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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Synthetic Kashrus




Ask Rabbi Pinky: On Synthetic Kashrus

Rabboisai, this week I address a Shailah from a Talmid who was Mechavayn to a similar Kashah posed by the RITVAH on a Teshuvah made by RAMBAN while traveling with Rebbeinu Tam and the Roish to an Agudah Convention held on Rigel VII, which was discussed over Kiddush with the Chief Rabbi of Ferengi and the Sgan Chacham of the Klingon Empire.


Dear Reb Pinky,

I have this friend and we were talking about what is Treif and what isn’t, and as we came up with a real Halachic dilemma, I volunteered to find an answer, and I couldn't think of any Chacham Gadol other than you who might be able or willing to give a Teshuvah to such an important Shailah, so here goes: We are both major Star Trek fans and we are wondering if bacon that was made by a replicator would still be Treif? Or any other food currently Treif, for that matter. Reb Pinky, please help us put our minds at rest. I figure that only the Rosh Yeshivah of Yeshivas Chippass Emmess, a man that surely sits at the very top of the pantheon of Chachamim Gdolim of the Talmud and Halacha, would be able to render such a ruling.

Thanks in advance.

Your loyal Talmid

Wood Maven


Reb Wood, thank you for your kind and Erlicheh words. You are indeed everything that a Rebbe looks for in a Talmid: You are polite, you are gracious, and you are willing to blindly follow every word I say.

Your Shailah touches upon an issue at the heart of Yiddishkeit: What is the fundamental essence of an object: Its appearance, or its internal nature? Is a Sefer Toirah holy because of the words it contains, or because of the beautiful pink velvet cover with the sterling silver schvantzlach hanging off of it? After reading Masechess Nidah, can you immediately go for a quick Mitzvah, or do you have to go to the Mikvah and take the rest of the week off from marital Shuckling? Can you count as the tenth in a Minyan a man with a long black beard and Payis that reach the floor, even though he has a swastika tattooed on his foreskin? Does that real-hair-blond-headed-Shiksa-Sheytel that your wife wears make up for the last thirty-five year of her being a Groisseh Ballhabuster?

Well, you Mechutziff, I ask you: When the Reboinoisheloilum chose Klal Yisroel to receive His Toirah and keep his Mitzvois, did he pick the tallest nation, or the most beautiful nation, or the nation with the best recipes for lobster, Chass V’Sholom? No! He picked a simple nation, the Jews, because of their sweet Neshamas, their inner beauty, and their ability to deliver a ten percent annual return on a minimum investment of $100,000, guaranteed.

So when we look at an object, or a person, we look at their essence. That is the Jewish way. This point was brought out in a famous Medrish in Luke Rabba. Tells the Medrish, Rav Huna was once walking in Rome looking for a place to put on his Tfillin. Upon finding a secluded area, he began to don his Shel Yad. As he was putting on his Shel Roish, he was surrounded by the Roman Centurion Intelligence Agency (RCIA), who suspected him of having a bomb. After explaining what Tfillin are, how they contain holy scriptures that link the wearer to the Reboinoisheloilum, and how the Battim and Retzuois are hand crafted Leshaim Shamayim, the RCIA, very impressed, brought Rav Huna to meet the Roman Emperor, Constantine.

Constantine was so inspired by the notion of Tfillin and the ideas of Yiddishkeit in general that he offered to convert to Judaism and bring along with him the entire Roman Empire. Rav Huna, delighted at the suggestion, offered to personally convert everyone in the Empire through his organization, the EJM (Eternal Jewish Mafia…errr…Mishpacha), for the nominal fee of 100 pieces of gold per person. But after Rav Huna insisted that he have the right to be Mezaneh with all of the women in the Roman Empire, Constantine decided to convert the Roman Empire to Christianity instead, since its leaders were charging only 50 pieces of gold per conversion and were willing to settle for being Mezaneh with only the children.

Rabboisai, it was because of external factors, gold and physical considerations, Gashmiyus in other words, that Klal Yisroel missed the unique opportunity to take over the Western World…errr… was fortunate enough to preserve our identity as a minority who has intellectually influenced and inspired the world through our religious ideas, our philosophy, our art, and our approaches to structured finance. We stayed true to our essence, our core, and look at us now: We have sovereignty over only one precious, tiny little country, precariously surrounded by our enemies, while the rest of the world is run by a bunch of Mishugayim. And if we weren’t in control of the world financial system and the global media, things would really be intolerable.

Reb Wood, Klal Yisroel’s commitment to fundamental essence is present in every aspect of our lives – including how we behave, where we go, what we do, and who we engage with in Tashmish HaMitah. Which brings us back to your original Shailah about Traifus Mamish that is artificially replicated. Indeed, there was an important Machloikess in the last century that is very relevant to your question.

Reb Moishe was once asked whether one may eat artificial shrimp. According to Rav Moishe, the Ikkur Issur of eating shrimp is based on the Pasook, “VeChol Asher Ain-Loi Snapir VeKaskeset, BaYamim U’VaNachalim, MiKol Sheretz Haaretz U’MiKol Nefesh HaChayah Asher BaMayim, Sheketz Haim Lachem” (VaYikrah, Perek Yood Aleph, Pasook Yood), “And all that do not have fins and scales (that live) in the seas and in the rivers, of all that swarm in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are a detestable thing unto you” (Leviticus 11,10). So eating a shrimp or an oyster or a lobster is detestable. However, eating something that looks like a shrimp but is made of pollack or flounder, or eating something that tastes like crab but is made out of whitefish, or eating something that smells like a clam but is fleshy and surrounded by short, curly hair, especially when it is properly groomed, is expressly permissible, and possibly a Mitzvas Asey.

Reb Aroin, on the other hand, holds that while a food item may be Traifus based on strict Halacha, there are certain instances when even Traifus Mamish may be permissible to eat. For example, a Gemarrah in Nezikin tells us that when one is at war, he may eat anything in order to sustain himself, so long as he eats it with a Shinui, such as bring the food to his mouth with his toes rather than with his fingers.

Similarly, according to a Toisefta in Baba Basra cited by Reb Shrirah Goyn as referenced in RAMBAM’s Mishnah Toirah, one may eat Traifus as long as he does not own it. Consequently, you may NEVER, EVER have pork or shrimp or Kraft cheese or Chalav Stam or cut vegetables from the Korean fruit store or non-certified bottled water in your house. But if you are at a business dinner and the client is paying and there is a Chashash, a concern, that you might insult the client Chass V’Sholom, or, even worse, look like a freaking idiot eating cold salad off a paper plate while using plastic cutlery, you are allowed to order the New York cut of steak, medium rare, with the house potatoes and the creamed spinach, and wash it down with a nice Austrian Shiraz. Shoyn.

So whether you hold like Reb Moishe or Reb Aroin, you may eat synthesized food created on a replicator on a starship, so long as the underlying nutritional source is not Traifus. However, if the underlying protein in fact comes from a Traif animal, you can be Soimaich on the Sheetah of Reb Aroin so long as you do not have exclusive ownership of the starship. And if you are under attack from two Romulan warbirds and possibly others that you cannot see because of their cloaking devices, Koolay Alma Loi Pligi, everyone agrees, that you should dig in and enjoy, because this is probably your last meal anyway.

Ah Gutten Shabbos You Minuval

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