Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5763 - December 18, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Shearis Yisroel: A Tribute to the Memory of HaRav Shach zt"l

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

There are moments in life when a person hears a bas kol whispering in his ear and in his heart, "Mi leHashem eilai," and he realizes this is a chance to grow closer to Hashem and an auspicious hour for an aliyoh. If he seizes the moment and carries out the calling, happy is his lot and the lot of those after him for generations to come. But if he lets the opportunity slip by, woe is he and woe to his descendants for many years to come.

Rabbenu Hagodol HaRav Shach zt'l founded a kashrus organization for bnei Torah, crying out with all his might, "Mi leHashem eilai!" He came out with a clarion call to the public to help strengthen and establish Shearis Yisroel, the best hechsher available today for the ben Torah, demanding a product that makes no compromises whatsoever when it comes to kashrus.

Choosing Shearis Yisroel is a telltale sign of a consumer whose heart is aligned with daas maranan verabonon, for everyone knows where they stand, even though the call is not issued in the form of a warning or proscription. Yet he who listens carefully knows well that this is a test of his true identity. Eating foods that meet the highest kashrus standards is a sign of true yiras Shomayim that finds favor in Hashem's eyes.

Do we see the image of Rabbenu zt'l when we enter an establishment or select a food product or arrange a catered affair not under Shearis Yisroel supervision?

Kehillas Shearis Yisroel -- the King's Legion

Time marches on, yet HaRav Shach's enterprises and the results of his labor carry on and our set task is to focus on kashrus and a kehilloh of bnei Torah.

Maran HaRav Shach was wholeheartedly dedicated to the King's legion and worked hard to organize bnei Torah and to set up independent communal institutions for them so that they would feel part of a kehilloh with a unique hashkofos olom and practices based on the guidance of gedolei hador. The need for such a community, which would preserve the pure hashkofo given on Mt. Sinai, emerged as a response to the signs of outside influences penetrating our camp.

HaRav Shach felt belonging to Shearis Yisroel was incumbent on each and every individual. He instructed Shearis to uphold all chumros in order to allow Sephardic bnei Torah to unite under the Shearis banner. Maran held it should be a single, universal body since the existence of other individual hechsherim stands in opposition to the principal goal behind the setting-up of Shearis Yisroel.

The Rosh Yeshiva's foresight guided Shearis Yisroel's organizers and his instructions were intended to remain in place for generations as indicated in the will left by HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz, which said that only those who follow the path set by the Rosh Yeshiva can be involved in running Shearis Yisroel.

HaRav Shach made a point of paying monthly dues to Shearis in public. He wanted everyone to be partners in Shearis Yisroel to make all bnei Torah into a single unit--an independent, self-sufficient kehilloh.

A Table Fit for Kings

Maran often said Shearis Yisroel was one of his most cherished organizations. Of course one of the main objectives in setting up Shearis Yisroel's kashrus system was to allow bnei Torah to put food products adhering to the highest possible standards of kashrus on the table, making it a table fit for kings.

Rabbenu held each and every ben Torah had an obligation to buy Shearis Yisroel products because of their unparalleled standards of kashrus, because of the need to be united as a tzibbur and as a show of hakoras hatov towards the people working to elevate kashrus to the highest level possible.

When the first Shearis Yisroel products came off the production line, Maran had samples sent to his home and when he laid his gaze on them and saw that the Shearis dream was being realized, he was filled with great joy.

Before any catering-halls were under Shearis supervision, Maran was asked whether to hold simchas at established halls and to make arrangements with the hall owner to serve fish as the main course in order to avoid the problems with shechita prevalent in those days. The Rosh Yeshiva said it would be better to rent a hall without food and order catering under Shearis supervision.

When Armonot Hamelech became the first hall to obtain a Shearis hechsher and the rates there were quite high, people came to HaRav Shach insisting other options should be permitted under the circumstances. But Maran held that holding a simchah without the Shearis hechsher was pritzas geder.

The Foundations of Shearis Yisroel

For several months before Shearis Yisroel was founded, Maran refused to eat beef and poultry from shechita houses in Eretz Yisroel. One night he summoned his son-in-law, HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman ylct'a, and said, "When I was in chutz la'Aretz I studied hilchos shechita because I did not know what the shechita situation in Eretz Yisroel was like. I have heard there are problems with shechita so I would like you to bring a chicken. I will shecht it and you will take care of the rest."

Later he began to send talmidei chachomim to bring poultry from a different shechita.

Toward the end of 5746 Maran began to ask, "What about shmittah?"

In response he was told about the "Chazon Ish" division of the Bnei Brak city's kashrus apparatus and that he had nothing to worry about. Later Maran again inquired, "What about shmittah?" and received the same reply.

As the Yomim Noraim of 5747 drew near, he again asked the same question and in response a group of about a dozen avreichim decided to bring special produce from Rechovot in order to completely avoid shmittah problems. At the time Shearis Yisroel did not exist.

After several months of trucking in fruits and vegetables from Rechovot, Maran decided a kashrus system for bnei Torah had to be set up. The first meeting of Agudas Shearis Yisroel was held in the home of Rav S.

At first a small warehouse was opened in Bnei Brak and goods were brought there through the efforts of a number of dedicated individuals. When the undertaking became more involved, Maran asked HaRav Chaim Shaul Karelitz zt'l to head the organization and manage operations.

At first numerous difficulties arose. Threats were issued by Shearis Yisroel opponents who incited quarrels and disputes, and reorganizing the Torah world was no easy task. However the group of avreichim who operated Shearis Yisroel during its early period faced all these obstacles unswervingly and Maran and Rav Yosef Karlinsky z'l, who was wholly devoted to the project of setting up Shearis Yisroel, enlisted many others to join them.

"True, we have the Shulchan Oruch and poskim," said HaRav Shach, "but we learned in yeshiva that this is the revi'is dam (essential blood) of every Jew. He who adheres to the Shulchan Oruch can survive . . . But with less than the Shulchan Oruch one cannot live."

In kashrus, perhaps particularly in terms of ma'acholos asuros, there is mehudar and mehadrin min hamehadrin--various different levels of observing the Shulchan Oruch. A hechsher and its level depend on the level of the consumers. People from the rank-and-file are satisfied with the minimum required, but Maran believed that the Torah world, talmidei chachomim from the yeshivas, must demand the maximum that can be attained according to present-day conceptions. This was Maran's foundation stone: hiddur, hiddur, hiddur.

On several occasions the Rosh Yeshiva instructed Shearis Yisroel heads to maintain every chumroh in dinei kashrus, even in cases where other top hechsherim adopt kulos. Bnei Torah are different, he held: food that reaches the mouths of talmidei chachomim must be of the highest kashrus standard possible--otherwise a hechsher should not be issued, even if it means reducing the number of factories and other production facilities under Shearis Yisroel supervision.

In one case Shearis was conducting negotiations with a large food manufacturer where part of the production line was under the supervision of a different organization. In the course of inquiries, Shearis representatives discovered that certain leniencies practiced by the other organization would have to be instituted for practical reasons. When the matter was brought to Maran he said not to compromise on a single chumroh and to tell the manufacturers that Shearis Yisroel would only issue a hechsher if all of its requirements were met. When the owners failed to comply the factory was not granted a Shearis kashrus certificate.

HaRav Shach had a fundamental rule he always conveyed to Shearis Yisroel heads: Do not try to woo any factory, manufacturer, restaurant or store. This helps avoid lowering kashrus standards by increasing the number of factories under Shearis supervision and prevents excessive reliance on them.

The establishment of Shearis Yisroel proved it was possible to stop breaches and to speak out against existing wrongs.

At first Shearis Yisroel was decried for performing shechita abroad but Maran would not capitulate, saying there was no good reason not to perform shechita outside of Bnei Brak. Today most shechita is outside of Israel, as all kashrus agencies recognize the strong reasons for doing so.

The Rosh Yeshiva's idea has now taken shape. Fifteen years have gone by since the Shearis Yisroel kehilloh and its kashrus system were set up. Hundreds of factories and products have and seek the Shearis Yisroel kashrus certificate. Three shmittah years have gone by. Its marriage registry has registered its 1,500th couple, kein yirbu.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.