Belgian chickens

We are invested in scandals, personal failures and rumors, and the great issues are ignored.

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Rabbi Berel Wein,

Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein
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We are all aware that our best laid plans and visions of our future are upset when life itself intervenes. We are always blindsided by unforeseen events. We are prone to be distracted and diverted by rather petty, small and even inconsequential events. The great issues that face and even bedevil the Jewish people and the Jewish state rarely receive the attention that they obviously deserve. 

A great deal of this is due to the media frenzy and instant social media communication that characterizes our current society and generation. The constant necessity to produce news – fake or otherwise – drives the crushing creation of distractions and diversions. And these sideshows mesmerize us and we forget what our true goals and policies should be. 

We are invested in scandals, personal failures and rumors, and the great issues are ignored. There is no doubt that a price will be exacted for this failure.  The history of the past two centuries in Jewish life worldwide shows clearly the perils of ignoring great ideas while concentrating on passing controversies. When Reform and Haskalah were attracting generations of children of previously staunchly Orthodox families, the Orthodox leadership generally ignored the underlying causes for the success of these movements and contended themselves with bans and posters. Instead
Families have been split, dishes have been discarded and destroyed and the poster wars have been renewed and intensified. 
they argued about women’s education, secular studies, modes of dress, personal rabbinic disputes and controversies and other issues, most of which have long been completely forgotten. Seeing only the trees and never viewing the forest is always a dangerous policy.  

There is currently a controversy here in Israel about the kosher status of a certain type of chicken species. Imported from Belgium, this type of chicken was approved as being kosher by a leading charedi kashruth certification organization, one of the more renowned groups here in Israel. However, as can be expected in any type of kashruth question and innovation, there is always another rabbinic opinion. 

And the other well-known rabbinic kashruth authorities declared that this type of chicken was not acceptable. The media had, and continues to have, a field day regarding this controversy. As is usual in such instances, families have been split, dishes have been discarded and destroyed and the poster wars have been renewed and intensified. 

This is very reminiscent of the rabbinic dispute in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries regarding the newly discovered American turkey.  For almost a century, the controversy regarding this bird continued until the Jewish people, by practice, decided that the American turkey was just a big chicken and therefore a kosher bird, as it is universally accepted today. 

I have no idea what the eventual Jewish decision regarding the fate of the Belgian chicken in our kitchens, but like most disputes of this type, I expect this controversy to continue for some time.  But the fate of the Belgian chicken and the attention that it is receiving is a distraction. The real issue that the rabbinate should be dealing with is education, outreach and adjustment to modern changes, which are the stuff of today’s important issues.

The existential issues facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel are unfortunately numerous and serious. Iran is the Hitler of our time and cannot be ignored. The Jewish people and its religious leadership have to prepare their societies for this looming crisis. Iran is not a matter of Belgian chickens. 

Demonstrations against the Israel Defense Forces are not only foolish and wrong but they are completely irrelevant to the Jewish future. The complete alienation of so much of the Jewish people certainly has to be addressed. But one hears very little from the top about this danger, which is certainly as existential as Iran is. The Talmud allows for questions to which it has no answers. Even without having answers to problems, the problems themselves should be raised, addressed and discussed. 

We are wasting assets and valuable resources on distractions and diversions. Our leadership, as well as all of us, must somehow rise over this and concentrate on the real issues and problems that face us. But we are very attracted to these diversions. We prefer to play with the toys that are strewn throughout our daily lives. It is much easier to avoid the real issues than to face up to them. At the very least we should be able to identify and reject these confusing disturbances.