Excerpted from OU MANUAL for Checking Fruits & Vegetables, Click here to buy the book
After delineating the various forbidden שרצים—vermin, the Torah makes clear that adherence to this stringency preserves the קדשוה of the Jewish people. Our spiritual¬ity and our nobility seem to be predicated upon refraining from their consumption. ‘‘For I am Hashem who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, and you shall be holy as I am Holy’’ (ויקרא י"א ,מ"ה) . Rashi cites תורת כהנים where the term ‘‘who brought you up from the land of Egypt’’ is analyzed. So often in the Torah Hashem speaks of having brought us out of Egypt. Why with regard to forbidden שרצים does the Torah deviate from its usual phraseology? Based upon this inference, the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught the following lesson: ‘‘Says Hashem, ‘Had I brought the Jewish people up from Egypt for no other reason than that they should not defile themselves by eating שרצים as the other nations do, that would have been reason enough.’ ’’ In other words, by virtue of this mitzva the Jewish people have been raised to a unique status. Therefore the terminology, ‘‘Hashem, who brought you up’’ is used.
It is well known that the consumption of a single שרץ can be a violation of as many as six לאוין . As noted above, the consumption of a שרץ can also have a detrimental effect on a person, diminishing his or her spirituality.
What is a שרץ?
A terrestrial שרץ is defined as any living creature that is visible to the naked eye yet so small that its legs cannot be seen moving when it runs. When a mouse runs across the floor, one typically cannot make out its features well enough to recognize mov¬ing appendages, as would be the case with a dog or cat. Rather, it slithers—שורץ; the entire creature seems to move in unison. Though mammalian שרצים do not pose a threat to the salad-eating public, תולעים—insects and worms—do and often cling to the vegetables we eat.
In this guide, we will point out the most frequently used vegetables that require special preparation.
Method for checking Lettuce, Open Leaf:
1. Cut off the lettuce base and separate the leaves from one another.
2. Soak leaves in a solution of cold water and vegetable wash. The proper amount of vegetable wash has been added when some bubbles are observed in the water. (In the absence of vegetable wash, several drops of concentrated non-scented liquid detergent may be used. However, for health reasons, care must be taken to thoroughly rinse off the soapy solution.)
3. Agitate lettuce leaves in the soapy solution.
4. Spread each leaf, taking care to expose all its curls and crevices. Using a powerful stream of water or a power hose, remove all foreign matter and soap from both sides of each leaf. Alternatively, a vegetable brush may be used on both sides of the leaf.
5. Leaves should be checked over a light box or under strong overhead lighting to verify that the washing procedure has been effective. Pay careful attention to the folds and crevices in the leaf where insects have been known to hold tightly through several washings. Check both sides of each leaf.
6. In a commercial setting, a vegetable spinner is recommended. (The advantages of spin-drying are: (1) you will not risk an electrical shock when placing the leaves on the light box; and (2) the leaves will stay fresh and moist for a longer period of time.)
7. Three heads or handfuls of leaves from different areas of the bin should be checked over a light box or under direct light. Our experience has shown that if the leaves are washed properly, no insects will be found.