Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Buying Rubashkin VI

On the JTA website, Nat Lewin responded to R. Shmuel Herzfeld's NY Times Op-Ed (link). One thing he points out is that R. Herzfeld quoted R. Yisrael Salanter as refusing to certify as kosher a matzah bakery that treated workers unfairly. Lewin investigated this claim and could not verify the story. Here is how the story is told in the book Rabbi Israel Salanter: Religious-Ethical Thinker by Menahem G. Glen, recently republished by Yashar (p. 96). Note the important differences and that, in an endnote, the author questions the authenticity of the entire episode:
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As observant as Rabbi Israel was in strictly keeping the custom of Mazzah Shemurah, yet when on one occasion he was unable himself to supervise the baking of the extra "watched over" Mazzah, on account of illness, he sent some of his pupils to the bakery to take his place in watching, telling them not to be too harsh with any of the employees. When they asked him how they should proceed, he said: "Be careful, my pupils, not to mistreat the poor widowed kneading woman. Do not say an unkind word to her. She is a widow, her heart is broken, be patient with her."[10]

[10] Cf. J. Mark, op. cit., p. 78; E. Carlebach, ibid.; J. Fischman, ibid.; M. Lipson, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 118 (No. 2089). Since Rabbi Blaser in 'Or Yisrael, ibid. does not tell this story while giving the letters above, it seems that the actuality of this episode is questionable and is perhaps to be regarded as a legend. However, it is true Salanterian in its makeup.
There is nothing in this story of questionable historicity regarding the kosher status of matzah!

This is not to say that R. Herzfeld is incorrect on the halakhah. See this post: link

UPDATE: It seems that R. Herzfeld has responded to this critique by pointing to another recent article that tells this story, albeit without a citation: link

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