Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chicken Wars

I'm currently intensively absorbed with the halachos of bird kashrus, in part due to the forthcoming Feast of Exotic Curiosities, and in part due to the current furor over the kashrus of different chickens that is raging across Israel. Soon, I hope to be posting some preliminary observations. For now, I would like to share a fabulous story that appears in Rabbi Chaim Loike's work Sasson HaTzippor. I don't know if the story is true, but it's certainly representative of the sort of mindset that one sees in this topic:
In the early days of the Lakewood Kollel, local chickens were procured for kaparos. At the conclusion of the ceremony, as the shochet came to perform the shechitah, Rav Aharon Kotler asked that the shochet stop. Baffled, the shochet inquired as to the problem.
"What is that?" asked Rav Kotler, pointing to the chicken.
"That's a chicken," explained the shochet.
Rav Kotler replied, "In Europe, that is not how the chickens looked."
The shochet pointed to one of the members of the Kollel, who, like many members of the Kollel at that time, was clean-shaven. "What's that?" asked the shochet.
Surprised, Rav Kotler responded that it was a yungeleit.
The shochet blurted out, "That's a yungeleit?! In Europe, that is not how the yungeleit looked."
In the end, the chicken was slaughtered.

24 comments:

  1. The story is funny but obviously apocryphal, if only because they were clean-shaven in Europe too.

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    1. But what did they use to "shave"? Depilatory cream? Were there electric shavers then that were permitted?

      I understand that there's a book from the '80s (with an approbation by Rav Shach!) called הדרת פנים זקן, I believe--which essentially forbids even electric shavers. (They give too close a shave--that they're like a razor.)

      -Yehudah P.

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    2. Also the word yungeleit is plural - the singular is yungerman.

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  2. Would it kill the rabbis to bring in some scientists, some experts in birds and chickens, to make the determination?

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    1. Sadly, they seem to believe that it would.

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    2. that's not useful. Halacha has its own internal ways of determining things. One of the central themes of this blog is that this process goes against the findings of science. Halacha is not bothered by this.
      the point that I try to make on this blog (not too successfully I admit) is that halacho has a deeper motivation that is not apparent (in other words it is not 'rationalist' in the terms of this blog), specifically the status of the nitzozus, the Divine spark, in any given situation. The physical reality is just a cushion for this underlying reality.

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    3. @Skeptic,

      And a point that has been made on this blog is that the Kabbalistic ideas you refer to are a recent invention in Judaism, and there's no sign from primary sources that Halachah is even slightly concerned for these things.

      But don't let the Talmud get in the way of your pontificating.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. Skeptic, no actual posek takes your point of view. As R Slifkin has pointed out, halacha can use its own definitions and categories, but it doesn't get to change reality. This is like any other legal system.

      Whether electricity on Shabbos is assur is a halachic question, but the nature of electricity is a scientific one, and the competent poskim consulted scientists and engineers as needed.

      In this case, they need to look at the science and history or their p'sak will not be well-founded.

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    6. > The physical reality is just a cushion for this underlying reality.

      It's always odd to hear people from a community that denounces "Greek wisdom" endorse Plato.

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    7. G*3
      now that's funny.

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    8. Avi: The ultimate state in kabbalism is prophecy, and you would say that this is only recent. How on earth did we get to the Talmud in the first place if not through prophecy? avos 1,1.

      David: No? What about the Yerushalmi Nedarim perek 6 halocho 8 that the besulos of the girl retract? I think that a psak halocho makes a real changel. The famous story of the man from Metz who wished to leave and was told in a dream that he had a trefah that the Shagos Arye paskened was kosher, so as long as he lived in Metz he was ok but if he left he would die because the halocho for him would change.
      And electricity makes my point. Of course it's nature is revealed by science, but once the consultation with science had concluded the poskim used their own inner rules to fit the electricity into halachic categories and make their psak.

      G*3 (cute name): Chazal don't denounce greek wisdom. If Plato understood that the world has a spiritual aspect then asserting that as well doesn't endorse him. He simply agrees with the point.

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    9. > And electricity makes my point. Of course it's nature is revealed by science, but once the consultation with science had concluded the poskim used their own inner rules to fit the electricity into halachic categories and make their psak.
      I can't prove it, but I don't think anything like that happened. The first, and for a long time, only use of electricity in homes was for light. Early electric fixtures looked identical to late gas fixtures. I think that people just assumed that they were the same thing, and just like gas lights were assur on Shabbos, so were the identical-looking electric lights.

      > Chazal don't denounce greek wisdom.

      A few years ago, there were Chareidim protesting Isreali enforcement of curriculum standards by protesting that their children would be forced to learn forbidden Greek wisdom. In that case, they meant Euclid. http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2013/01/the-threat-of-euclid.html

      > If Plato understood that the world has a spiritual aspect then asserting that as well doesn't endorse him. He simply agrees with the point.

      Platonic ideals aren't exactly spiritual, but close enough I guess. Plato pre-dates kaballah, even if you accept that RSBY wrote the Zohar. It's more likely that the Zohar agrees with Plato than the other way around.

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  3. Replies
    1. Aside from being clean shaven, some of these youngerleit are wearing different hat styles. One is even wearing. a bowler. Today they wouldn't be permitted past the kollel door for their fashion decisions.

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  4. Well, I suppose if they had to slaughter one of them they made the right choice.

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  5. Yungeleit is plural. Yungerman is singular.

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  6. The story -- I'll treat it as a true story -- leaves me with questions: Did Rav Kotler witness the kaparos (but didn't bother to inquire then what the animal was)? Or did he just arrive on the scene at the end, when the shochet came? Was his request to stop the shochet due to a halachic issue (as implied by your introduction) or was it a simple pause, because he was simply curious what the animal was (because he never saw a live chicken in America before)?
    Perhaps there was no "mindset" at all.

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  7. The Philosophy of AS IF. We can never really know the underlying reality of the world. Consequently, we construct our own systems of thought and behave "as if" the world matches our own inner realities. Hans Vaihinger (1852-1933)

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  8. The whole problem might have been avoided if they had used coins for Kaparos instead of chickens, as I do. But then again, that's not how coins looked in Europe.

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  9. http://l7.alamy.com/zooms/7597479614174a85b7b91c43631a75d0/slobodka-yeshiva-slobodka-yeshiva-seminary-for-jewish-religious-studies-jjj6y1.jpg

    Where are the beards?

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  10. The story is clearly nonsense, and I'm disappointed in you R Slifkin for even quoting it, as you are dispensing with your typical (and much heralded) critical scientific eye.

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