Rabbi Avi Finegold

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Fast Food Rebellion


While reading the opening portion of this week’s Parasha, the Rabbi in shul saw me and said, “You can’t be zolel ve’soveh (approx: gluttonous) on Wolfgang Puck cuisine.” This statement promptly blew my mind. Here’s why.

The statement in question comes from the passage in the Torah about the rebellious son, who, if certain conditions are met, is to be seen as completely incorrigible and must be put to death by the community. One of these conditions is that the child must eat and drink copious amounts of food in a gluttonous manner in a public area and this activity must be decried by the community leadership. According to the rabbinic authorities, the money used to purchase the food must have been stolen from his parents and he must commit this act in front of his parents’ home. Not easy to achieve.

Kosher Thoughts: The OU Threatens to Pull Agri’s Certification


The fact that an announcement about the OU threatening to pull its certification from Agriprocessors came out during the month of Elul is too poignant to overlook.

Shortly after Iowa’s attorney general filed criminal charges against Agriprocessors’ owner, Aaron Rubashkin (for child labor violations), The Orthodox Union decided that unless management is replaced very soon (the quote from Rabbi Menachem Genack claims to have two weeks as its very latest point), they will no longer see the company as fit to bear its stamp of approval.  Many people couldn’t be happier.

In the first of many emails I received about it the OU’s decision today, the sender framed it as the OU bowing to market pressure. I actually fear that many people will see it as such and applaud their boycotts and outraged blog posts. Now, I have stopped eating Agriprocessors meat for quite a while (ever since the first PETA video, and its subsequent rumblings), and have made my share of outraged statements, several times in very public fora, but I firmly believe that making statements about the OU caving to market pressure is counterproductive and bordering on the offensive.

Rebbe Pollan vs. Rebbe Industry

groceryJust a thought, but could the new food credo of “Eat food not too much, mostly plants,” be a threat to the Kashrut industry as we know it?

I just finished watching a promotional video from the OU. Targeted to the food industry, this video demonstrates the process by which a product receives certification. Using a fictional cake made by Drakes (of Seinfeld lore), the OU rabbi shows how, early in the process the ingredient list of the new cake is sent to the OU to ensure that all ingredients are kosher. Some of the ingredients are found to be problematic, the red sprinkles on top and the emulsifiers that in the words of Rabbi Moshe Elefant “make ingredients mix when they normally can’t.”

According to Rebbe Michael Pollan, food is defined as something your grandmother would recognize. I would bet a big bunch of kale that your grandmother didn’t use emulsifiers to make sure her cake was delicious.


For those of you with a sense of humour about what you eat and where you buy it, and for those of you who need to explain why big box organic has its own issues, I present to you this.

shabbat shalom

Chef Laura Frankel: Pure Kosher


Laura Frankel is not your typical kosher chef. For those of who have been reading her recent posts, she has little tolerance for fake foods and refuses to kowtow to clients who demand kosher versions of otherwise unkosher food. I recently had the opportunity to sit and chat with her about her thoughts on food and the nature of food in Jewish society.

Poultry and Penitence

The recent controversy regarding the custom of Kapparot (see article in the Forward) made me realize that Kapparot is virtually the only remaining ritual that uses an animal sacrifice as an atonement for human sin. In Temple times, any inadvertent sin had a corresponding animal sacrifice that was intended to cause the sinner to contemplate the nature of sin and how this animal is now losing its life instead of the sinner. pretty powerful stuff, if your environment is agrarian and animals are preciously traded commodities. Today however, things are much different.

Flexitarian Shabbat


Cross-posted to the Kosher Blog
For many of you, having guests at a shabbat meal means often juggling various dietary restrictions preferences that guests may bring to the table. Michael Pollan makes the interesting point that the French consider it improper to impose your diet onto your host, and yet how many of you can recall meals in which you were left with virtually nothing to eat as a result of your kashrut/vege- pesce- ovo- lacto- tarianism/ or any possible allergies. Peter Berley’s The Flexitarian Table may hopefully solve at least some of the issues.


In case you had any doubts, a new study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has shown that crops have steadily been declining in nutritional value over the past 50 years. This is what happens when farmers grow for yield rather than for health.

And over at the Kosher Blog, Jabbett posted a scathing review of Manischewitz’ new pareve frosting, calling the company’s bluff for using partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil in so many products.

You Are What You Eat


I recently heard an interview with Native artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun during which he made a comment about the nature of food. He asked “When a Haida is eating a hotdog When does the hotdog become Haida (referring to the first nations band)? When it’s in his hand? When it’s in his mouth? or after he’s had a bowel movement.” Yuxweluptun was using this image as a metaphor for many cultural dilemmas. I ended up stuck on the Koan-like statement for a while trying to grapple with what about the metaphor hit me. I think it stems from the possibility of thinking about it from a literal perspective and then approach food and culture differently. When does what we eat become who we are, if it even ever does.

Why I Am Not A Foodie

Recently, a friend asked me if I was a foodie, a question which caught me thinking quite a while for an accurate response. “Well, I used to be” was the only thing I could think of. Reflecting back on that answer, I found myself questioning what and how I eat and how that differs from what one many think of when they think of a foodie.

Typically your average culinary fan tends to place a high value on taste and other palate-based pleasures. Different tastes and cuisines are prized and much is made of importance of the finest ingredients. Star chefs, award-winning cookbooks, and the finest tools become things to live for. But, I like food. I like to eat good food. What makes me feel that I am different that this? I pondered this and came to the conclusion that perspective was key.

Briefly: New food Safety Czar

Following up my previous post with this little update; the FDA has appointed a new head of food safety. the technical title according to the press release is “Assistant Commissioner for Food Protection”, though you can think of him as a salmonella and e. coli mashgiach. David Acheson, the man now responsible for the viability of your spinach (except for the bug-checking, natch) is the same guy who told NPR that bagged lettuce was not safe to eat. lets hope he’s ready to eat his words.