Mind Games, the Games our Minds Play with Us

The following scenarios were not proposed in order to explain Halacha nor to outline the types of Halachic questions that are everyday occurrences. They were designed to help unravel the complicated process that goes on inside our heads when we make decisions or evaluations. We used these scenarios because they allow simple description and evaluation.

There are any number of motivating forces that sit quietly in the background and influence our decision making.

In all these cases we might ask ourselves, how would we feel if we were the one who was deprived of information which we thought we ought to be made known to us?

Scenario 1:

You’re preparing a dinner for some friends at home. It is a vegetarian meal out of courtesy to one of the guests who is an avowed strict vegetarian. A pot of vegetable soup becomes contaminated with a tiny drop of meat fat which has inadvertently splashed into the soup. You call your rabbi to determine if the soup is still Pareve, deemed to be non-meaty according to Halacha. Yes, he rules it is still Pareve. He explains this is so since the drop is so tiny and it was added inadvertently.

You however, are certain that your vegetarian friend would not eat food that has even the tiniest proportion of meat fat in it and is relying upon you to maintain his commitment.

Do you tell your friends about the drop of meat fat in the soup?

You are reluctant to omit the soup from the menu since it is your renowned vegetable soup which has been awarded many accolades.

Your wife will be extremely annoyed if you tell everyone because after eating your soup, they will not eat her renowned dessert, dairy vanilla pepper ice cream since they will, in spite of the rabbi’s ruling, still consider themselves meaty.

Do you tell just tell your vegetarian friend not to eat the soup?


Scenario 2:

Same as Scenario 1 but you’re the rabbi certifying a Kosher wedding of a parve meal.

As the rabbi, you certify that the inadvertent addition of the drop of meat is so small that you have no hesitation in ruling that the vegetable soup remains kosher and parve.

Your close friend, the strict vegetarian, is a guest at the wedding and will feel violated if he has consumed even the tiniest proportion of meat fat, and is relying upon your certification to eat at the reception.

You strongly suspect that if it becomes known, many guests would not eat the dairy foods at the reception, or would not eat the soup in order to be able to eat the dairy foods at the reception. You also strongly suspect that the hosts would be most annoyed and perhaps even take legal action, if you disclosed what had happened to the soup. And what you mostly fear is that your reputation as a Kosher certifier will suffer a very serious setback.

Should you tell anyone about this?


Scenario 3 & 4:

Same as 1 & 2 above but it is not meat fat that falls in but pig fat. (don’t even think of asking as to how there was any pig fat in the koshered kitchen – just accept it) The Halacha is the same but the revulsion factor is exponentially multiplied. Does anything change? Is there a difference between the private dinner and the communal feast?

If we find pig fat harder to evaluate, if we feel more of a struggle with our conscience, let us try to determine why. What are the considerations that make it more difficult? What is really going on inside our hearts and minds, what honour systems are being tested in these situations. Because on paper they are really identical.


Scenario 5:

At the same wedding, there is an orthodox person present, also a close friend, who you know would not eat the soup if he knew that even a single drop of pig fat had accidentally dropped in.

Should you tell your orthodox friend what has happened – knowing how strongly he feels about this issue?


Scenario 6:

You are not the rabbi but the supervisor, the Mashgiach. This identical case has occurred in the past and you know the rabbi’s ruling: it is all 100% Kosher. Do you tell the rabbi who is a guest at the wedding? [Yes, this rabbi does eat food which is under his own Kosher certificate]


Scenario 7:

You decided that you would like to tell your vegetarian friend about what has happened. Your vegetarian friend has a friend who is extremely meticulous about Kosher, who would not eat the soup if he only knew it was tainted with even the tiniest speck of non-Kosher. However, this guy is a blabber-mouth. If he finds out, everyone will know and you are pretty sure that half the guests at the wedding will choose not to eat, and the wedding will end in disaster.

Do you not tell the vegetarian because you fear he might tell his friend the blabber-mouth?

If you decide to tell your vegetarian friend, then would you ask your friend to keep the information to themselves?