This halachic responsum by Rabbanit Guy takes on the halachic question of “ne’emanut”, trust, as it functions in a relationship between people with differing levels of religious practice. While halachic ne’emanut is often linked to levels of observance, this responsum will provide a framework for conceiving of such trust as linked to the caring relationship between the people themselves.
There is a significant minority of halacha-observant women and men involved in serious relationships with or married to Jews of different religious backgrounds. Maintaining a halachic home that adheres to communal standards of kashrut entails multiple daily decisions. When an individual who is traditionally halachically observant shares a home with a partner who is not shomer mitzvot, how might it be possible to establish the halachic reliability of the non-observant partner to observe kashrut standards in the home?1 Can they build a kosher home together, given the non-observant partner’s practice of eating non-kosher outside of the home? Can the community rely on the kashrut of the individual who is generally not shomer mitzvot?
1. Ne’emanut in the area of Kashrut-
A. “ החשוד על הדבר אינו נאמן להעיד עליו"
Mishnayot in Masechet Demai and Masechet Bechorot teach the principle, “החשוד על הדבר אינו נאמן להעיד עליו, " that one who is suspected to be unscrupulous in specific areas is not reliable to give testimony about those areas in which they are negligent.
The Tanna Kama says that since if a person has the practice of eating untithed produce in the home of an am ha’aretz, he loses his own personal reliability in the realm of terumot and ma’asrot. Mishna Bechorot 4:10 teaches the principle, “" כל החשוד על הדבר לא דנו ולא מעידו." The Rambam in his commentary on that mishna explains, “החשוד על כל דבר בין מדרבנן בין מדאורייתא הרי הוא חשוד גם כן על איסור אחר שהוא כמותו באיסור או פחות ממנו..." “Anyone who is suspected of being unscrupulous in a matter, whether it is a biblical prohibition or a rabbinic prohibition, is considered suspect on similar prohibitions as well as prohibitions which are less severe. The Shulchan Aruch ( YD 119 Laws of Foods of Idolaters, Seif 1) writes decisively:
However, the Shulchan Aruch concludes that a person who is suspected of being personally unscrupulous about the laws of kosher food is still trusted to prepare food for a friend who follows the laws of kashrut more strictly…
3. Establishing Reliability through “Kim Li BeGavei”
The gemara in Masechet Ketubot 85a and 128a teaches an incident where the court of Rava relied on the statement of bat Rav Chisda to flip the requirement of an oath (shavuot edut) from one side’s eidim to the other’s. Bat Rav Chisda testified that one party to the case was suspected of swearing falsely, and therefore argued that the other side’s witnesses should be the ones to take the oath. The gemara questions how the court relied upon the testimony of bat Rav Chisda, as we normally do not accept women’s testimony for monetary matters. The gemara explains in the continuation that the basis for accepting her testimony was “ Kim li begavei”, that it was clear based on the court’s personal knowledge of Rav Chisda’s daughter that she would not lie. The Meiri explains in his commentary there:
The poskim debate whether we can trust the kashrut standards of someone who is not generally shomer mitzvot on the basis of kim li begavei. Rav Moshe Feinstein3 addresses a case of elderly parents who are observant Orthodox Jews, being cared for and living in the home of their non-observant children. Rav Moshe argues that these parents can rely on their adult children’s claim that the food they prepare for their parents is cooked using kosher utensils, and only includes kosher ingredients, despite the fact that their children do not personally adhere to the kashrut standards of their parents. The basis for this reliability, Rav Moshe writes, is not ne’emanut, since the adult children do not personally observe kashrut and therefore do not have ne’emanut in the realm of kashrut. Rav Moshe’s novel argument is that “personal knowledge” (yediya atzmit) of the individual is enough of a proof that an individual will adhere to the standards of kashrut for those they love, and they are to be trusted when they claim that the food they prepare for their loved ones is kosher, and that they used kosher utensils. Rav Moshe defines this “personal knowledge” as when the halacha-observant family member trusts the non-observant person’s integrity and their respect for their loved one’s and the desire to keep halacha. This intimate knowledge of one spouse for the other is like one’s own knowledge, and Rav Moshe argues, is like “real proof” that their children are not deceiving their parents about the kashrut of their food.4
In another responsum, Rav Moshe directly addresses the topic of relying on the testimony of a non-observant individual who is known to be honest in areas of Torah prohibitions5. Rav Moshe maintains that an individual who violates the Shabbat cannot be classified as having ne’emanut in the realm of kashrut. However, we can rely on the “yediya atzmit” of the observant partner, on the basis that their differently observant partner would not lie to them and switch out kosher food items with non-kosher alternatives. Rav Moshe writes, “ In my book Iggrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Siman 54, I argued that because this was not a matter of reliability but personal knowledge which is like clear proof, and I proved it from the text of Ketubot 85 (see there), but for this it is required to have “clear knowledge of the individual, as a husband knows his wife with whom he is always.6” Rav Moshe cites the case of a marital relationship as the prime example of a relationship where there is clear “personal knowledge” on both sides of the other’s character, alongside parent-child relationships which are on par with a spousal relationship regarding “personal knowledge”. Other halachic decisions agreed to Rav Moshe’s argument in this case, including Rav Asher Weiss.7
1Framing of the teshuva: Reliability of a spouse who is not shomer-mitzvot in the realm of kashrut. My goals are to address the communal inclusion of couples or families with different religious levels and establish that these homes are reliable and can be trusted to adhere to community standards using halachic mechanisms.
2 כותב הש"ך ,שפתי כהן על שולחן ערוך יורה דעה קי״ט:א׳:א, "דוקא בידוע שהוא חשוד אבל בסתם ישארל סמכינן עליו אפילו באיסור דאורייתא"
שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק א סימן נד3
" שלא נכנס זה בגדר נאמנות אלא בידיעה עצמית שהוא כראיה ממש כיון שיודע בברור שאינה משקרת לו." 4
שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ב סימן מג ," אינו שומר תורה אך מחזיקים אותו לאינו משקר אם נאמן באיסורין5
שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ב סימן מג, "חדשתי בספרי אגרות משה חיו"ד סימן נ"ד מטעם שאין זה ענין6
נאמנות אלא ידיעה עצמית שהוא כראיה ממש, והוכחתי זה מהא דכתובות דף פ"ה עיי"ש, אבל ע"ז צריך ידיעה ברורה
כהא דבעל שמכיר את אשתו שהוא אתה תמיד ."
About Rabbanit Goldie Guy
Rabbanit Goldie Guy serves as the Director of Religious Engagement at Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. Rabbanit Guy has been a Talmud and Judaics educator at Yeshivat Maharat, the Columbia/ Barnard Hillel, SAR High School in Riverdale, NY, Yeshivat Hadar, and in the middle school at Carmel Academy, in Greenwich CT. She was ordained at Yeshivat Maharat in 2017, completed the two-year Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies (GPATS) at Yeshiva University where she had the opportunity to be a chaplain intern at North Shore University Hospital, and holds a BA in Religion from Barnard College. Rabbanit Guy has also studied at the SKA Beit Midrash in Migdal Oz, and at the Drisha Institute in New York, where she also served as an educator in the collegiate summer beit midrash program. Rabbanit Guy is passionate about the study and teaching of Talmud to Jews of all backgrounds and stages of life, and how rabbinic texts can speak to all the nuances and experiences of our modern lives.