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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kashrut Deceptions

The NYT's Ethicist, Randy Cohen, fields a question that might strike dread in the heart of any Kashrut-observers who may visit or field visits from friends/relatives who do not observe the same laws of Kashrut:
My wife's sister and her husband keep kosher, so we have a special pot for their visits. Recently my wife caught me using the pot for my traif soup. She insists we must buy another pot, but I say as long as my in-laws believe it's kosher, they won't violate their faith by using it. Would I be unethical to keep this secret or simply cheap? Paul Kramer, Montclair, N.J.
An excerpt from the Ethicist's answer:
Religious laws, like secular ethics, often distinguish between knowing and unknowing transgressions. Menachem Genack, an Orthodox rabbi, claims that this is so for Kashrut, Jewish dietary codes. Biblical law punishes deliberate violations more severely than inadvertent errors (while contemporary Jews impose no actual punishments for Kashrut violations). This would ameliorate but not obviate your in-laws' misdeed. Certainly, it would not justify deceiving them.

Putting aside religion, if your in-laws discover your deception, trust between you will be undermined, much as that between you and your wife must be damaged or at least scuffed.
Well, at least there's some relief in the fact that the Ethicist recommended he tell his in-laws about the treifing up of the pot. But he certainly goes a bit easy on the guy for his complete disrespect toward the religious values of his family members. A few years ago, I had a nanny who was a devout hindu, and who therefore did not eat any beef or beef by-products. I would NEVER have attempted to deceive her regarding the contents of any dishes I cooked, nor would I have lied to her about whether non-beef dishes had been cooked in a pot that had contained beef in the past. The thought simply would not have occurred to me, and I was as careful with her dietary restrictions as I was with my own. Respect for another's religious values seems so simple and basic to me that I cannot begin to conceive that Mr. Paul Kramer would actually put his own name on this question in the New York Times, and risk his in-laws finding out how little he respects their values.

Until I read this, over at Gawker. Apparently, Gawker caught up with Mr. Kramer today, and they got a little background into what type of person would try to deceive his relatives into believing a non-Kosher pot was actually Kosher:
...we examine Kramer's crime in light of last week's controversy, and catch up with him on the phone while he's shopping at the supermarket.

...Kramer volunteered the use of his name, and as we found out this morning when we talked to him, he really didn't care if his in-laws found out about his scheme. "Anyone who knows me knows I'm an a**hole, so it's really not a secret," he said. "If I had trouble with telling my in-laws that I used the pot, then I probably wouldn't have written to him in the first place."
Sounds like a real sweetheart of a guy.

23 Comments:

Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Well, now, I guess, many more people than those fortunate enough to actually know Paul Kramer know what an as*hole he is.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it when people try to mitigate their a**holeness by simply admitting to it.

My family and another were once invited to a third friend's house for Shabbat dinner. The third friend allegedly kept a kosher home. While helping to clean up, my friend went to scrape off a plate into the garbage where a Purdue chicken wrapper laid right on top.

I also know someone whose sister snuck chometz into her home while staying there for Pesach.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oy. The thought of the people who tell me they are being careful about certain things doing what this guy did gives me a stomachache. Let's just say that I have a non orthodox brother-in-law who is an a**hole also.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes when my kosher friend comes over I trick him into eating ham and cheese sandwitches. Jews don't believe in hell, right?

2:26 AM  
Anonymous Shmendrik said...

Atually anonymous, many do. Not for accidentally eating ham, though. Tricking people into eating ham, though...

4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An idol worshiper as a nanny -- nice.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The line in the original article that caught my eye was, "Recently my wife caught me using the pot for my traif soup." That implies he was doing this for a while and it only became an issue when his wife caught him. Really sounds like a wonderful guy.

12:22 AM  
Blogger Der Shygetz said...

LOL - I think the whole thing never happened and the whole reason the guy wrote in was so that he could show how big a bagelhole he is.

In any case, Yisroel af al pi shechata, Yisroel hu.

Or, a Jewish bagelhole is still Jewish, no matter how big a bagelhole he might be.

2:01 AM  
Blogger FemaleJewishBlogger said...

It does seem like the public declaration, with name included and all, is a "challenge" or some form of spite being announced to the wife's relatives.
If he did care himself, he would act on the situation and not write an ethicist--probably he wanted to see himself proved correct, in print, so he could convince his wife that he was right :)

5:29 AM  
Blogger Miriam said...

Obviously, the relatives in question need to keep their own pots to travel with! I have a set of pots at my Mom's hose, b/c my parents do keep Kosher, but not quite to my standards. It always amazes me that she's not only willing to have these separate, toiveled pots for us, but she'll burn out the burners and oven before we come. And yes, I trust her to do so, and even to put away the pots for us when we leave, but then, she does keep mostly Kosher so she does have a very big clue... and she keeps her own pots at my sister's house, since my sister doesn't keep Kosher at all.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That article was interesting, but right next to it was an article about a college professor who has been making his exwife pay hime 1/2 of what his sons tuition would have cost him had he not been able to get tuition remission. What a jerk and a much better response by Randy.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This just shows why it is better to machmir and not eat ANYTHING in a non-shomer shabbosdik house then to try not to offend irreligious relatives. Parents are usually the big exception because even those who do not keep kosher unless they are really sickos do not lie to their children. As those parents age and see how much Kovad their BT children give them they are usually very happy their kids became frum and are not like their friends' kids who have zero realtionship and married goyim. Of course this statement is not 100% but we deal with "Rove" all the time in halacha and in life.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why doesn't he just re-kosher the pot? Presumably it can be filled with boiling water, and also rinsed outside with boiling water from a tea kettle. That would still leave the question of the attached handle, but it would go a long way. Depending how Glatt his victimized, trusting relatives are. I am no expert. But even kosher cooks make mistakes in their kitchens, and there are religiously correct ways to address and fix mistakes. His bad faith toward his relatives is another matter. He is saying, "what matters to them does not matter to me." That really means, "I am just having them over because I have to, and I don't hold them terribly close to my heart."

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha'Kesef m'aneses es hakol. i.e., follow the money

10:59 PM

and so will the authorities investigating the GG situation.. Stay tuned for interesting reading..

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