Thursday, March 6, 2008

How Do You Pronounce "Vaad Hoier"?

Speaking of religious beliefs and practices that sound decidedly odd to secular American ears, each and every week one can look forward to the ad from the kosher sub-section of the Blue Ash Kroger's in The American Israelite featuring such items as glatt kosher lean fresh ground chuck for $2.99/lb., Aaron's Best All Beef 100% Marit Ayin Franks 2/$7, Aaron's Best Over Roasted Turkey Breast $3.99/0.5 lb., and so on.

Of course if you ever sneak down there on a Saturday afternoon when the proprietors are presumably home or at shul praying, you can get the sticker shock of your life on $15/lb. roast beef and all sorts of fascinating stuff.

However, of course, again, to secular American eyes, the most jarring part of the ad are the watchful eyes of "Mendy" and "Menachem", the Mashgiachim of the establishment.

Now, I was studying under various Humanist, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox rabbis pretty heavily for about six years and did more than my fair share of time on the Yahoo Jewish Chat channel and I NEVER heard the word "Mashgiach" until the kosher wing of the Blue Ash Kroger's opened.

However, the other reference of course I HAD heard of before - Vaad Hoier. In fact I think I stumbled across their office in the back of Golf Manor once whilst on my way to an appointment with a sofer.

How the heck do you pronounce "Vaad Hoier" anyway??

They're mentioned quite a bit in another article from the March 6, 2008 American Israelite about a restaurant in Dillonvale called the Kinneret Café. Vaad Hoier presumably is a group of gentlemen so frum it hurts that certify that restaurants and grocery stores are kosher beyond a reasonable doubt.

This Kinneret Café apparently has a "dairy license". If I understand it correctly, because of the strict orthodox Jewish prohibition against the mixing of meat and milk, a commerical restaurant can be certified to serve meat or milk but not both. The late Pilder's brunch had a "meat license" allowing them to serve some truly yummy fried chicken but at the expense of not being able to dope up the french toast with even a drop of milk. Apparently though "kosher dairy" restaurants are opening at a much faster rate than "dairy meat" because people are turning vegetarian by the boat load.

Now, despite six years of intense study and about 10 years in all bouncing in and around the Jewish community I had STILL not quite gotten a handle on the kosher thing. Oh, the rules are pretty simple - fresh vegetables are presumed kosher, fish with fins and scales is kosher and parve (neither meat nor milk), eggs are parve(unless they have a drop of blood in which case they're meat), meat (beef, lamb, goat - having split hooves and that chew cud) must be slaughtered by a specific method, meat and milk cannot be mixed, etc.

However, I'm still not entirely sure I'm real grounded on what exactly the PENALTY in Judaism is for inhaling half a platter of jumbo shrimp and chasing it with a triple bacon cheeseburger.

Of course the Christian tradition for "breaking the rules" is that you're going to BURN IN HELL, presumably for all eternity, but I never did get a clear picture even from the ultra-frum Jews I studied with where one might find one's soul deposited for sitting down to a 50 lb. lobster at Amor de Brazil or some such.


But it does bring up the possibility that if we start mixing civil and religious law that a trip to the Golden Corral or some such might get WAY complicated ...

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