Well? Is It Kosher Or Is It Not?

Just received a query from Rael. Why is the same product recognised as Kosher by one Kosher agency but not by another?

Yes indeed, Slurpees are Kosher in NSW according to KAS [KASydney], but not according to KAM [KAMelbourne]. NutriGrain is or was Kosher according to the Adass Israel of Melbourne but not according to KAM and I believe also not Kosher by KAS.

Reb Chaim Ozer Grodzenski ruled that Gelatine is Kosher whereas Reb Aharon Kotler ruled that it is not Kosher. Reb Moshe has an issue with Gelatine from soft skin but Rav Menashe Klien understands there is no issue. [out of deference to Reb Moshe he declined to issue a ruling]

For those who are familiar with Talmudic analysis and dispute, and the constant tension in Halachic evaluation, this is just par for the course. I well remember the look of astonishment on the face of a non-Jew who accompanied me to an hour long discussion with HaRav Belsky [concerning use of cutting edge technology to verify the integrity and provenance of Kosher meat] at the conclusion of which I raised a Diyuk in Rashi in BM relating to sharing limited reserves of water; we had quite a strong exchange which left my non-Jewish colleague gob-smacked. He just could not fathom that mutually respectful associates should express themselves with such energy. And certainly as it was clear that I am very much a junior to HaRav Belsky. Besides the fact that this is simply not the way business is done. But this is the way of the Torah.

If one thinks of Halacha as a scientific discipline, then Rael is understandably very confused. There is a formula for calculating the area of a circle, the rate of atomic disintegration etc and these are all absolutes that apply in all places at all times without exception. But our Torah, specifically our Oral Traditions, are much more like appreciating a fine wine or a great work of art. Is there a page anywhere in our Talmud that is not enriched by the complexities of our Sages arguing their perspectives?

ImageEvaluating Halacha requires much more than a simple or even a complex formula. It requires a “feel” and subtlety that is usually found when appreciating a fine wine or a great work of art. If Gd would simply have wanted obedience, He would have given Moshe Rabbenu on Mount Sinai, not the Written and the Oral Torah with all their complications and vagueness, but a simple Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – a Concise Code of Jewish Law. Gd wants complexity, Gd wants us to analyse and reach different conclusions and Gd wants us to debate and disagree. The words of These and the words of Those are all the words of our Living Gd.

Where else is Gd so described – as The Living Gd? That’s because life and Torah are about analysis and disagreement.