Weekly Feature: “Frum … or Krum??” – Bug Checker Magnifying Lamp

Now it’s time for our weekly feature “Frum … or Krum??”, in which we debate whether something afoot in the Jewish world is worthy of our time and consideration (Frum) or just another indication that contemporary Orthodoxy is being hijacked by fools and crazies whose misshapen priorities will doom us and our children to despair and mediocrity for the foreseeable future (Krum). There can be no middle ground.

This Week’s Entry: “Bug Checker Magnifying Lamp – Cool Light”
(Perfect Solution to Tiny Bugs – Saves You from Eye Strain)

Discussion: You have the DVD, the book, the other book, the two-volume Hebrew set, the Yiddish Book, the XL Light Board (for the really big bugs), and the special Kosher vegetable spray. But you still feel insecure, and you worry that something is still getting in. And you’re right to worry, because you’re constantly being bombarded with rhetorical questions like the one I was asked in the email about this amazing new product: “Did you know that the Fresh Produce we enjoy daily and take for granted as Kosher – may not be Kosher?” And even though that was the question that convinced you to buy the last seven products taking up valuable counter-space, you are thinking about going for it again, in the belief that you will finally get those pesky bugs once and for all.

And you are right to not want to rely on the significant post-facto leniencies provided in Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah, 100:13-18), because even he lays out very specific guidelines for removing bugs (Y.D. 84-85). That’s why you got all those products in the first place – you’d like to rely on the many authorities who are concerned about this issue. You are not the type to shop around for Kulot, and why should you be?

This product, however, goes further than the products before it, because this one does not merely remove bugs (like the spray) or show you bugs that are really there but hidden (like the light board). This product actually magnifies otherwise-invisible bugs which, without this product, would not be visible to you at all. Is that necessary?

Actually, no. While the Aruch Hashulchan (in Siman 100) does provide post-facto leniencies regarding these issues, he is not being lenient when, among the stricter Halachot in Siman 84, he reminds us that anything smaller than the naked eye is considered invisible, even if it can be seen through a microscope:

ערוך השלחן יורה דעה סימן פד סעיף לו
יש מי שכתב בשם חכמי הטבע, דהמסתכל בזכוכית המגדלת, שקורין ספאקטיוו”א, יראה בחומץ מלא תולעים. והנה, בחומץ, אין חשש, כמו שנתבאר, דהתולעים המתהוים בתלוש התירה התורה.
אמנם שמעתי שבכל מיני מים, וביחוד במי גשמים, מלא ברואים דקים שאין העין יכולה לראותם.
ובילדותי שמעתי מפי אחד שהיה במרחקים, וראה דרך זכוכית המגדלת עד מאד, כרבבות פעמים במים כל המיני ברואים, ולפי זה, איך אנו שותים מים, שהרי אלו הברואים נתהוו במקורם?
אמנם האמת הוא, דלא אסרה תורה במה שאין העין שולטת בו, דלא ניתנה תורה למלאכים.

דאם לא כן, הרי כמה מהחוקרים כתבו שגם כל האויר הוא מלא ברואים דקים מן הדקים, וכשהאדם פותח פיו, בולע כמה מהם!
אלא, ודאי, ד”הבל יפצה פיהם,” ואף אם כן הוא, כיון שאין העין שולט בהם, לאו כלום הוא.
אמנם, כמה שהעין יכול לראות, אפילו נגד השמש, ואפילו דק מן הדק, הוה שרץ גמור:

Prof. Daniel Sperber, at the end of this article, discusses that Aruch Hashulchan and also brings numerous other reliable Poskim, from the Tiferet Yisrael to Rav Ovadiah Yosef, who ruled similarly to the Aruch Hashulchan on this issue and did not consider anything smaller than could be seen with the naked eye to be legally “visible.” As Prof. Sperber points out, this issue is similarly relevant for checking Etrogim for blemishes before Sukkot.

Verdict: Krum. As Sperber notes, we have here a double-edged sword, as the Tiferet Yisrael was worried that if we are to consider microscopic things “visible,” one could then be lenient and eat a fish whose scales are only visible under a microscope. Ironically, the proprietors of this new product are making that leniency a theoretical possibility.* Also, an issue Rav Moshe dealt with late in his life – why earlier generations were rarely known to check as carefully for bugs – is magnified (sorry) by the fact that this “new” product was more or less available to those earlier generations anyway, unlike sprays or light boards (or DVD’s) which they could not have been expected to have used.

For these reasons, this product, while masquerading as Frum, is really shelo b’ratzon Chachamim and is likely to cause us more harm than good. True Yirei Shamayim will find more valuable things to spend their money on.

Disagree? Have a reason why you feel this is a valuable product? Please share your thoughts in the comments sections below.

* Also consider the following converse example: One of the three reasons given in Gemara Sukkah 2a for the Sukkah’s maximum height of 20 Amot is that above that level, לא שלטא בה עינא – the eye cannot easily discern the Schach at the top of the Sukkah. Nowadays, however, we can see distant planets with a telescope! Even a 1000-Amah Sukkah would be visible through a telescope, or by using a camera with a zoom function. By allowing that things visible only through artificial means be considered Halachically “visible,” we could create the possibility that even very high Sukkot are acceptable.

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