A Story Stressing The Reward For Meticulous Kashrus Observance
These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi
Yissocher Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Tapes: Tape #808 New York
City Don't Drink the Water? Good Shabbos!
The pasuk at the conclusion of the section of forbidden foods listed at the
end of the parsha says: "For I am Hashem Who brings you up from the land of
Egypt to be a G-d unto you; you shall be holy for I am holy." [Vayikra
11:45] Rashi cites the teaching of the House of Rav Yishmael that the pasuk
means to say, had I not brought Israel out of Egypt for any reason other
than that they do not make themselves impure through eating of the forbidden
foods as do the other nations, it would have been sufficient cause for them
to have been redeemed.
It is difficult to OVERSTATE the importance of the laws of Kashrus. It is
likewise difficult to UNDERSTATE the great harm done to a Jewish soul by the
consumption of forbidden foods. I once heard Rabbi Berel Wein quote a
statistic published by the Jewish National Fund that today 80% of their
money comes from only 10% of the Jewish population. Despite the fact that
Jews have a reputation for being generous, that may have been the case 40,
50, 60, or 80 years ago. Today, the eating of pig, shellfish, crab, and
improperly slaughtered meat that the Jewish people have been consuming over
the past 50 years has taken a toll on the Jewish soul. The "Yiddishe
neshama" is not what it used to be because of the corrosive effect of
forbidden food entities.
That having been said, I read the following story that was written by Rabbi
Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, a disciple of the Kesav Sofer. The Kesav Sofer, in
turn, was the son of the Chasam Sofer who told this story in the name of his
teacher, Rav Nosson Adler. The story took place in the late 1700s or the
There were two successful Jewish merchants who lived in Pressburg, the city
of the Chasam Sofer. They had their own fleet of boats in which they used to
travel the world in pursuit of their import/export business. These merchants
were once arrested by Spanish authorities off the coast of Spain with their
ship full of merchandise. At that particular point in time, piracy was
rampant in the Mediterranean Sea and therefore smuggling and piracy was
common. The Jews and their merchandise were detained because of the (false)
suspicion that their goods were pirated or smuggled.
They were brought into the port of Barcelona to be held in custody while the
investigation proceeded as to whether their cargo was legitimate. They were
lucky, however, in that at that time, the Spanish Government had very good
relations with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its Emperor, Franz-Yosef.
Based on the good diplomatic relations, the Jews were not thrown into jail.
They were treated very respectfully while they were being detained. They
were assigned to two customs officials, who would take care of them while
the investigation proceeded. Each was taken home by one of the customs
officials to relax and be served lunch.
There was only one problem. Despite the fact that this story took place
between two and three hundred years after the Inquisition, the Inquisition
was still alive and well in Spain. Under terms of the Inquisition, any
person in Spain suspected of being Jewish was given the choice of either
converting to Catholicism or being burned in the town square. The merchants
realized that if their Jewish identities would be revealed, they would face
this horrible choice.
Therefore, the Jews disguised themselves so that they would look like
Gentiles. As mentioned before, each merchant was assigned to a different
customs agent. The customs agent had his servant serve them lunch
consisting of chicken and wine. The customs agent noticed that his guest
turned white as a ghost. He then told his guest to follow him to the attic.
When they got to the attic he told him, "I know that something is wrong. You
turned white as a ghost when my servant brought you your food. You are
Jewish, aren't you?" Before the guest had a chance to answer, the customs
agent told him, "So am I." It just so happened that this customs agent was a
descendant of the Marranos, who outwardly converted to avoid expulsion from
Spain, but secretly tried to maintain their Jewish identity and Jewish
traditions. To prove his point, he closed the door of the attic, pulled up a
floor board and took out a shiny and sharp knife used in ritual slaughter
('chalif'). He told his guest, "The chicken we are about to eat, I
personally slaughtered it!" Kosher L'Mehadrin!
The Jewish merchant was flabbergasted at the personal Divine Providence
(Hashgocha Pratis) that sent him specifically to this man's house! He ate
his meal, the investigation concluded that there was no problem with their
merchandise, and both merchants were released. The Jew met up with his
partner and asked him about his experiences. The second Jew was very
distraught. He admitted that he had to eat non Kosher meat to preserve his
appearance as a non-Jew. He had ruled for himself that this was a matter of
life and death and in such situations one is not required to be a martyr to
eat only kosher food. The first Jew told his friend, "The same thing
happened to me, but I had the unbelievable fortune of being hosted by a
secret Jew who was a Shochet, and I was able to eat kosher."
The man who had to eat the non-Kosher meat was beside himself when he heard
this story. "What was my sin, what was my iniquity that caused
G-d to lead my partner to a secret observant Jew and I was forced to eat
nevilah?" When he got back to Pressburg, he went to his holy Rebbi, the
Chasam Sofer and told him the story. "What", he asked his teacher, "did I do
wrong in my life that I was put into a situation that I had to eat non-Kosher?"
The Chasam Sofer responded, "I have a tradition from my teacher, the holy
Gaon Rav Nosson Adler, that any person who never put anything in his mouth
that had the slightest question of being forbidden, the Almighty guarantees
that this person will never come into a situation which would force him to
eat something that is prohibited. If you are so careful that you never ever
put anything questionable into your mouth the 'measure for measure' reward
is that the Almighty will see to it that you in fact never have to eat
The Chasam Sofer concluded, "It must be that some time in your past, you
must have eaten something forbidden or something about which there was at
least a doubt that it might be forbidden." The merchant responded, "Rebbi,
it cannot be. It is not true!" The Chasam Sofer insisted: "Think hard."
Finally, the merchant admitted: "There was one incident. When I was first
married, my wife made chicken for us. She brought me the chicken after she
got it from the slaughterer and showed me a 'shaylah' [question] she had
about the chicken. I was a young newlywed. I was ashamed to tell my wife
that I did not know and she should ask the Rabbi. I did have Semicha. I
learned the laws of Shechita and of Tereifos. I looked at the chicken. I saw
the shaylah. I said 'kosher.'"
Being a newlywed, his wife did not trust him. She took the chicken to a Rav.
She told the Rav, "My husband has Semicha, he learned the laws of Tereifa,
and he says the chicken is Kosher. Is he right about that?" The Rav looked
at the chicken and it was not such a simple question, but he did not want to
second guess the newlywed husband so he said, "Okay, your husband says it is
kosher, you can rely on his opinion." The merchant told the Chasam Sofer, "I
ate that chicken."
The Chasam Sofer exclaimed, "That is it! You put in your mouth something
that had a possibility of being prohibited. That is why you forfeited the
guarantee mentioned by Rav Noson Adler. The other merchant must have never
put anything with a doubt of prohibition in his mouth. He had the guarantee
from the Almighty that he would be protected from ever eating non-kosher food."
I tell this story in the context of the entire shiur we said earlier this
evening (regarding the question of "bugs" in the water supply in New York
City). It is not for us to decide whether the water is Kosher or Treife.
There are already great poskim who have expressed their opinions on the
matter. But this is just an example of how careful we must be regarding
putting something non-kosher into our mouths. Meticulous care in this matter
yields fulfillment of the promise of the Almighty that we will never come to
put something forbidden into our mouths.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Seattle, WA [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore [email protected]
This write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher
Frand's Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah Portion. The
halachic topics covered for the current week's portion in this series are:
Tape # 005 - Medicines Containing Chometz
Tape # 050 - The Tuna Fish Controversy
Tape # 093 - Melacha Before Havdalah
Tape # 141 - Using a Mikveh for Non-Orthodox Conversions
Tape # 188 - Netilas Yadayim for Bread and Fruit
Tape # 234 Netilas Yadayim at Breakfast: Is One "Washed Up" for the Day?
Tape # 278 - Netilas Yadayim and Chatzizah
Tape # 324 - Sefiras Ha'omer
Tape # 368 - Don't Drink and Daven
Tape # 412 - Minhagim of the Days of Sefira
Tape # 456 - Gelatin: Is It Kosher?
Tape # 500 - Is Turkey Kosher?
Tape # 544 - Bedikas Chametz
Tape # 588 The Aveil and the Haircut
Tape # 632 Baal Teshaktzu Abstaining From Unpleasant Behaviour
Tape # 676 - Buffalo, Giraffe, and other Exotic Animals -- Are they Kosher?
Tape # 720 A Guf Naki for Davening
Tape # 764 Loaig Le'rosh Respecting the Dead
Tape # 808 New York City Don't Drink the Water?
Tape # 852 Four Questions You Probably Never Asked
Tape # 896 Women & Havdalah Second Thoughts
Tape # 941 Mayim Acharonim: Is It Necessary?
Tape # 983 Pesach Thoughts on the Hagaddah Vol. II
Tape #1027 Giving Shalom/Saying Hello to a Person in Aveilus
Tape #1072 The Fly That Fell Into the Soup
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