Everybody knows that “Man does not live by bread alone.” People, however, seem to be constantly searching for the what else is needed. They seem to forget that the Torah tells us! The very next words of Devarim Perek 8 Pasuk 3 is, “Rather, man will live by [observing] all that comes out of God’s mouth.”
How can it be that the organizations we entrust to assist us in our observance of God’s word are willing to compromise on the Kashruth of our bread?
Let’s take a step back.
One of the earliest commercial products to obtain a formal Hechsher was Rokeach soap. The discussion regarding which skin care products would require a Hechsher is one for your personal Rav, but Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan insisted that soap could not be used in direct contact of skin unless it was Kosher. All the commercial soaps at the time (and many today) used beef and pork tallow as essential ingredients. Beef tallow is Chelev, making the use of either of these ingredients prohibited from the Torah.
Israel Rokeach developed a soap that was based on coconut oil instead of animal fats and brought it to Rabbi Elchanan. What transpired after was the need to clearly distinguish Kosher soap from regular soap. Once taken out of the box, how would anyone know the difference? The plan was conceptually simple but technologically unheard of at the time. The Hebrew word Kosher was “penetrating the cake of soap.” As long as the soap could be held in one’s hand, it would declare itself as Kosher.
What does this have to do with bread?
From the Gemara through the Shulchan Aruch there has been a prohibition against dairy (or meat) bread. The only exceptions to this rule is in a scenario where the bread was for immediate consumption or, as with the Rokeach soap, it would be always obvious that the bread was not pareve (based on its shape). There was, at one time, an allowance to be lenient based on marking the package as dairy. This ruling was under the consideration that it would not be reasonable to think that one might accidentally use the dairy bread with meat. This ruling has been reversed for any standard sandwich bread and certainly any type of bread specifically designed for use with meat after an incident in which a well known Rabbi ate a meat sandwich made with packaged dairy bread.
How can it be that there still are hot dog and hamburger rolls available for purchase that are marked Kosher-Dairy?! Has there ever been a product more likely to be used with meat? It’s very common to take the buns out of the package and grill them or put them in a bread basket.
Would you believe that both the Kof-K and the O-U have allowed dairy bread, despite public declarations that they do not allow it? In a letter in response to my inquiries in 1998 to Arnold’s bread (regarding items that have been noted many times to have a K-Dairy), the company informed me that the product was under OU supervision but because “the laws of Kashruth do not allow for milk in bread,” the OU will assert that it is Kosher, as long as the OU symbol is not used. (See the full letter here.) Similarly, I received a letter two years later that the Kof-K allowed a similar falsehood to be perpetuated by Stroehmann/Maier’s bakery. And here is the kicker: both Arnold and Stroehman are owned by Bimbo Bakers (since 2008). However, my repeated attempts to get an answer as to the current underlying Kasruth agency for Bimbo’s Arnold’s products (still showing a K-D) have remained unanswered.
This is the type of coy behavior shown by many of the Kashruth organizations today. This is really just one example of Kashruth organizations, which have been increasingly prone to publically forbid items that the Gemara and Halacha permits, privately permitting things that the Halacha explicitly forbids. Here, at least, it is something that is visible to those who are diligent to look. What about those things that happen behind closed doors?
Next week we will peer into the Halacha and behind the scenes of Kashruth and hopefully bring some transparency and accountability to these organizations.
(Rokeach soap images provided by the Jewish Heritage Digital Archive at the University of Michigan.)