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Raid Of Kashrut Dept. Finds No Evidence Of Competence, Credibility

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Jerusalem (AP) – Authorities conducted a raid this morning of the Israeli Rabbinate’s department for supervising and certifying establishments claiming to provide kosher food, and found no indication that the agency had any effectiveness on the premises.

Police and Ministry of Religious Affairs personnel entered the offices in downtown Jerusalem and confiscated papers, computers, and assorted other materials in an effort to determine where, if at all, the Rabbinate had been keeping its ability to properly implement a system for certifying restaurants and factories as kosher. An examination of the materials revealed that any stores of competence had been exhausted long ago, and that the department had only traces of credibility left.

not kosherThe Rabbinate is empowered by law to determine what entities are allowed to use the term “kosher” to describe their food, a consumer protection implemented to prevent fraud. Doing so requires that the institution maintain given levels of efficacy, transparency, consistency, and adherence to established standards of kashrut supervision as enshrined in certain books of Jewish law. But the Rabbinate’s role as, effectively, judge, jury, and executioner has freed it from outside oversight, opening itself to an impaired ability to ensure that it was itself adhering to the standards it purports to enforce. One of the Rabbinate’s heads is currently under house arrest, awaiting trial for fraud and breach of trust.

Responding to agitation from community activists, the ministry decided to take action, but it remains unclear what impact the move will have. Shoddy record-keeping had already compromised the department’s ability to adequately track the validity of imported foodstuffs labeled as kosher “with the approval of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,” and the information garnered in the raid is unlikely to have an effect on the problematic dynamic of having restaurants act as employers of the kashrut supervisors.

Elsewhere in the world of kashrut supervision, independent agencies charge the food establishment a specific amount, employing its own supervisors either to remain on the premises or to conduct unannounced inspections. As the investigation has revealed, however, the Rabbinate here apparently lacks the competence necessary to handle such a complex arrangement, and foists the bureaucratic and bookkeeping burden on the businesses it certifies.

A supervisor, known as a mashgiach, assumes the dual role of advising the establishment of the practices required to ensure adherence to the laws of kashrut, and of inspecting the facility to ascertain its compliance. The Rabbinate’s system, says Ministry spokeswoman Amira L’akum, charged its supervisors with inspecting too many establishments, impairing their ability to adequately supervise any single one. “Basically, under the current system, a mashgiach comes in once a month or so, makes a token inspection of the trash can, and collects his check.” She added that there was no way an inspector could remain at any one restaurant or vendor long enough to audit the establishment’s compliance with procedures such as sifting flour to remove insects, checking eggs for blood spots, or not operating what looks like an elaborate, legally sanctioned protection racket.

Christmas treesIndeed, the Rabbinate can levy stiff fines for attempting to sidestep its procedures, which includes the engagement of any other supervising agency in the Rabbinate’s stead. L’akum noted that the department’s established pattern of behavior does not include butting heads with any independent kashrut organizations that actually have implemented a reliable supervision system. “Whether this indicates a modicum of competence or a baseline cynicism has yet to be determined,” she said.

Buttressing the argument for the cynicism factor, Rabbinate inspectors raided two related Jerusalem establishments this week, touting their discovery of forged kashrut labels. The establishments, a cheese store and restaurant with the same name and owner, had never paid the Rabbinate for supervision. Ministry officials, who declined to be identified in keeping with procedures regarding ongoing investigations, surmise that the move was calculated both to showcase whatever vestiges of competence remain, and to demonstrate that it nevertheless lacks either the will or capacity to conduct any such raid on establishments that are already paying the Rabbinate.

A spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate predicted that the institution would emerge from the episode unscathed, noting that the police department, which has been handling the evidence, has exhibited the same level of competence and credibility.


Written by Thag

January 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Insurance Claim: One Magic Staff

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IsisFrom: Beerontep, Chief Sorcerer

To: Royal Insurance Corp.

Subject: Reimbursement for destruction of magical staff by Hebrews (policy no. 3045-223)

To whom it may concern:

On Sunday, 22 June, my magic staff was swallowed by a rival magic staff, wielded by one Aaron, son of Amram, a Hebrew. The incident occurred in the course of fulfilling my regular professional duties, in my capacity as His Divine Majesty Pharaoh’s chief sorcerer.

Two Hebrew provocateurs, Moses and Aaron, the sons of the aforementioned Amram, entered the royal court and made several demands of His Divine Majesty. In doing so they made a demonstration of some supernatural phenomena at their disposal, namely the transformation of a staff into a serpent. As chief sorcerer, my duty compelled me to demonstrate equal mastery of witchcraft, and my associates and I transformed our magical staffs into serpents.

However, the demonstration on the part of these Hebrews did not end with the transformation of the staff, as Aaron swiftly transformed his serpent back into a staff, but in doing so had his serpent-staff swallow the staffs of mine and of my associates’.

It is my understanding that the circumstances of the incident adequately meet the criteria for an ‘Act of God’ as defined in the policy, and as such, request reimbursement for the full value of the staff: 1200 gold coins, as assessed by a representative of your company. The model of the staff in question, an Isis-900, retails at 1000 gold coins, but the staff that was swallowed, in addition to its manifest spiritual power, held tremendous sentimental value to me, as it was a wedding gift from Pharaoh Himself.

I would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter, as the Hebrews Moses and Aaron have already demonstrated their intent to continue performing their own magic, and I will need all the necessary equipment to counter their spells. Already they have transformed the Nile waters into blood, which I and my associates have been able to duplicate without recourse to a magic staff, but I fear they will again perform some supernatural feat that will necessitate my use of a potent staff such as the Isis-900. Please process this request forthwith so I may perform my royal duties fully.


Beerontep the Sorcerer

Written by Thag

December 23, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Pharaoh’s Butler Resentful Of Upstart Hebrew Ex-Slave Dream Expert

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We were unable to find an actual photo of either the butler or of Tzafenat Pa'aneakh, so here's a different image that we'll just all have to agree is a bust of Yul Brynner.

We were unable to find an actual photo of either the butler or of Tzafenat Pa’aneakh, so here’s a different image that we’ll just all have to agree is a bust of Yul Brynner.

Memphis, Egypt (AP) – Semillontep, the veteran butler of Pharaoh’s palace, nurses a grudge against viceroy Tzafenat Pa’aneakh, who, he claims, has failed to show sufficient appreciation for the butler’s efforts to free him from the royal prison.

When Pharaoh had a disturbing set of dreams, Semillontep recalled that two years earlier, a Hebrew slave was able to correctly interpret the mysterious dreams that the butler and chief baker had while they were in prison. He humbly suggested to the king that the Hebrew, known then as Joseph, might be able to perform a similar feat for His Highness where the court soothsayers had failed. Accordingly, Pharaoh summoned Joseph from jail, and indeed, the Hebrew gave a convincing, accurate explanation of the royal dreams, along with an astute set of administrative instructions to prepare for the epic events that the dreams portended. Semillontep anticipated a proper recognition for this act of generosity, which was not forthcoming.

As a result of his thankless efforts, says Semillontep, Pharaoh appointed the thirty-year-old Joseph as viceroy to administer the very system he had envisioned, and renamed him Tzafenat Pa’aneakh, “the decoder of the mysterious.” The butler understood that Pharaoh himself would not give more than a token expression of gratitude for his referral to Joseph, as he was obligated to serve his master loyally in any case. Moreover, Semillontep owed his own debt of gratitude to the king for the amnesty that spared him while his colleague the baker was executed – the very fate that Joseph had foretold in interpreting the pair’s dreams. But Semillontep still feels left behind in the face of the rapid advance of this lowly Hebrew nobody to whom everyone is suddenly genuflecting.

“I made him who he is,” hissed Semillontep to his wife, Sirrah. “And here I am, still stuck in a dead-end job with the threat of a death sentence hanging over me if I screw up one more time,” he lamented, recalling the episode that got him in trouble several years earlier, when Pharaoh found a fly in the royal wine goblet.

Tzafenat Pa’aneakh was unavailable for comment. His representative said the viceroy was busy traveling to all the major cities and towns of Egypt to oversee the grain-amassing project that he had proposed in order to prepare the land and region for an anticipated famine. Pa’aneakh’s spokesman claimed no knowledge of the butler’s contention, but he did note that Semillontep had for some reason forgotten about the languishing Hebrew in the prison for two years before mentioning anything to Pharaoh.

“One rather suspects motives other than the mere feeling of being slighted,” suggested the spokesman, noting that it was not unusual for native Egyptians to discriminate against people of other ethnicities, and to enslave them. “One has to wonder whether the same resentment would exist if His Excellency Tzafenat Pa’aneakh were born and raised in Egypt instead of Canaan.”

Written by Thag

November 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Early Hanukkah Causes Confusion Among Assimilated Jews

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Black FridayNewport News, Virginia (AP) – The relatively early occurrence of Hanukkah this year has sown perplexity among assimilated American Jews, who have become accustomed to combining or confusing the holiday’s practices with those of Christmas and not Thanksgiving. The first day of Hanukkah comes out this Thursday, which is also Thanksgiving.

The lunar Jewish calendar has a typical year lasting approximately 354 days, making it 11 days shorter than the solar year. A complicated cycle of leap years Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Thag

November 24, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Midianites Regret Not Getting Receipt For Purchase Of Joseph

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20 silver piecesMemphis, Egypt (AP) – Despite getting a good deal on the purchase of a Hebrew youth, a group of Midianite traders is having second thoughts after spending the last several hundred miles listening to the boy prattle on about sheaves, stars, and dreams.

The caravan, on its way to Egypt, was transporting spices and fragrances to sell there when they encountered a group of herders near the Central Canaanite town of Dothan offering a healthy-looking, seventeen-year-old named Joseph for sale at the too-good-to-believe price of twenty silver pieces. Despite the low price, the traders found no physical defects in the youth, and decided to pool their cash to sell this Joseph at a handsome profit once they reached their destination. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Thag

November 19, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Conservative Jewish Environmentalists To Pollute Only In Public

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JTSNew York (AP) – In keeping with the template of their religious observance, the leading institution of Conservative Jews has endorsed a pattern of environmentally conscious behavior that calls for maintaining an eco-friendly home, but adhering to society’s wider mores when outside. They will therefore adopt such practices as composting, recycling, and cutting waste while in the privacy of their residences, but in the street and at work they will continue to litter, drive fossil-fuel-guzzling behemoths, and place glass bottles in the regular trash. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Thag

November 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Man To Reenact Ancient Yom Kippur Ritual By Flinging Cat Off Roof

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Guri and Tuli. Which of them is the evil twin remains undetermined.

Guri and Tuli. Which of them is the evil twin remains undetermined.

Jerusalem, Israel (AP) – A Jerusalem resident Intends to launch a cat off the roof of his apartment building this Saturday to commemorate an ancient Jewish atonement rite involving goats.

Gidon Levi, 40, will partially reenact the Biblical scapegoat ritual for the Jewish Day of Atonement, which this year begins this Friday evening just before sundown.

The practice, mentioned in Leviticus and given detail in the ancient text of Jewish law called the Mishna, has the High Priest use lots to select one of two identical he-goats upon which to symbolically place all the sins of the people. The goat is subsequently sent out into the wilderness and pushed backwards over a jagged cliff, becoming dismembered on the way down. The ritual has not been performed since the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 CE.

In the absence of the Temple – its site now occupied by the Muslim shrine the Dome of the Rock – and given the impracticalities of obtaining two identical, unblemished, one-year-old male goats on short notice in an urban setting, Mr. Levi will instead fling one of his two one-year-old kittens, Guri and Tuli, off the roof of his sixth-floor walkup and down into the rocky valley along the western approach to the city.

The ritual, known as Azazel, once served as a way for the people to express their desire to distance themselves from sin and devote themselves to God, explained Levi. “One animal was sacrificed on the altar as an expression of our reaffirmed dedication to serving God, while the other, identical goat, another part of ourselves, takes our iniquities away to be banished forever, an expression of our aspiration to rid ourselves of the failings that drive a wedge between us and God.”

Levi will use kittens, specifically, both because of their easy availability – there are thousands of feral cats in his Har Nof neighborhood alone – and because they come closest to evoking the vibe that goats did in the ancient world. “The Hebrew word for ‘goat’ is the same word used for ‘demon,’ and cats are similarly associated with all things dark and evil,” he noted.

On Saturday morning Levi will select which of the two kittens to launch to a grisly death by means of a lottery drawing. He will place two pieces of wood inside a box, pieces of wood identical in every respect but the words written on them: “For the Lord” and “For Azazel,” respectively, in Hebrew text. The term Azazel refers to the high, mighty cliff from which the animal is pushed, he explained.

Levi will swiftly pull out the two blocks and immediately assign them without looking, to ensure randomness, to the kittens, one of which will be marked with a red strip of wool to identify it as the Azazel animal. He will march the kitten upstairs onto the roof, and there, between the water-heating solar panels and the neighbors’ satellite TV dish, he will push the animal off.

If the ritual goes as planned, the kitten will travel down the seven stories that account for the height of the building, plus two stories of the hill’s natural severe slope, until impact, where Levi expects the descent to continue for several dozen meters until the animal is torn limb from limb, and atonement achieved.

The Jerusalem native seemed unperturbed by the notion that his intended activity constitutes cruelty to animals, noting that only a few radical activists would object to something that reduced the number of cats in the city. “They’re a plague,” he lamented, comparing the niche feral cats occupy to that of the raccoon in North America.

“I might raise a few eyebrows with the gory way in which I do it,” he conceded, “but this is the Middle East. The brutal slaughter of other creatures is a daily ritual in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and sometimes Lebanon, so people are basically used to this kind of thing.”

Written by Thag

September 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm