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Who is to Blame for the Doheny Meat Scandal?

blog_doheny_meatWe are.

Let me explain.

Rav Shraga Feivel Zimmerman, the current Chief Rabbi of Gateshead, England, spoke in the aftermath of a major kashrut scandal which rocked Monsey, NY, in 2006. He recalled the story of the Prophet Jonah that we read on Yom Kippur afternoon. The story describes a huge storm that was capable of overturning the ship. Everyone on the boat was frightened and took out their idols. They started praying to the idols. When that didn’t work they woke up Jonah. What did he say about the raging storm? “It’s because of me.”

Jonah could have easily blamed the storm on the boat full of idol worshippers. Perhaps his presence on the boat was a mere accident, and the boat was destined for doom. No, Jonah said that responsibility is mine.

Today, in the wake of the Doheny “Kosher” Meat scandal, it is also our responsibility.

Of course people are mad and want to find someone to blame. After all anyone who ate Doheny meat, whether

bought from the store, or eaten through of the many restaurants and caterers that sourced their meat there, consumed food that was potentially trief.

Yet, let’s remember that the Prophet Jonah says, “it’s because of me.” We read this on Yom Kippur to remind us that we need to take responsibility, and need to do a soul searching.

As it says in the Talmud, it is not the mouse that is the thief, it is the hole.
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Kaparot: Wave Money, Not Chickens

kaparot chickens in cagesI don’t use chickens. After witnessing years of chickens wallowing in their own feces in small cages waiting to be schechted (slaughtered) for the ritual of Kaparot before Yom Kippur, I gave up on this custom. I once was enamored of this ancient ritual whereby the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to the chicken, which is then slaughtered and given to the poor to eat. It was exotic. But no more. I find it reprehensible for Jews to behave this way to animals.

I routinely travel to the places where these chickens are being slaughtered and document the conditions. The laws in Judaism about how to treat animals are being flagrantly violated. Cramped into cages they can’t event stand up in, or in cardboard boxes — yes, cardboard boxes — the chickens are out in the hot sun, without water, wallowing in feces. The entire operation has a smell that is so foul I have thrown-up.

As an Orthodox Jew I speak out that this custom must change.There is no way today to perform this ritual in a humane way, simply because the number of chickens being used for the ritual is so enormous.

The rabbis long ago said that the ritual can be done with money. The money is then given to tzedakah. Use the amount that is spent on a chicken — usually about $18 a bird. One waves the money over the head, or the head of your children and recite sthe same verses. There is no difference to how the ritual is performed, except that this is not “A Mitzvah which comes from a Sin,” which is obviously frowned upon.

Next we need to talk about factory farming.