Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana (Yamina) is promoting the election of a new rabbi for Hatzor HaGlilit, a small town near Tsfat whose rabbi passed away some six months ago and is yet to be replaced. Kahana’s move follows the loss of some 500 tons of broccoli and cauliflower that have been stored in the freezers of the Pri HaGalil plant in Hatzor HaGlilit for about a month and a half because the Chief Rabbi of Tsfat Shmuel Eliyahu refuses to grant the produce a kashrut permit.
The prohibition on eating insects is from the Torah (Leviticus 11:41-44), and unlike other kashrut prohibitions, an insect is not disregarded if it constitutes less than 1/60 of the food, since it is a complete creature. An insect is also not disregarded in cooking, since there is a high probability that it was not crushed in the process and remained intact, and as a whole creature it is not disregarded even if it is less than 1/60 of the whole food.
The produce in question received kashrut certification from the local rabbinate’s representatives at the beginning of last year. But after the passing of then-Chief Rabbi of Hatzor HaGlilit, Rabbi Mordechai Di’i, in May, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, being the nearest accepted halachic authority, took over. Rabbi Eliyahu ran his own tests and determined that the rate of insects in the vegetables did not qualify them for a kashrut stamp.
Minister Kahana was only too happy to use the broccoli kashrut dispute in promoting his kashrut reform legislation. As he told the Knesset’s National Enterprises Committee: “Imagine two trucks collecting from the same broccoli field, one for the Sunfrost plant and the other for the Pri HaGalil plant. In one of the plants, the local rabbi gives a kashrut certificate, while the local rabbi where the other factory is located will not. I don’t determine who is right, it may be that the strict rabbi is right, but in the end, there is no uniformity and each rabbi decides as he sees fit.”
In view of the protest by Peri HaGalil and other businesses in Hatzor HaGlilit, Minister Kahana decided to expedite the appointment of a permanent rabbi on the town council. Last week, he addressed the head of the local council, Shimon Suissa, requesting that he approve the appointment of (retired) judge Moshe Drori as chairman of the search committee for a new rabbi for Hatzor HaGlilit. Hatzor HaGlilit is one of some 30 local municipalities in Israel that do not have a permanent rabbi – a legacy left from the days when Shas controlled the Interior Ministry.
Meanwhile, Pri Hagalil has received the authorization of Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef to market the broccoli and cauliflower that was rejected by Rabbi Eliyahu under the warning: “Only from an unsupervised crop.”