A true-life story of present day Mesiras Nefesh for Kashrus
By Rabbi Yitzchok Gallor, RFR, Seattle, Washington
On the night of Rosh HaShanah, as you walk home from Shul with your precious children by your side, you reflect upon the tranquility of Yom Tov. You imagine with great anticipation the scene at your home…the L’Shana Tova greetings…the fragrance of all your favorite foods…the shimmering of the array of silver and flame in honor of one of the most awe inspiring days of the year. You can’t envision someone without this experience in their life!
But in a factory, in a small town in eastern Washington State, there is another experience, another scene. After davening by yourself, you walk from one side of a little room, where a crock pot and a hot plate are stationed, to the other side of the room. There are no children by your side; no one to say “Gut Yom Tov” to, no greetings from your wife. You sit down to a desk set with one place setting of your best paper plates. You too imagine. You imagine what it will be like to blow shofar by yourself…not to hear the Torah being read and what you are going to do for three days, for this year Shabbos follows Rosh Hashanah. The only thought that comforts you at this moment is that your associate ten miles down the road is in the same situation. This scene is replayed over and over again on Yom Kippur, Sukkos and Simchas Torah. I can’t convey to you in words what it’s like to sit alone in a sukkah in a factory parking lot, as the diesel exhaust drifts in because the train is parked right outside and the engine is idling for four days.
“Why?” you ask. Who would commit to such a thing? What could be so urgent it can’t wait until after Yom Tov? The answer is THE GRAPE HARVEST!! The concord grapes are usually ready to be harvested by September 15. The harvest continues throughout October. The processing plants process 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, until the last grape is squeezed, filtered and concentrated; the Mashgichim have to be on site. Neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night changes this. Families usually can’t be with their fathers because either the factory is too far, they can’t afford to bring the whole family or there aren’t adequate accomodations.
But it was different for Rabbi Eliezer Shernofsky that year. Living close by in Seattle, his family drove in to be together for Rosh HaShanah. Accommodations were made, food was prepared, and silver and flame were placed. Instead of chlorine, the delicious aroma of the Yom Tov meal, beautifully prepared by his wife, wafted into the processing room to entice one and all with the holy smells. Yom Tov was beautiful that Rosh HaShanah night. Song and joy filled the factory… but at Tekias Shofar it was a different story…
At the factories which produce OU certified grape juice in Washington State, there is a very important piece of equipment. It is called “THE RABBI DIVERT”. The function of “The Rabbi Divert” is the following: when the grape “must” is boiled in the heat exchanger, valves permit the flow of the “must” from the heat exchanger to the next stage which is the mash tank (enzyme reaction tank). In the brisk mornings when the grapes are cold, the temperature of the juice in the heat exchanger will go below the temperature required to make the grape juice mehvushal. That’s when “The Rabbi Divert” goes into action. The divert valves will automatically divert the juice from going forward in the process and will recirculate the juice until the juice reaches the correct temperature. Then, and only then, will “The Rabbi Divert” allow the juice to continue as before. The recording chart automatically records all temperatures and value actions.
When we daven, we do so toward Yerushalayim and the Mokom HaMikdash. However, when “The Rabbi Divert” computer broke that Rosh HaShanah morning, Rabbi Shernofsky was compelled to daven facing “The Rabbi Divert” chart controls. He blew shofar toward the heat exchanger and in shmoneh esrei bowed toward the divert valves.
Maybe he would dare to slip out for a moment. After all, his family was eating their seudah in an adjacent room. NO! Maybe the temperature would go down the instant he left… But there was no one to see him leave and probably the temperature would not go down… NO! The Ribbono Shel Olam would know. Everyone, as well, who would drink this tainted juice chas vesholom would, after 120, demand an explanation from him as to why they couldn’t attain a higher madragah in shamayim because they unknowingly drank that juice… NO! Rabbi Shernofsky had no doubts. He was prepared to remain at his post and do whatever it took for the sake of KASHRUS. He kept his eyes fixed on the chart for 8 hours!
He did it because you need him. He did it because you trust him. He did it so you could sit down with your family and friends and confidently proclaim BARUCH ATO HASHEM ELOKANU MELECH HAOLAM BORAI PRE HAGEFEN.
The amazing thing is that this story is not so unique. These stories of unsung heroes are common among Mashgichim. So, next time you are at your Yom Tov table or enjoying a hearty cholent at the shul kiddush, give the Mashgichim a little wink.
*RFR stands for Rabbinic Field Representative = Mashgiach