It's a Siman that it's Kosher:
Avoiding Bosor Shenisalaim Min Hoayin
An Interview With Rabbi Moshe Heinemann
STAR-K Rabbinic Administrator
The world of kashrus has played, and continues to play, a dominant role in the life of a
Jew and the life blood of Judaism. This centrality is evidenced by the significant halachic
treatment of kashrus in the Shulchan Aruch, by our Poskim, and in contemporary Torah
journals, as well as the particular attention paid to the kosher consumer stretching from
the aisles of the supermarket to the media portfolios of the marketplace.
Throughout the development of practical kashrus, the Torah's halachic tenets have
been interwoven with rabbinical safeguards, protective fences, known in the words of the
Mishna as siyagim. Every halachic arena has been bolstered with the pickets of these fences.
Some classic examples that are well known are: the prohibition of cooking poultry and
milk, waiting six hours between meat and milk, stam yainum, and bishul akum.
Our Rabbis realized, that without protective measures built into the Torah's system,
there would be genuine concern that Torah statutes would be abused, adulterated, watered
down or forgotten, chas v'shalom. Just as a dedicated farmer would exercise herculean
efforts to save the life of a beautiful tree whose life has been placed in jeopardy by
predators, weeds, or disease, how much more care must be expended when we deal with
the preservation of the Eitz Chaim - The Tree of Life.
One of the most detailed and involved areas of kashrus is the production and
processing of kosher meat. Because of its great scope, it would be impossible to do justice
to the complete gamut of the kashrus directives for shechita, bedika, nikkur, and melicha in
a few brief paragraphs, but we can get a clear appreciation of the careful detail that needs
to be given to every step along the production trail.
The shochet, the ritual slaughterer, who has to be armed with both technical skill
and great moral integrity, has to give painstaking attention to all aspects of shechita. The
concerns start from the source. From where is the packing house getting their stock?
Before the actual shechita, the shochet's knife, the chalef, must be carefully checked to make
sure it is smooth and razor sharp.
In order to avoid the inadvertent slaughtering of a b'chor, a first born animal born in
a Jewish herd, the sources of the cattle must be known. After the animal is slaughtered
every surface of the lung has to be double checked, internally and externally, making sure
that the lung is free of lesions or disease. Then, when the animal is pronounced kosher,
its various parts are separated and sent to different areas of the packing house. In order
to avoid intermingling and confusion with non-kosher look alikes, the different parts of
the forequarter of beef, veal or lamb have to be properly tagged. This system of labeling,
branding, and tagging is critical to the kosher control maintenance in the packing house
At the post-shechita stage, slaughtered meat is further processed at the plant site or at
an independent processing facility, possibly under a separate hashgacha, or at local kosher
butcher shops, where further processing will take place under the supervision of the local
Va'ad or Rav. Whatever the option, identification plays an integral part of the process.
How else would the mashgiach know when the shechita took place, if the meat is kosher,
if the meat is glatt or not, or if the meat was kashered - were it not for tags, plumbas, and
In the neighborhood butcher shop where the meat and poultry is prepared for retail
sale, more often than not, the cut-up chicken pieces or cutlets are not showcased with
plumbas, nor is the brisket, rib steak or flanken. Furthermore, today with both husbandand wife working, kosher households depend
on the kosher butcher to make home deliveries.
Many households employ domestic help whose
duties include meal preparation. In addition,
hotels and catering halls claim both kosher and
non-kosher cuisine. In all of the above scenarios,
beyond the Torah based kashrus requirements,
an additional safeguard to protect us from
the potential risk of advertent or inadvertent
mixing, switching, or replacing kosher meat
for a non-kosher look-alike was instituted.
This siyag, protective measure, requires one
to continuously identify or trace the trail of
the kosher meat or kosher poultry. Failing to
do so jeopardizes the kashrus acceptability of
the meat, and this meat is designated as bosor
shenisalaim min hoayin, literally, meat that is out
of constant view of an observant Jew. Although
the strict halachic context of the term bosor
shenisalaim min hoayin refers to the suspicious
possibility of kosher meat being switched with a
non-kosher likeness, the contemporary usage of
this term has far broader halachic applications.
What are the parameters of this halacha? Is
there any recourse once you lose visual contact
with the meat?
These questions were posed to Rav
Heinemann, Shlita, our Rabbinic Administrator,
to clarify and elucidate this very important
halacha for Kashrus Kurrents readers:
Q: How do we, in the broader halachic
context, define bosor shenisalaim min hoayin?
RH: If a Jew left a piece of kosher meat
or poultry, that has no distinct identification,
unattended, in an area where a non-Jew has free
access, and there is reason to suspect that the
aino Yehudi may have exchanged the kosher meat
with a non-kosher meat or poultry likeness, this
piece of meat is deemed bosor shenisalaim min
hoayin and may not be used.
Q: Could you list some of the circumstances
that would arouse suspicion?
RH: 1) The kosher meat is of superior
quality and the non-Jew would enjoy it more.
2) It is more convenient for the non-Jew to use
the exposed kosher meat on the table at that
moment and replace it later with non-kosher.
3) There is an outside benefit for the non-Jew to
substitute the kosher meat.
Q: When a kosher meat or poultry order
is being sent from the kosher butcher shop
to a Jewish household for home delivery and
the order is wrapped in plain wrapping paper
and tape, can bosor shenisalaim min hoayin
RH: 1) If the delivery man is, himself,
a Shomer Shabbos and the order is delivered
directly to the housewife or family member, the
order can be sent out as is without additional
identification. 2) If the delivery man is not
a Shomer Shabbos, the meat order has to be
marked with distinct and distinguishing simanim
to avoid bosor shenisalaim min hoayin problems.
Q: When is meat considered adequately
RH: Preferably lechatchila, the piece of meat
or poultry should be sealed twice with kosher
identification on the seal (two simanim), or be
sealed with a foolproof seal that would qualify for
two simanim. Any seal which makes it difficult
to open the closed package without tearing
or breaking the closure, tape, or packaging
qualifies as a siman. An example of a foolproof
siman would be the new frozen chicken products
which are encased in a totally fused specially
printed Chill Pack Bag that has to be ripped
open to take out the products.
Q: Must a mashgiach be present at all
times in a hotel kitchen during kosher meal
preparation or throughout the function?
RH: The "glatt" kosher method of hotel
hashgacha is for the mashgiach to be present
at all times. If the mashgiach has to leave the
kitchen, he can only leave if (a) none of the
kitchen help knows that he stepped out, (b) he
leaves for a brief interval with the intention of
immediately returning, and (c) he does not leave
the hotel premises.
Q: Assuming there are no bishul akum
problems, can a maid prepare meals for a
Jewish household without being supervised
by a member of the household?
RH: There are different scenarios that have
to be considered.
(a) If the meat, chicken or fish have simanim
on them (e.g. a plumba, a sealed casserole, fish
with skin on) and these simanim will remain
throughout their total preparation and cooking
process the maid would be permitted to cook it.
(b) If the maid knows that members of the
household constantly come in and out of the
kitchen at no set time or schedule, this would
serve as a deterrent for any foul play, and the
maid would be permitted to cook.
(c) If there is no distinct identification on
the meat and the maid is alone in the household,
you would be forbidden to eat any food item
that requires identification prepared by the
maid, unless the food can be identified through
a member of the family’s t’vias ayin.
Q: What is t'vias ayin?
RH: If a Yehudi can recognize that this is
the original piece of meat or poultry which
was previously known to be kosher, and can be
clearly identified without any question.
Q: Can a recent Baal or Baalas Teshuva eat
at their parents' home if the parents are still
RH: If the parents agree to keep kosher
for their child, the Rov or Rabbi should be
consulted to work out the details of each specific
Q: What foods halachically require
RH: All foods that require kosher certification.
That includes, among others, meat, poultry, fish,
wine, cheese, bread, cake, and milk. Those
products that have a more severe halachic
prohibition (m'doraisa), require two simanim
(e.g. meat, fish, poultry, wine, etc.). Those that
have a less stringent prohibition (m'drabonon),
require only one siman (e.g. cheese, bread, cake,
Q: Can you buy cryovaced, boxed, or
bagged kosher chicken or meat provisions
from a non-kosher supermarket or buyers
RH: Yes, if they come appropriately sealed as
Q: Do meat flavored sauces, or food items
mixed with cheese or fish require simanim
(sent from caterers or take-out)?
RH: If the meat, fish, or poultry is not batel
(nullified) in the sauce or food item, two simanim
would be required. Even if it is batel, it requires
a siman identifying the sauce as kosher.
Q: How would a deli meat or tuna fish
sandwich sent by a caterer or take-out be
wrapped if they require two simanim?
RH: Wrapping the sandwich in a plastic
wrap, sealing it on the bottom with a heat seal
or label and labeling the top of the plastic only
qualifies for one seal. An example of a second
seal would be an additional band wrapped
around the sandwich plus the sealed and labeled
plastic. Another method would be to place the
bill into the paper bag holding the sandwich and
staple the bag and bill shut.
Q: Would plain unmarked sealing tape
qualify for an acceptable seal?
RH: No, because there is no distinctive
marking on the tape. In order for plain sealing
tape to suffice, the mashgiach would have to sign
his name across the tape and onto the box. If the
box would be opened the signature would tear.
Q: Would a specially made box used to box
fish sticks that has the name of the company
and the hechsher clearly printed on the box
qualify for a siman?
RH: No, the flaps of the box would have to
be sealed to qualify for a siman. Sealed plastic
over-wrap would qualify for a second seal.
Q: If a mashgiach forgot to seal a
cholov Yisroel milk silo, but the weight of
the poundage that was recorded elsewhere
corresponds to the weight in the silo, would
that qualify for an adequate siman?
RH: Yes, b’dieved.
Q: What is the halacha if only one of the
two simanim remains intact?
RH: If the remaining siman is foolproof, it
would be fine lechatchila. If the remaining siman
is not foolproof a competent halachic authority
should be consulted.
Q: Is there any halachic recourse to permit
the use of questionable chicken or meat if there
are no obvious simanim? (e.g. The plumbas fell
off or the simanim are no longer recognized.)
RH: This meat can be used if the meat can
be identified through t'vias ayin. If it was sent
through an aino Yehudi, if the weight is the
same as on the bill and it has a saltier taste
indicating that it was kashered, one may rely on
Q: Who can make this identification?
RH: The person who is the identifier must
be a Shomer Torah U'Mitzvos; otherwise he
has no halachic credibility and would not be
believed in this instance.
1 Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:54