LINK Kollel Holds Yarchei Kallah With Rabbi Yosef Kushner
The LINK Kollel in Los Angeles hosted a two-day yarchei kallah on December 31st and January 1st, with the well-known posek, Rav Yosef Kushner of Lakewood, New Jersey. The subject of the yarchei kallah was “Engaging in Commerce with Non-Kosher Food (Ma’achalos Asuros).” Over 100 people participated in the program.
The program consisted of the avreichim learning b’chavrusa with baal habattim each day in preparation for the shiurim given by Rav Kushner. Rav Kushner, a son-in-law of the renowned posek and rosh kollel, HaRav Shlomo Miller, is the author of the ground-breaking work Commerce on Shabbos and is a member of the Bais Horaah in Lakewood, New Jersey. His presentations were heralded by the participants for their clarity and for his engaging style that kept everyone riveted to the edge of their seats.
He is in the process of writing a sefer on this much-misunderstood subject. While many Torah Jews are aware of the prohibition of getting benefit from the mixture of milk and meat (bassar b’chalav), many are unaware of a separate prohibition in the Shulchan Aruch of doing business with non-kosher food.
Rav Kushner provided booklets with extensive sources for the attendees to use to prepare for each day’s shiur. They consisted of a wide range of m’koros – starting from the Mishnah straight through to contemporary poskim – that delineated the nature of the prohibition. In his brilliant shiurim, Rav Kushner then explained the parameters of this prohibition. In particular, he strove to clarify the definition of “doing business.” For example, is giving a gift to the mailman or to a prospective client considered doing business? Is saving money by serving non-kosher food to gentile patients in a nursing home an example of doing business? What about investing in companies that have non-kosher food products as part of their portfolio? What about providing lunch from a non-kosher takeout place for one’s gentile employees in order to maximize their efficiency on the job?
Another major variable that Rav Kushner endeavored to clarify was the nature of the Gemara‘s leniency of nizdamen. For example, this would refer to a fisherman who sets up his net in an area where mostly kosher fish predominate, yet a few non-kosher fish get caught in its web. Chazal say that one can do business with the non-kosher fish caught in this manner since it was only incidental to the kosher fish that he was trying to catch. This would apply today to such things as purchasing a trailer-load of closed-out or returned items from a supermarket that predominantly contains kosher food. It could also be applicable to investors in hedge funds where a minority of the items in the portfolio might contain non-kosher food. One of the issues that he dealt with was: Does the heter of nizdamen mean that the non-kosher items can only be sold as part of a package with the more numerous kosher items or can they even be sold separately by the Jewish businessman?
The audience engaged in a lively give-and-take with Rav Kushner during the shiurim, as well as for a lengthy Q &A period after the shiurim had concluded. Many of them were businessmen who had never realized the full extent of how this prohibition impacted their relationship with their gentile employees or patients and were very grateful to Rav Kushner for the clarity and cogency of his presentation.