Pesach is a full time occupation, even after the house is prepared and the Seder properly celebrated. Hence, my Hol ha-Moed שינוי was not blogging. Herewith, then, the first of several observations now that we're back to normal.
1) I am still outraged by the decision of certain New York area Rabbinic Councils to withdraw their kashrut recognition of Streits products for Pesach. Never mind that the underhanded manner in which they did so is, per se, worthy of condemnation. What is even more outrageous is the facile manner in which they dismissed an established hekhsher, headed up by R. Moshe Soloveitchik (following standards set up by his father, Rav Aaron Soloveitchik, זצ"ל).
Now, I admit that I do not know R. Moshe Soloveitchik personally. However, people I know and respect, and who are (or were) outstanding Talmidei Hakhamim, do know him and have made it very clear to me that there is no legitimate reason to impugn his integrity or his Kashrut supervision.
This inexcusable act fully justifies excommunicating the offenders (נידוי). According to the Shulhan Arukh, anyone who humiliates an established rabbinic scholar can be anathemized by him, or one of his students (YD 334:16). The full implications are spelled out by Maimonides (Hil. Talmud Torah VI: 11-12):
11) It is a great sin to hate or humilate a sage. Jerusalem was not destroyed until people started despising the sages, as it is written, "But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets", i.e. they scoffed the people who taught Torah. In a similar vein the Torah said, "And if you shall despise My statutes", which refers to humilate those who teach these statutes. Anybody who humilates Sages loses his share in the World To Come and is included in the verse of, "Because he has despised the word of the Lord, etc".
12) Even though someone who humilates the Sages doesn't have a share in the World To Come, nevertheless, if witnesses state that someone has despised even just their words, that person is punishable by excommunication. The Bet Din should publicly excommunicate him, and he is fined a pound of gold....Someone who humilates a sage after his death is taken to a Court of Law, and should have his excommunication removed only after he has repented. If, however, the sage himself is still alive, then he is taken out of excommunication only if the sage agrees to it....
This incident highlights the dangers inherent in centralized kashrut supervision. While such supervision has many salutary features, it also has very serious downsides. It takes the onus of personal responsibility off of the supervising agency. This actually vitiates the value of rabbinic supervision. Furthermore, it creates an atmosphere of fear, which can often lead to unjustified and often insipid stringencies (חומרות). These, in turn, can harm observance of the dietary laws by making them more difficult to observe than necessary (see my next post on קיטניות). Finally, as in the present instance, they can impugn reputable השגחות, like that of Streits, humiliate תלמידי חכמים and destroy a person's livlihood.
Finally, I can help but wonder what would have happened if the recent statements (slightly altered) had been offered thirty years ago:
'No one wants to mess with the Soloveichiks in general,” he explained. “There’s a feeling of reverence [for] the family”...The problem with Morrison and Schiff's lack of a national hashgacha is that “we don’t know enough about Rav Soloveichik.” “He just doesn’t swim in the kashrus world … we’re not saying he’s bad; not at all. We just don’t know.”