Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Kosher In Cow Town

Libi Astaire

During the first half of the 20th century,Kansas Citywas second only toChicagoas the meat-packing capital of theUnited States. Yet the kosher meat industry was fraught with intrigue and controversy, racketeering and Mob activity. Even Rav Moshe Feinstein got involved, with a scathing response to a less-than-kosher operation.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

cowsI can still remember those twice-yearly treks to the kosher butcher shop. While my mother discussed the prices of chickens and briskets, I eyed the candy display, where a mysterious candy bar called Halvah was on show. Just as I couldn’t imagine what a candy bar made from sesame seeds could taste like, I never dreamed that there might be a “mystery” surrounding the meat my mother was selecting for our Rosh HaShanah or Pesach meals.

Kosher meat was holy, elevated, special — even though, in my mother’s words, it cost an arm and a leg and the brisket shriveled up to almost nothing after it was cooked. To my innocent eyes, it was as far away from deception, controversy and — do I dare mention it? — the Mafia asKansas Citywas fromJerusalem, or evenNew York.

Those childhood memories of Kansas City, Missouri, of some 50 years ago might have remained sacrosanct forever, if it hadn’t been for a surprising teshuvah from Rav Moshe Feinstein ztz”l that was sent my way.

 

He’s No Shochet The teshuvah that Rav Moshe wrote was in response to a question posed by Rabbi Mordechai Menachem Mendel Burstein, a prominent Kansas City Orthodox rabbi who arrived in that city during the late 1920s and was active in the fight to maintain kashrus standards during the time when the Kansas City stockyards and meatpacking plants were second only to those in Chicago in terms of volume. Rabbi Burstein passed away in 1962, the same year that he received Rav Moshe’s responsum, which is dated 17 Shvat 5722. Rabbi Burstein’s question, which can be found in Igros Moshe and was reflective of possible dubious shechitah practices in the stockyards, asks:

“Is it sufficient for one person, who isn’t a shochet u’bodek [ritual slaughterer and checker], to be present when shechitah is being done, instead of having two shochtim u’bodkim, as is customary?”

Rav Moshe replied:

“In your city there has been a takanah [religious ordinance] for 60 years that there will be two shochtim u’bodkim, and now one butcher has arisen who doesn’t have even one. He’s taken a person who isn’t a competent shochet to stand over him, and with this he thinks he has fulfilled the takanah.… Someone who isn’t a shochet u’bodek is nothing because he doesn’t know what to look for during the shechitah. It’s also possible that he doesn’t know the quality of the knife or won’t feel a slight defect. Therefore, what value can this person’s being there have, even if he is a yerei Shamayim?.… His going against the takanah must be protested forcefully…”

 

 To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha. To sign up for a weekly subscription click here.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
Out with the Girls
Yonoson Rosenblum Another progressive revolution that eats its own
And I Will Glorify Him
Eytan Kobre Herman Wouk “made G-d a bestseller”
What You've Learned
Alexandra Fleksher Allow me to let you in on what school is all about
Going Broke
Mishpacha Readers Reader feedback for “The Kids Are Going to Camp..."
Top 5 Ways Jews Try to Lose Weight
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Gaining weight and talking about losing weight
He Soaked Up Our Pain
Rabbi Yaakov Klein A tribute to Reb Shlomo Cheshin ztz”l
Leaving on a High Note
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman And then it happened. I knew it would
Family Matters
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP Not the answers they teach in medical school
Play the Night Away
Riki Goldstein May we all share simchahs, no strings attached!
Fast Thinking
Faigy Peritzman How we react when we're exempt from a mitzvah
Baalat Teshuvah
Rachel Karasenti Don’t ask, “So how did you become frum?”
Confessions of a PhD Graduate
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When it comes to parenting, we’re always learning
Dear Favorite Little Sis
Anonymous I ended up wanting to be like you
Who's Making My Phone Calls?
Sara Eisemann Should I be upfront that I’m calling for myself?