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No one asks for a kashrut certificate to eat in someone's house; they just make a rough judgement based on the host's reputation (the way they dress or behave, the circles they move in, etc.). That level of laxity would not be allowed in any other kashrut-related decision.

I had the funny idea for Hasgacha Pratit, a kashrut certification organization for private homes -- Don't even think of taking that seriously! But if you do, cut me in :-)

It is not just a matter of trust. You might ask your host "Do you keep kosher?" And the host might honestly say "Yes." Some Jews sincerely think that not having pork and shrimp in the house is enough for one to "keep kosher". Some follow ingredient labels and don't require hashgochas. Some Jews rely hashgochas that other Jews reject.

You might have the chutzpah to pry a little, but lemayseh, few guests quiz their host on the details -- certainly not on the level they would demand for any other source of food. Usually, if the guest "acts frum", that's enough.

So: Why do people treat kashrut in other people's homes so leniently?


Edit: Apparently it is more common than I believed for guests to query their hosts "What hashgochas do you accept? You do separate milk and meat dishes, right?", "Do you use meat-based gelatin?", etc.

I still think that such questions are not as widespread as one might think, and that general guests rely on vague impressions given by the clothing the host wears or the shul they belong to, but that goes a long way towards an answer.

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Joshua, you seem to be making some assumptions about people, and I'm not sure they are warranted. Can you explain exactly which people / shitas / hashkafas actually treat kashrut in other people's home more leniently than what is demanded from a kashrut organization? For example, my only requirement is that the people who vouch for the kashrut are in a position to know the truth of what happens in the kitchen, are Shomer Shabbat and shomer Kashrut. –  avi Dec 5 '11 at 17:06
    
I also know a few families from Jerusalem that will not eat in anyone's home without knowing exactly how they keep kashrut. And one family that will only eat in the home of their personal rabbi and nobody else. They do eat at resteraunts that their rabbi says has a good hasgacha. –  avi Dec 5 '11 at 17:09
    
@Avi, thanks, I didn't realize that. I thought that most guests are embarrassed to interrogate their hosts, but I see now that it does happen. –  Joshua Fox Dec 5 '11 at 18:56
    
Joshua, I'm struggling to understand what you're looking for here. Based on your comments to the answers below, you understand the Halachic principle that one witness is believed in these matters. Furthermore, if you didn't, you wouldn't be able to trust the Mashgiach, either! So are you sure your question isn't a personal one (ie., "How can I trust anyone who doesn't have my level of education?!")? –  Seth J Dec 7 '11 at 14:31
    
@Seth When I asked the question, I thought that people never ask their hosts about their kashrut practices. I now understand that they do. The question was not about trust; I assume that people are trustworthy. –  Joshua Fox Dec 7 '11 at 19:55

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

The reason we require mashgiach and hechshers on products that you buy in the store or from a resteraunt, is because the person you are purchasing the food from gains a financial benefit from you purchasing. (obviously) There is therefore a temptation to lie or to cut corners in order to make a greater profit or to attract more customers.

However, the opposite is true when going over to a person's private home. People do not gain financially when you eat at their homes. In fact, they lose financially. So we assume there is no reason not to trust them.

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Nowadays, food is so cheap that this is not a serious loss in most cases. Think about it: When Reuven invites another Shimon over, the main reasons for Shimon to decline are that he is too busy, that he does not feel like making this connection to Reuven, but the simple cost in dollars of the meal is of little consequence. –  Joshua Fox Dec 3 '11 at 21:08
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@JoshuaFox you don't know enough poor people. Also, Reuven loses financially, not Shimon.. so I'm not sure what you are trying to say there. –  avi Dec 3 '11 at 21:11
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yes you are right that for poor people, the cost of the meals might be an issue. But I'm not asking about whether you trust someone to not sneak lard into your potroast. Even if someone is totally sincere, you don't know what hashgachas they use, what chumras they follow, or whether their grasp of halacha is sound. –  Joshua Fox Dec 3 '11 at 21:16
    
But you can ask them, and there is no reason for them to lie. –  avi Dec 3 '11 at 21:20
    
thanks, that makes sense in theory. But lemayse, have you ever queried anyone in any detail about their kashrut before eating at their house? –  Joshua Fox Dec 4 '11 at 13:33

The question should be: What is the basis for needing a certificate from an organization before patronizing a food establishment?
If you think the food is kosher, eat it. If you're not sure, ask for proof. If you think it's not, don't eat there. But as @avi mentioned, there can be a monetary gain for a restaurant to claim it is kosher, so they might have an incentive to lie. Therefore you want proof that it's kosher, so we organized kashrut agencies to do the leg work for us. But to ask for proof from a host?! If you don't trust the guy, don't eat there. If you have a certain chumra you're not willing to break, let your host know and see if he holds the same way. But I definitely wouldn't pose the question as "What is the basis for eating in someone's house without a kashrut certificate?"

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"If you're not sure, ask for proof." You could, but lemayse, have you ever asked for proof or heard of anyone who did? "If you don't trust the guy, don't eat there...if you have a certain chumra." It's not really a matter of trust that someone is not lying, or a matter of chumras. Some people have lenient practices that are in fact not halachic, yet totally believe that they are keeping halacha. For example, if a Jew would not eat a food product based on the ingredient list alone, but the host would, then why would the guest eat a meal cooked with that food product at the host's home? –  Joshua Fox Dec 4 '11 at 19:17
    
thanks, I understand now that guests do ask some questions of their hosts. I don't think they ever ask for proof, though we agree that people can trust each other; that's not the problem. I do think that such queries are fairly rare, but I grant that they do happen. –  Joshua Fox Dec 5 '11 at 18:57
    
@JoshuaFox Again, what Mark said stands: If you don't trust the guy (not about lying, but about his level of observance/the brands he uses/the way he ensures his home is "Kosher") then don't eat there! –  Seth J Dec 7 '11 at 14:34
    
@Seth J Thank you for your reply. Please see my response above. –  Joshua Fox Dec 7 '11 at 19:55

The Gemara in many places (eg Chullin 10b) says there is a principle of 'eid echad neeman bisurin' (one witness is to be believed regarding forbidden things). This is as opposed to the two witnesses generaly required in court. The Ramban is his commentary there says that this reasoning is what allows one to eat food from his wife without a mashgiach because she is a single witness on the food and that is enough to be believed regarding forbidden foods.

If one assumes that the other person is a 'good Jew' then they would thus be kosher as a witness and you can believe them about their food. Generally keeping keeping shabbat and other mitzvot are a good indication of this status.

EDIT: I found this Rashi (Yevamot 88a) which says my point very explicitly:

ואמר -- והא ודאי פשיטא לן דסמכי' עליה כל זמן שלא נחשד דאי לאו הכי אין לך אדם אוכל משל חברו ואין לך אדם סומך על בני ביתו.‏

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But if one's wife said that she asked the town Rav about a problem with the chicken and the Rav said it is kosher, can he trust his wife regarding the status of the chicken? i.e. can she be trusted to relate a psak, or is she trusted only regarding the facts of what she did in the kitchen? –  Curiouser Dec 4 '11 at 2:10
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@Curiouser Stated without proof, I don't see why they would be different. –  Double AA Dec 4 '11 at 4:21
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According to this answer, why do you need a hashgacha at all?!? –  avi Dec 4 '11 at 7:18
    
Truth is you probably wouldn't, unless there is someone who you have a reaosn not to trust, e.g. a non-Jewish or non-observant worker, or perhaps even a religious proprietor who has what to gain. Then you may no longer be able to rely on them as an eid echad. –  Mark Dec 4 '11 at 7:30
    
Mark agreed, but the questioner is assuming that in general you do need a hashgacha and is going according to that line of reasoning. This answer seems to be answering a different question. –  avi Dec 4 '11 at 11:10

I'm not sure if my answer will answer the question, but if it doesn't, then it almost certainly renders it moot.

Rabbi Levi Mostofsky, Director of Continuing Education at RIETS, told me a Besht story, which can be found at the two webpages that are listed below (each of them is a little bit different). In short, the lesson to be learned is that we should not inquire about (i.e. assume that) other peoples' religious observances (e.g. keeping kosher) not being up to par unless we ourselves are truly religious (this includes both misvot that are bein adam lachaveiro and bein adam l'makom). This story teaches us that only a person who is a tzadik would be permitted to inquire. Therefore, CYLOR if you would be allowed to inquire from another person if they keep kosher (or taharat hamishpacha, et al.).

Another reason to permit asking if someone else keeps kosher is if you know for sure (ahead of time) that they would be forgiving of you (afterwards) for asking a question like that.

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Taharat HaMishpacha is totally different, as it presents no Nafka Minah to the inquirer! –  Double AA May 16 '12 at 1:30
    
If a person keeps kosher and is shomer shabbat, but does not observe family purity laws, then is he still frum? I would think not. Therefore, if you are trying to find out if somebody is religious, then you would have to ask this. –  Adam Mosheh May 16 '12 at 1:34
    
Lemai Nafka Minah if they are "frum"? (those quotes signify a quotation) –  Double AA May 16 '12 at 1:36
    
The nafka minah is if you need them to act as witness for testimony in beit din. –  Adam Mosheh May 16 '12 at 1:37
    
Is that really true? Is a mumar bedavar echad letayavon pasul l'edut? –  Double AA May 16 '12 at 1:39

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