Thoughts on Judaism

Friday, May 20, 2005

Indian wigs, no AZ please

www.failedmessiah.com carried this article:

REAKING! INDIAN WIG BAN NOT ENOUGH!
Rabbis: Hindu Hair Derivatives Used To Make Medicines May Make Medicines Forbidden – Buffalo Milk Can Be Dried, Added To Food – Would Make Food Treife – The Dark Ages Have Begun

Major kashrut "authorities" are convening in Jerusalem to tackle new kashrut 'issues':

L-cysteine, derived from, among other things, human hair, is used as a dough conditioner. It is also used to produce a variety of chicken and beef flavors that may be kosher and parve.

The pharmaceuticals industry uses it to make the mucus-thinning substance acetylcysteine which can be found in Siran, Mical or Myculite, drugs that are sold in Israel.

[Rabbi] Sharshevsky refrained from a definitive prohibition of the substance, saying the matter was still being checked. He said that if hair from the Tirupati temple was used to make L-cysteine, no benefit could be derived from anything containing the L-cysteine.

Of course, Rabbi Sharshevsky did not mention that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein saw nothing wrong with using Indian hair for wigs and L-cysteine. He also fails to mention that Rabbi Elyashiv's ruling on Indian hair has been widely disregarded and that Rabbi Elyashiv has been inundated with complaints from scholars and from ba'alei teshuva who had been practicing Hindus. They claim – based on overwhelming evidence – that Rabbi Elyashiv and his 'investigator' Rabbi Dunner misrepresented Hindu theology and practice. They believe the hair should be permitted just as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled.

Rabbis Elyashiv and Dunner's methodology and motivation are highly suspect.

Of course, if Hindu hair derivatives might be present in food and medicine, and if Indian hair is in fact forbidden, this would create quite a financial windfall for the very rabbis and kashrut agencies involved.

Then we have this unsubstantiated piece of wisdom:

Rabbi Dov Landau, head of the Hatam Sofer kashrut supervision in Bnei Brak, revealed that it is possible for camel and buffalo milk to be made into a powdered form.

This finding is surprising since it contradicts the working assumptions held for decades by halachic authorities. Rabbis assumed that only cow milk could be dried, thus eliminating the concern that milk from a non-kosher animal had been mixed in.

Many observant Jews relied on this assumption to differentiate between regular unsupervised milk (Halav Nochri) and powdered milk.

Buffalo milk is kosher. Camel milk is not. As long as your powdered milk originates from a country that requires truth in labeling and has no camels, there is nothing to worry about. Further, powdered camel's milk would spoil most products that have milk as an ingredient.

However, we remain convinced that, as in the past, Rabbi Elyashiv and company will not be deterred by the facts.

My comments on the matter:

Indian hair is a huge issue, of course. Yoga, acupuncture, feng shui, Ayurveda, Reiki and any other magic with a Asian sounding name you can get on the main strip of any Jewish community in the world, b'heter gamur. (Note articles in B'Or HaTorah from a "doctor" of Ayurveda in issue 14E.)

This story is a good example of why one was required to know world religions and practices in order to sit as a judge.

Nuf said.


12 Comments:

  • "Of course, if Hindu hair derivatives might be present in food and medicine, and if Indian hair is in fact forbidden, this would create quite a financial windfall for the very rabbis and kashrut agencies involved."

    Really not. A few years ago the kashrus industry discussed the primary source of L-Cysteine - chicken feathers. These feathers are removed by pooring boiling water over the (dead) chickens, which raises the question of if that constitutes cooking and would forbid the feathers, forbidding the L-Cystein. They all talked themselves into not making a problem out of it.

    There is no motivation for the industry to make more raw materials require certification. It is extremely disruptive, and generally reduces the kosher market. The kosher market took off when kosher raw materials became cheaply available from China.

    Anyway, even if the ban were accepted, it would practically only affect that the agency would require some evidence that the L-Cysteine was animal derived - since most of it is anyway.

    "As long as your powdered milk originates from a country that requires truth in labeling and has no camels, there is nothing to worry about."

    Um, that misses the point. If that heter is accepted, then all milk (from that country) would be allowed. In Israel they allow powdered milk on the same logic that butter doesn't need to be cholov yisroel. They don't accept that milk doesn't need to be cholov yisroel from such countries.

    That assumption always struck me as wrong. With today's food technology they could powder most anything, if the finantial motivation was there. Regardless, however, if they are actually powdering camel's milk and putting it on the market, it does change their assumption.

    Knowing the industry, however, I would say the chances of the Rabbanut actually banning imports of unsupervised powdered milk are about as high as the current two cheif Rabbis declaring themselves unworthy of the position and resigning immediately.

    If, on the other hand, more of the private agencies actually require real cholov yisroel, that can only be a good thing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:57 AM  

  • The butter issue is a separate one. It derives from the inability of non-kosher milk to harden. The shach states that Chalav from a treif cow is also an issue, but as Shmarye points out, the mashgiach probably does not check for this anyway.

    Good comments, and well thought out, Anon.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 10:50 AM  

  • "Of course, Rabbi Sharshevsky did not mention that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein saw nothing wrong with using Indian hair for wigs and L-cysteine."

    Do you have a source?

    By Blogger Menuval, at 5:20 PM  

  • ChabadSkeptic

    Good question. I must refer it to the source, Shamarye.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 6:51 PM  

  • Halacha Berurah vol 8. Page 3 of said volume indicates that opinions forbidding the hair may have been based on incomplete understanding of the rituals involved. I have it in PDF if you can't find it.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:52 AM  

  • I would love it just so I can have it handy. How can I contact you?

    By Blogger Menuval, at 11:50 PM  

  • http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/files/Shaitels.pdf

    here's a copy

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:13 AM  

  • Also remember that the isser of Avoda Zara is stricter than treife. The issue is not comparable to Anonymous and the chicken feathers mentioned above.

    By Anonymous Shmarya, at 2:01 AM  

  • Quite right Shmarya. Anon's comments seem to be aimed more at the idea that the rabanan stood to profit from more supervision than at the technicals of the matter.

    In the case, of wigs, though, there is no supervision currently at all, so it would invent a new industry, hence a new income source. In the case that Anon uses for comparison, there is already a well established industry. It might well muddle up kashrus to add another layer of bureaucracy to an already lucrative business, as Anon points out.

    Another difference is that there is a profit motive in keeping more kosher food on the market, rather than less. Hence, they might not want to upset the lucrative apple cart. Wigs will not become substantially more popular, if they are less expensive, nor visa versa. (Note: The Rebeltzin paid more for her last sheitl than I did for my first car.)

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 6:36 AM  

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