetheless, as a family, we became more consciously or intentionally kosher at home. I don't seek out hekshered milk, nor would I in the USA, but the milk I routinely buy does bear an OU. Because two of the large supermarkets in my community have a meaningful kosher departments, I buy hekshered cheese. I also only use hekshered wine at home. But part of this is also support for the larger community. If I have the opportunity to support a kosher restaurant over a treif joint, I will; If I can support a kosher vintner over treif co., I will. If we all don't support these places, they won't be there for anyone.

Thu Dec 01, 06:54:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

TOTJ Steve, I agree on all counts, and follow similar practices. One of the main reasons why I decided to accept the Rabbinical Assembly’s 2007(?) decision against eating cooked dairy foods in non-kosher restaurants (when I'm in a place where kosher restaurants are available) despite my original protest was that it simply didn't seem right for me to celebrate my birthday in a treif Asian restaurant when I could support a kosher Asian restaurant that's only about 12 blocks away.

Fri Dec 02, 11:34:00 AM 2011  
Anonymous Dov said...


Hi. Two comments:

1) Regarding waiting after meat, it is true that Sephardim traditionally wait six hours. The reason is that Shulhan Arukh rules in accordance with Rambam who holds six hours is binding halakha. Rema held that the halakha does not follow Rambam's opinion, rather it follows the opinion of Tosafot who say that washing the mouth out after the meal is enough. He does mention that the practice is to wait an hour anyway, although he writes in Darkei Moshe that this practice is some kind of compromise which really has no basis, and then mentions, as Larry writes, that some have the custom to wait six hours (presumably to be stringent like Rambam, even though the strict halakha follows Tosafot). At some point apparently this custom became widespread. At any rate it comes out that Ashkenazim see six hours as a minhag (Rema) and Sephardim see it as halakha (SA).

2) I am fine with relying on the USDA (and I am Orthodox). However there is an issue with cheese which I do not know how the Conservative movement addresses. Shulhan Arukh and Rema (Yoreh Deah 115) rule in accordance with most rishonim that un-hekhshered cheese is not kosher due to a special rabbinic decree that cannot be revoked even if the reason should not apply. There is an obscure opinion of Rabbeinu Tam which disagrees, but was rejected by nearly all subsequent authorities. Therefore, although I will eat anything based on the ingredient labeling, I will not eat un-hekhshered cheese.

Sat Dec 03, 11:48:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Reb Barry said...

Dov's comment above, "1)" does capture the alternatives brought in traditional sources: wash your mouth, wait an hour, or wait six hours. Note that NONE of the traditional sources specifies three hours.

The underlying rule is you can have dairy at the next meal. How long do people wait between meals? I suggest that most people frequently have their next meal in less than six hours, so six hours seems an unnecessary stringency. If you don't go with six hours, the next increment that has textual support is one hour. Which is what I follow. The flavor of meat is certainly out of the mouth by the time an hour has passed.

Sun Dec 04, 03:19:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Dov said...

Reb Barry -

>>If you don't go with six hours, the next increment that has textual support is one hour.

Meiri actually holds 5 hours. As you say however, there is textual support for what you do.

Sun Dec 04, 03:43:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Not being antisocial, just edited and/or reformatted 5 different Word files today. Hope to come up for air tomorrow.

Mon Dec 05, 06:15:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thus far, I'm only up to 3 Word documents. An improvement, of sorts. :) But I may take my sneezing self home early, so as to reduce the chances of infecting my office-mates.

" . . . there is an issue with cheese . . ."

Nu, why the big mystery, Dov? What's the issue? Is it one of those "akum" prohibitions that the rabbis instituted, limited foods produced by a non-Jew that a Jew is permitted to eat? (I should say, up front, that I've never been fond of that prohibition.)

So, Reb Barry, I should either go with six hours or one hour? :) I don't know, the three-hour wait makes sense to me. I may just stick with Rav Steg on this one (too lazy to recreate my link from an early comment).

Tue Dec 06, 02:56:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Dov said...


Actually this isn't primarily related to "akum". It's because in those days part of the process used by the non-Jews to produce the cheese was to have it sit in the animal's stomach, thereby rendering it unkosher through the transmitted flavor.

It cannot be revoked because the Talmud records 18 decrees which "even if Elijah the prophet and his court should come we do not listen to him" (B.T. Avodah Zarah 36a) and this was one of them. There are a few reasons for this, the one given in that Gemara is because it was ascertained that the decree was accepted by the entire community, in other places it would seem that there was the added reason that with these 18 decrees the rabbis decided to make a statement of their authority in deciding halakha.

Tue Dec 06, 03:21:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Yes. Gevinat Akum requires Jewish supervision of cheese making. In mid 20th Century America there was a debate as to whether this required an observant Jew to actually add the rennet or merely observation like Cholov Yisrael. We wound up with the former, alas. See Kosher Blog for a summary, with links for more detailed explanations.

I comment that different akum rulings have different explanations. Bishul (cooking) and Pat Akum (bread and baked goods) are prohibited because of fear that socializing will lead to intermarriage. But Gevinat Akum and Cholav akum are prohibited because of the fear that it is too hard to detect treif ingredients added to them (pig or camel milk added to cow milk, non-kosher rennet used in place of regular rennet.)

Tue Dec 06, 03:33:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Dov said...


I agree with your observation, but it must be stressed that there is a fundamental difference between gevinat akum and halav akum, in that while we find that there was an actual decree against gevinat akum, we do not find that there was an actual decree on halav akum, rather only a concern that non kosher milk was mixed in. Thus although as I have noted there is nothing we can do about the decree on cheese, it is not so with milk, for as long as the concern is mitigated (as is the case in the US with the USDA and other countries with similar agencies) there is be no problem, as there never was an actual decree instituted.

Tue Dec 06, 03:44:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Chalav Akum is forbidden by the Mishna (see Avodah Zara 35b) but not included in the 18 decrees. My very fast reading of the decrees shows that the bread, wine, and oil of gentiles were prohibited by them but not the cooking, milk or cheese of gentiles. This was a fast scan and I may be mistaken.

Also, the debate about the degree of supervision required is a machlochet (diagreement) between the Rema and the Shach. The idea that only chalav yisrael supervision is required for cheese has a long history, although in 21st Century America we have decided on the more stringent approach. (I could make an argument that is not true - the Tablet K among others follows the lenient opinion, but at least in my crowd hecksherim that follow the lenient opinion are not considered reliable.

Tue Dec 06, 04:46:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Dov said...


1) I stand corrected, that was a mistake. Cheese is not part of the 18. Thank you for catching me on that. It is only a technical point though, being that cheese was specifically decreed upon (for the reason I mentioned above), as the Talmud records in A.Z. 35a, and the decree cannot be revoked except by a court of greater standing than the one that enacted it. (I stand by the halakhot I mentioned; my mistake was just in thinking that it was part of the 18.)

Therefore, regardless of whether you follow the Shakh or the Rema in the mahloket you mentioned earlier, it does not change the fact that everyone agrees that a certain degree of supervision is necessary – because it isn’t just kashrut information we care about; we have to somehow give it the status of “Jewish” cheese. Therefore should cheese have no supervision whatsoever it would be forbidden, even though we know very well that it contains nothing inherently not kosher.

2) Halav Akum, as you say, is not one of the 18. The fact that the Mishna says something is forbidden does not mean there was a decree instituted about it, it just means that practically speaking, for whatever reason, it is forbidden. Therefore if we know that the practicality they referred to is not how it is here, we are in truth abiding by the same rules as the Mishna when we ignore the mentioned prohibition – because they never forbade the thing per se. Unless we find explicitly recorded that something was a decree that was enacted, there is no reason to assume it was. Milk therefore, in truth requires no supervision at all.

3) The decree on oil has since been revoked by the court of R. Judah Nesiah (grandson of R. Judah HaNasi). They were able to revoke it even though it was part of the 18, since most of the community never accepted it. This is all in A.Z. 36a.

Tue Dec 06, 07:17:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Sorry, still fighting a cold *and* swamped with Word document editing and reformatting. I hope to be better by Monday, but I don't expect much of a decrease in assignments at the office--we're working on two major projects at the same time.

Larry, I'm sticking with the ruling that we can trust the US Dept. of Agriculture to guarantee that milk comes from kosher animals only, on "fear-of-the-government" grounds--I just can't see worrying about chalav stam/"unsupervised" milk in the US. I buy hechshered cheese when in NYC, but, when traveling, I rely on the Conservative ruling that we can trust cheese *produced in the US.* I'm not sure whether the Conservative rabbinate's logic is "fear of government" or "davar chadash/new thing," meaning , in this case (if I understand correctly), that the rennet (used to make most cheeses) has become a chemical whose origin is irrelevant, but I'll accept either explanation.

Shabbat Shalom--I'm outta here.

Fri Dec 09, 01:45:00 PM 2011  

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