by Yated Ne'eman Staff
Shearis Yisroel: A Tribute to the Memory of HaRav
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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