Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Glatt - Response to Prof Marc Shapiro

In an August 18 opinion article, Marc Shapiro takes the Orthodox Union to task for, over the last 30 years, having “adopted a new standard in kashrut, one that defines only glatt kosher as acceptable” (“glatt Kosher Meat Is Not All It Is Cut Out to Be”). The era that Shapiro laments as having passed, however, was unfortunately one frequently rife with fraud.

What he terms “regular kosher” meat — in other words, non-glatt — is unquestionably kosher when reliably supervised and regulated. But there were ongoing problems with both the production and the distribution of kosher meat. Discerning kosher consumers began to demand glatt kosher meat, which was more carefully controlled — not because they wanted glatt per se, but because they wanted to be assured that the meat was indeed kosher. Thus it was consumer demand that made glatt the dominant standard in the marketplace, not some fiat by the O.U.

Since “glatt kosher” is a phrase that is often used but not always understood, let me elucidate it further. As Shapiro notes, the term glatt in America has also become a consumer phrase meaning unquestionably kosher, even beyond the context of meat. glatt is actually the Yiddish word for smooth, and indicates that an animal’s lungs are smooth and have no adhesions.

The Torah forbids consuming treifa meat. A treifa is an animal with one of 18 possible anatomical defects, the most common of which is a puncture in its lung.

Therefore, even a properly kosher slaughtered animal has its lungs inspected to make sure that there is no puncture or adhesion that may result in a puncture, or might be the result of a puncture. Each lung is visually inspected, and is then inflated and placed in water to find any holes, much as you would do to a tire with a leak.

While the discovery of a puncture renders the animal unquestionably a treifa, there is a disagreement regarding the permissibility of adhesions between the “Beit Yosef,” the forerunner to the “Shulchan Aruch,” and the Rama, Rabbi Moses Isserles. The “Beit Yosef” rules that virtually any adhesion is treif, while the Rama ruled leniently, permitting certain adhesions.

The glatt standard of the “Beit Yosef” is generally relevant only to Sephardim, and is sold with the designation “Beit Yosef glatt.” In prewar Europe, this was known as kalbene *glatt*, because young calves have no adhesions.

However, there is another reason for glatt, and the demand for it. The Talmud interprets a verse in Ezekiel as saying that the prophet never ate meat concerning which a decision had been rendered as to its kosher status — even if the determination was that it was indeed kosher.

Non-glatt meat always requires such decisions to be made, because the adhesions that are removed must be carefully evaluated by the bodek, or onsite kosher examiner, as to their status. Meat classified as glatt does not require such evaluations, as any adhesions that might be present are minor, uncomplicated and obviously kosher.

The glatt standard currently in use permits such minor adhesions, or ririn. Despite Shapiro’s assertion to the contrary, this was the standard of glatt for centuries in Europe, and is so codified by the “Beit David” and the “Simla Chadasha,” the two primary works on the laws of shechita, or
kosher slaughter. [...]


  1. Dr. Shapiro's response to R' Genack (from http://seforim.traditiononline.org/index.cfm/2008/8/29/Responses-to-Comments-and-Elaborations-of-Previous-Posts-III):

    Contrary to Genack, the Modern Orthodox world would unquestionably still be eating non-glatt if it was available under (what they viewed as) reliable hashgachah. I also think everyone understood that my comments about the D symbol was not in criticism of identifying a product as dairy, but that the OU does not use the DE symbol (Incidentally, neither of these symbols existed when I was growing up. You knew if a product was dairy by looking at the ingredients, and one does not need to be concerned with the equipment unless you are specifically told – as you now are – that a product was made on dairy equipment. Even then, there are poskim who hold that you can ignore the DE and eat the product with meat, since despite what it says on the label, we don't actually know that the parve food we are eating was produced within 24 hours of a dairy run.) Why do I think the D symbol instead of DE reflects a turn to the right?: I called the OU on three separate occasions and spoke to three different rabbis, and all of them explained that the reason DE is not used is because they have a fear that some small bits of milk might still be in the product. This is an incredible chumra, which incidentally has no real basis, as companies have to be very careful about not allowing milk into products which are non-dairy. (The threat of major lawsuits from people who are allergic to milk is a constant concern for the companies.) Furthermore, to claim that any such milk might exist in large enough quantities not to be batel is incredibly far-fetched. Despite raising these points in all three conversations, I was told that the organization chooses to be strict.

  2. Btw, where does Dr. Shapiro assert that ririn were not accepted in Europe, as charged by R' Genack?

    R' Genack must be referring to this part of Dr. Shapiro's article (emphasis mine):
    Yet this is not all there is to the story, and here things get even more interesting. The very meaning of glatt kosher in the United States is not what most people think, namely, meat that has no adhesions. While this is indeed the original meaning of glatt and the meaning most people identify it with, the word as used today means something more expansive, depending on which kashrut organization you ask.

    For some, it simply means that they hold themselves to a very high halachic standard in all areas of meat production. For others, it means that they permit only a couple of small, easily removed adhesions, a type of glatt that was actually quite common among Hasidim in prewar Europe. One thing that is certain is that glatt in the United States does not mean that an animal’s lung is completely smooth. Sephardim, who are supposed to eat only real glatt, are under normal circumstances not permitted to eat the typical “American glatt,” and they therefore have their own special “Beit Yosef glatt.”

    While the kashrut organizations have not exactly hidden this information, and will tell you the truth if you ask, they have not been exactly forthcoming about it either. There is, for example, no explanation on the O.U. Web site as to what it means when it stamps a product glatt. The closest you get is an article titled the “The Kosher Primer,” which explains that real glatt is free of all adhesions on its lungs. The primer does acknowledge that, “Recently, the term ‘glatt kosher’ is increasingly used more broadly as a generic phrase, implying that the product is kosher without question.” Yet there is no clarification that the O.U.’s glatt falls into the second category — which also explains how the organization believes it appropriate to certify “glatt chickens.”

  3. The penultimate paragraph seems a bit circular (anytime I see the word obviously in an argument, I cringe)

    How about a post discussing the source of the disagreement on this point between the Rama and S"A followed by one on the historical percentages of both glatt's from various slaughterhouses past and present.

    Joel Rich

  4. Question for you Dr. Eidensohn: Why is the book cover of your sefer Daas Torah with your name on it of course, in the center of the home page of http://www.frumreport.com/ tied in with a lead headline that "Lakewood, NJ: Bais Faiga Teachers Strike . . .
    More brilliant "Daas Torah" causes children to dance in school hallways, as irresponsible teachers hand out letters to children about strike; Mass Bitul Torah underway in BMG Kollel today...**DEVELOPING**" and then this "headline" links to a fuller story at http://matzav.com/default.asp?sourceid=&smenu=181&twindow=&mad=&sdetail=4267&wpage=1&skeyword=&sidate=&ccat=&ccatm=&restate=&restatus=&reoption=&retype=&repmin=&repmax=&rebed=&rebath=&subname=&pform=&sc=2222&hn=matzav&he=.com

    Do you know about this and what is going on? A clarification from you would be in order as it seems they are using your book and your name to justify a sad news-story at Lakewood that you evidently have nothing to do with. Or is there more here than meets eye?

    Please let us know, Thanks!

  5. Recipients and Publicity said...

    Question for you Dr. Eidensohn: Why is the book cover of your sefer Daas Torah with your name on it of course, in the center of the home page of http://www.frumreport.com/ tied in with a lead headline that "Lakewood, NJ: Bais Faiga Teachers Strike . . .
    thanks for the info - they graciously removed it


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