I just don’t get it! I find myself in a world turned on its head! What seems legal and fair to me is dismissed as a political liability by others.  Conversely, while acts that I would deem blatantly prohibited are gleefully accepted as patriotic and normal. For example, the pillaging rioters across the country who make a mockery of our judicial system are held in high esteem by those who are sworn to uphold our laws, while those who actually uphold our laws are put out to pasture or criticized for doing their duties. Inasmuch as I have come to accept such political hypocrisy, I am nonetheless left with a feeling of dejection and concern for our future.

 

It is not that I am newly awakened to the realities of life; it is just that I have seen this decline in rational thought penetrate into the deepest crevices of my existence. What I find reprehensible in our democracy has slowly but surely managed to infiltrate my religion’s leadership and teachings. The laws that I always believed were sacred and pure are facing an uphill battle for acceptance against newly promoted rulings and dictates. This incongruity in religious policies parallels the shifts in our society.  Sadly, this bodes for a poor outcome on our collective futures.

 

As an example, let us look at one law found in this week’s Torah portion. Our patriarch Jacob is found fighting with an angel who injures him.  This culminated in the biblical prohibition of eating the sciatic nerve. What developed from that one ruling has caused many Jews to abandon Kashrut and some even to abandon Judaism. A rule that was meant to bring us together has created such limitations that is has been a harbinger for dissent and assimilation. Instead of only prohibiting the tasteless nerve and its surrounding fats, our rabbis have embellished the rule to exclude most of the better cuts of meat. (Some may posit that this is a benefit as it reduces cholesterol.) When I lived in New Zealand the cost of importing kosher meat was prohibitive and many in the community were unable to continue keeping kosher. Although it was permissible to ritually slaughter meat in New Zealand, the government’s permission was limiting because they didn’t allow kosher meat to be sold to anyone outside the Jewish community. Hence, we could not sell the hindquarter and thus the cost of producing local lamb was prohibitive. In cooperation with another rabbi, we decided that our local shochet – ritual slaughterer could de-vein the hindquarter of lamb and provide the community with leg of lamb and other delectable treats. The net gain was that those who in the past refused or were unable to keep kosher were now truly committed to the practice. After I left New Zealand the international rabbinate threatened that if the shochet continued this practice, he would lose his commission and ability to practice anywhere else in the world.

Is this Jewish law or is it a mockery of all that is sacred? Could it be that other so called facts are anything but factual? Did you know that meat that is grilled on a barbeque does not require additional salting? Did you know that kosher supervising agencies refuse to allow kosher butchers to sell unsalted meat? Do you really believe our grandmothers ability to soak and salt meat has proven to a challenge too arduous for modern man to master?   Is everything we are told the absolute truth or could there be some rabbinical subjectivity? Often, as we know from politicians and the words they write and speak, language may be intentionally confusing in order to keep citizens oblivious and ignorant of the truth.

 

The following article, Deveining the Hind Quarter by Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, debunks the myth related to eating the hind quarter of an animal. It can be found on the Orthodox Union’s website:  http://www.ou.org/torah/machshava/tzarich-iyun/tzarich_iyun_nikkur_achoraim/

Below is a summary of key points made in the article.

 

Misconception: Deveining and rendering the hindquarters of an animal fit for kosher consumption is a Sephardic practice that is banned by rabbinic fiat for Ashkenazim and thus not performed in the United States

Fact: There is no such ban, and this procedure was practiced in many Ashkenazic communities into the twentieth century. The practice of some communities to refrain from eating hindquarters, owing to the difficulty in excising the forbidden sections, continues to exist among both Ashkenazim and Sephardim.

According to Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, in both his father’s hometown of Kamenitz and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s hometown of Luban, Belarus (where Rav Moshe’s father-in-law was the shochet), deveining was performed in the early twentieth century. People did not stop practicing deveining because of a ban or custom as stated in a response by Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe YD:2:42; pp. 56-57). In his opinion this practice in recent years has faded due to butchers disinterest in expending effort, and the lack of potential consumers. He also states categorically that it is a grave sin to cause a section of the Torah to be forgotten even if it will not lead to the violation of any prohibitions.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Jack Engel

 

PS: Rabbi Marc Angel recently wrote a cogent article (http://www.jewishideas.org/angel-shabbat/mitzvah-accepting-not-rejecting-converts-judai) that may be worth reading in conjunction with my weekly commentary.  In his article, he decries a false premise permeating Jewish thinking of today. He admonishes those who claim that accepting converts is an anathema and against the fundamental principles of Judaism. This article is rewarding reading in and of itself; however, it is also important for us all to be cognizant of the true face of Judaism.

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