The Haredi Obsession With Bugs

Jonah Lowenfeld writes in this week’s Jewish Journal:

The presence of even one whole bug, dead or alive, can render an entire vegetable treif — unkosher. On this matter, Orthodox rabbis are unequivocal.

“From a Torah perspective, eating a Big Mac or eating a salad with insects in it, the salad is worse,” Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz, who runs the nonprofit Kosher Information Bureau, told me when I met him at his home office in Valley Village.

The above is nonsense. Orthodox rabbis have different positions on bugs.

The historical Jewish position on bugs in fruits and vegetables is that you wash them until you see no bugs and then you are free to eat. Bugs that you can’t see with your naked eye are not treif.

As we drink water and breathe air, we ingest microscopic bugs. This is not a sin.

If we eat a salad with insects in it that we can not sin, we are not committing a sin.

I challenge anyone to present a traditional source that says otherwise.

Only ignorant Jews or Haredi extremists will assert otherwise.

The RCC (Rabbinical Council of California) often appears to me as a combination of ignorant Jews and Haredi extremists.

The Jewish Journal reports: “…the RCC’s guidelines recommend that people use lightboxes.”

Do you think our ancestors in Eastern Europe used lightboxes to check for bugs? What about the Israelites in the desert 3200 years ago?

The Jewish Journal publishes: ““You have to wash [the fruit or vegetable] with a food detergent,” Muskin said about checking non-certified vegetables.”

Do you think our Orthodox ancestors washed fruit and vegetables in food detergent? Many Jews in Eastern Europe were so poor that they could not afford wine for kiddush. Do you think they bought food detergent or vinegar with their last funds to clean their fruits and vegetables?

I can use a magnifying glass and examine tap water or distilled water and find bugs. Drinking this water is not a sin.

If you examine meat or cheese or you name it with a magnifying glass, you’ll likely find tiny bugs.

Rashi’s teshuvot (rabbinic rulings) were published in 1943. About 500 copies were printed. Rashi says that you wash vegetables and this removes all the bugs prohibited by the Torah. The Rashba says you wash them and check them and any bug visible is prohibited but anything not visible is not prohibited.

Reb Moshe Feinstein’s position was essentially the same as the Rashba’s.

When this bug insanity started in Lakewood in 1982, Reb Moshe would have nothing to do with it.

Worrying about bugs is a way to avoid the real challenges to the Jewish community such as Biblical criticism (and modernity’s other intellectual challenges), agunot (chained women) and converts.

Los Angeles has an Orthodox community of about 30,000 to 40,000, less than 10% by the most generous of standards.

Ask anyone who grew up in Eastern Europe before WWII if anyone washed vegetables with soap or vinegar? Many of these people did not have running water.

Most communal Modern Orthodox rabbis in the United States don’t know much and they’re intimidated by their right-wing so they go along with this bug nonsense.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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