Monday, March 15, 2004

The issues are basically these:

Some guy in Israel (turns out our family knows [of] him somehow, but that's a whole 'nother story) is publishing a series of books on insects in food, checking for them, etc. (For those not in on this particular Orthodox Jewish obsession, insects ain't kosher, so they have to be removed. Of course, as with any religious law, lots of people go over the top.) The books are very impressive- color plates of photographs and the like.

My rabbi spent "half his salary" on the two volumes out so far, and spoke a bit about them. He said that some people pointed out to the author that the infestation situation as presented in the books is so daunting, people never will eat again. The author's response was as follows: When the Chafetz Chaim wrote his famous works on the laws of Lashon Hara (forbidden gossip), people worried that with so many laws, they'd never be able to talk again. Responded the Chafetz Chaim, au contraire! Now that you have the laws, you know exactly what you can say, for the first time.

So too, it is supposedly with this book. Now, for the first time, you know how to properly check veggies for bugs.

I'm not going to touch the gossip issue- I'll concede people have always been a bit lax about that one. But the attitude here is widespread today in many areas, and disturbing- the idea that only we are observing the laws properly. Is the implication that previous generations were, simply, eating non-kosher, and ignoring significant laws, just because they didn't have color photographs? Or shouldn't we admit, at least, that we're being stringent beyond requirements here?

My father pointed out that many of the tougher veggies to check (broccoli, say- which he doesn't like anyway) weren't widely eaten back in the day. Maybe, but I'm not buying that- people always had stuff to check, so they were, by implication, being lax. I don't like people making that implication- it's too cavalier.

Gotta go, so other points will follow later.