Kosher Part 2: Jewish Perspective

Photo credit: ntcrwler / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: ntcrwler / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

In both Israel and the diaspora in recent years, we are witnessing an ever-growing stringency in the application of the laws of kashrut regarding its ritualistic, technical aspects. It seems in many circles, there is less and less interest in the profound sense of kashrut – but more about the kosher certification, the intricate laws of microscopic bugs on the lettuce, and which Rabbi is more stringent than another.  It seems people are worried about dining together, not because of questions about kashrut, but because questions regarding hechsherim (kashrut certificates).  Is your synagogue kosher, I hear people ask.  What does that mean, I return.  Do we serve kosher meat?  Do we mix milk and meat?  Do we have a mashgiach on site?  Do we have two dishwashers?

Many seem to have forgotten that the original meaning of the term kasher is “apt” or “appropriate.” If we look around us, we must conclude that many of those engaged with matters of kashrut seem to have forgotten what kashrut means at its core. Still more and more Jews are pondering how we should treat our food and what our eating habits should be. The bigger questions between the lines of the torah text are:

  • What does it mean to eat kosher?
  • Can fast food that’s saturated with cholesterol be kosher?
  • Is food that’s manufactured by children in Third World countries kosher?
  • Is the flesh of animals raised in unimaginably bad conditions and cruelly slaughtered considered to be kosher?
  • Are TV dinners that are heated and served without care to children who stare impassively at screens kosher?
  • Can food eaten with anger and shame to compensate for all that is missing in life be kosher?
  • Is one Rabbi in Montreal more kosher than a Rabbi in Toronto?

Rabbi Marx writes that  the reason for being kosher,  “For I the Eternal am your God; you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). The demand to observe the way we live and take care of our bodies, should help us to sanctify ourselves. And the reason that we have to sanctify our lives is to strive to be like God, to have Godliness in our lives: “sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy.”

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