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Ask the Rabbi #32

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August 27, 1994; Issue #32

This issue is dedicated in the memory of Mr.Seymour Pomerance O.B.M.

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  • Is a tomato a with a pig gene kosher?
  • Asking for forgiveness via E-mail
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  • Is a tomato a with a pig gene kosher?

  • Is a tomato a with a pig gene kosher?

    Margalit from NYC wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    It seems that all this up and coming genetically engineered food, like the Flavr-Savr tomato, will pose new problems for kashrut. Are there any guidelines for bio-engineered produce? Say a tomato was made with a pig gene in it (a rumor I actually heard about the Flavr-Savr, and certainly not beyond the reach of genetically altered food right now), ... do you have any thoughts on this matter?

    Dear Margalit,

    If I understand your question correctly, you are assuming that the pig gene would constitute a nonkosher ingredient mixed together with an otherwise kosher product, and you want to know if pig gene makes the whole thing unkosher?

    I've been doing some reading on genetically engineered foods, and have contacted some people in the field (not the tomato patch :-) ) and have come up with the following:

    1. The process of obtaining the desired gene for use is one that involves copying, and re-copying the gene in various media ( such as bacteria), so that the final, resultant gene has NO pig in it.

    1. The gene is not placed in each and every tomato, but rather in some seeds or plants which then produce NEW generations of tomatoes that have never come in contact with the original gene.

    To ascertain the Halacha in this case, I posed your question to Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita. He told me that he is not familiar with the exact process of breeding these tomatoes and the like, but his ruling is that if the gene underwent significant change after it left the pig, the tomato is indeed kosher.

    Asking for forgiveness via E-mail

    Ed Truitt from Denver wrote:

    Dear Rabbi,

    We raised an interesting question over lunch today and would like to know your answer. Is it permissible to ask for mechilot (forgiveness) over an email network rather than in person? I know it's not preferable, but many of us work in large networked environments. We considered the option of sending it receipt-requested to a specific address rather than an all-points broadcast


    Dear Ed,

    There are two components in achieving forgiveness from someone we have wronged. One is the initiative of asking for forgiveness; the other is the granting of the forgiveness. Ideally, we try for both. Nevertheless, a Jew says in his pre-Kol Nidre confession that he forgives anyone who wronged him, and prays that Heaven will inspire others to forgive him as well. An E-mail request for forgiveness achieves at least this much of an effect - and even more.

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