Observe stringent kashrut, but not at the expense of your host

A person who eats only Mehadrin and is hosted by a someone who keeps standard kashrut – should eat what the host serves him except for certain ethnic custms such as kitniyot on Pesach.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, | updated: 22:21

Judaism הר ברכה
הר ברכה
פלאש 90

A Guest who keeps Mehadrin, Hosted by Someone who keeps Standard Kashrut

A question that troubles many people: How should someone who meticulously keeps the halakha’s of kashrut and buys only products that are kosher l’mehadrin behave when he is a guest at his brother, relative, or friend who keeps kosher according to halakha, but purchases standard kosher products, and is not meticulous in the minhagim of mehadrin kashrut laws?

I will first open with the summary of the halakha, and then I will elaborate on its sources and reasons.

Trust the Host

Answer: The guest must trust the host and eat his food because standard kashrut is the halakha according to majority of poskim, and according to the rules of halakha. Although there is virtue in the various hidurim (beautifications of halakha) that take into consideration the opinions of the machmirim (poskim who rule strictly), it is more important to increase peace among Jews, and respect the halakha.

Admittedly, there are definite and unambiguous minhagim that are practiced by entire communities, and members of those communities do not budge from them unless forced to due to illness.

For example, those who eat only “glatt” meat, are careful to do so even when they are guests at other people’s homes. Similarly, Ashkenazi Jews who do not eat kitniyot (legumes) on Passover, are meticulous to guard their minhag even when they are guests at someone else’s home. This is not considered an insult, since it is a recognized minhag.

Also, many people who eat only leafy vegetables from special crops without insects, or soak the vegetables in water with soap and rinse well, are careful about this even when they are guests. Nevertheless, in a cooked dish that contains leafy vegetables, they should not be machmir, because it is a safeksafeka (a double doubt in a prohibition).

The Torah Commandment: Mutual Trust

The general rule is that Jews who believe in Hashem and His Torah are trustworthy in mitzvot, thus, anyone who is a guest at the home of a friend who observes kashrut should trust him and eat his food. This is the meaning of our Sages statement: “One witness is relied upon in prohibitions” (Yevamot 87b), and Rashi explained that if not, “no one would be able to eat his friend’s food.” Even rabbis and righteous Jews should rely on a simple Jew who keeps kashrut according to halakha, as we learned from the Torah’s command that any Jew who slaughters his beast for himself, gives the Kohanim (priests) as a gift the zeroalechayim, and keiva (foreleg, cheeks and stomach). Thus, we see that even the Kohanim, men of holiness, relied on the slaughter performed by every Jew.

Nevertheless, all of this is provided that it is a person who knows halakha and does not disregard its fulfillment, just as it was customary to examine a person who began the trade of slaughtering to see if he knew how to do it according to halakha (Chulin 3b; S. A., Y.D. 1:1). And similarly, when our Sages in the Second Temple period found that due to the high price of ma’asrot (tithes), many amei ha’aretz (uneducated Jews) did not set them aside properly – they decreed that only those who pledged before three witnesses to be faithful to the laws could be trusted in matters of terumot and ma’asrot (Sota 48a; Yerushalmi, Sota 9:11; Rambam, Ma’aser 9:1).

However, this not to say that every Jew must be tested in his yirat Shamayim (fear of God) and knowledge of halakha. Rather, anyone who is known to be observant of mitzvot, is careful to buy kosher food, and knows the general rules of halakha – for example, as women knew from watching their mothers, and hearing from their fathers – is trustworthy regarding kashrut.

Peace is More Important

We also learned that a person who is machmir in a certain detail is a guest in a place where they are not machmir, and their minhag is well-founded in halakha, should act according to the local minhag. Only if his being machmir is not evident is he permitted to act according to the minhag of his place (Pesachim 51b). Some poskim say that even when something is prohibited according to the minhag of the machmirim based in Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical ordinance), the visitor should act leniently (Tosefot Rosh, Maharshdam), while others say that only in chumras rooted in minhag must one act leniently according to minhag ha’makom, but for things forbidden according to his minhag based in Divrei Chachamim, he should not act leniently (Rabbeinu Tam, Ramban, Shach 119:20).

In a similar way, we learned that our Sages instructed that in certain circumstances one should forgo tithing demai, because of aiva (hatred) and darchei shalom (ways of peace) (Mishna Demai 4:2; Jerusalem Talmud, ibid). Similarly, we learned that someone who is careful not to eat pat paltar goy (bread baked by a non-Jewish baker) in accordance with the enactment of the Chachamim, when he is with friends who follow the instructions of the poskim who were lenient about eating pat paltar goy – he should eat from their bread “mishum aiva ve’ketata” (to prevent hatred and quarrels).” This is because bread is the main part of the meal and refraining from eating it is clearly evident and may cause hostility (Rema S. A. 112:15, according to Maharil). Nevertheless, Rema added: “And we do not expand this concept to other forbidden acts.”

Should One Inform the Guest?

Corresponding to this, we learned that the poskim were divided on whether a host must tell his guests that the food he gives them is not kosher according to their minhag. Some say it is proper to inform them, but not obligatory (Ritvah; Pri Chadash 119:19), however in the opinion of many poskim, one is obligated to inform them (Ohr Zarua, Yam Shel Shlomo, Rema 119:7. Shach 20). According to this, Rema wrote that someone may eat at a friend’s house who knows his minhagim, as he will surely not feed him something “which he regards a prohibition.”

Seemingly, one might ask: Did we not learn that a guest should forgo his minhagim of chumrot and eat the host’s food, according to the accepted halachic ruling of the host?

However, this is with regard to recognized minhagim of chumrot, such as glatt meat, a fact that the host is aware of. In addition, we are not talking about a guest who has come to a community that has a definite, lenient minhag, that whoever violates it, appears to insult the dignity of the community and its rabbis.

The Practical Halakha

Therefore, when it comes to definite and recognized minhagim related to a prohibition, such as glatt meat and kitniyot on Passover, keeping these minhagim does not cause hostility, for doing so does not result in a person being totally unable to eat the food his friend normally eats at home. Regarding these prohibition-related minhagim, in the opinion of the majority of poskim, the host is obligated to inform his guest which of the foods he serves are prohibited according to his minhag, and some say it is only proper to inform him, but not obligatory.

Machmirim Who do Not Eat Standard Kashrut

Consequently, there is no basis for the minhag of those who eat kosher l’mehadrin products in their home to also be machmir even when they are guests. Their minhag, although, can be explained – as a result of the upheavals the Jewish nation underwent, and changes in modern lifestyles, guarding of the masoret (tradition) was harmed to the point where today it is difficult to discern who knows halakha, and who is careful to keep it properly; as a safeguard, they are meticulous to consume only mehadrin products, and by refraining from eating the food of someone not meticulous, they resolve most of the doubts.

However, their position is contrary to halakha, since “standard kosher” is kosher according to the rules of halakha, and the halakha is that one must trust every Jew as long as they are not known to be ignorant or belittle the mitzvot. Thus, those who are machmir when they are guests is contrary to the instruction of the Chachamim, and also an insult to the honor of Torah and halakha, in that they consider kosher products as if they are non-kosher.

The Aim of Separation

There is concern that the position of those refraining from eating kosher when they are guests has another essentially negative objective promoted by elements supporting the means of separation, who wish to segregate Haredi society from the general religious public so they won’t be influenced by them and their rabbis – for if they don’t even eat with them, clearly, their Torah positions are not to be taken seriously.

Moreover, our Sages enacted that a Jew should not eat bread and cooked dishes of non-Jews in order to create a fence between Jews non-Jews, and even in the prohibition of milk of non-Jews they were machmir to take into consideration remote concerns in order to distance Jews from non-Jews (Rabbi Shmuel Abuhav, Sefer HaZichronot 3: 3). Those who scrupulously refrain from eating kosher food by their fellow Jews, relate to them as if they were goyim, and separate themselves from Knesset Yisrael.

Extreme Chumras

While there were tzadikim (righteous people) whose personal custom was to refrain from eating outside their home, also because of kashrut concerns, they did so in a sweeping manner and did not determine to refrain from eating with Jews who ate standard kashrut, but would eat with those who ate mehadrin, for such a minhag is in contrast with the halakha stipulating that every “kosher” Jew should be trusted. Consequently, if they refrain from eating they insult the host’s honor, and the honor of the Torah, which, according to its rules, determined that standard kashrut is kosher.

Standard Kashrut is Kosher

Possibly, the mistake of many machmirim in this issue stems from ignorance, that they do not know the halakha and believe that in standard kashrut is lenient beyond the line of halakha. This is not so — rather, standard kashrut goes according to the line of halakha and even beyond, when there is no difficulty to be machmir.

I repeat my request from last week: If there is anyone who knows that I am mistaken, please inform me about a halachic issue in which the standard kashrut hechsher in a food-producing factory follows a method that is not in accordance with principle halakha, according to the rules of halakha.

When Eating at the Home of One’s Religious Parents

When a person is hosted by his religious parents, even if they hold by standard kashrut according to the lenient opinions, and even in definite and recognized minhagim, owing to kibud horim (respect for parents) he should eat their food. And even if he is accustomed to eat glatt meat and they do not, he should eat what they serve him, because the mitzvah of kibud horim is more important than this chumra, even though eating glatt is the most important in the halakha’s of kashrut. This was the instruction of our guide and teacher, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu ztz”l to yeshiva students who took upon themselves to eat glatt, namely, that when they were at their parents, they should eat kosher meat according to the minhag of their parents.

The reason is that although the concern of eating glatt is important and the students took it upon themselves, since the mitzvah of kibud horim is more severe, their acceptance does not obligate them in the event of a conflict with the mitzvah of kibud horim. Even after they are married, if the concern of eating glatt would cause great anguish to their parents, it would be better for them to eat regular kosher meat, and not insult them. However, if possible, it would be proper to persuade them respectfully to buy glatt meat for them, nevertheless, it seems that in the case of hidurim that only go according to a few poskim, it is proper not to ask them to be machmir for them.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.





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