Wednesday, April 3, 2013


LEVITICUS 9:1-11:47

Kashrut After Refrigerators

Jewish dietary practices allow us to welcome the sacred into our daily lives and into mundane acts. Without attempting to justify the elaborate Jewish dietary laws, the Torah provides a lengthy list of which foods are kosher and which are not.

Animals with cloven hooves and which chew their cuds are kosher. Fish with fins and scales are kosher. Birds which eat grain and vegetables, and which can fly, are kosher. Insects, shellfish and reptiles are not.

Since the earliest stages of our history, Jews have understood the patterns of kashrut (the dietary laws) to be at the very center of our heritage. Jews have sacrificed their lives rather than desecrate themselves with 'treif' (non-kosher) food. From the biblical and into the rabbinical period, new guidelines and restrictions developed as Jews encountered different cuisines and aesthetic standards, yet the core of kashrut has remained unchanged over the millennia. Some of our most stirring stories of Jewish martyrdom--of Jews who preferred to lay down their lives rather than abandon their Judaism--center around the laws of kashrut.

Thus, as early as the time of the Maccabees (167 B.C.E.), we have stories of Jews forced to eat pork by the Syrian oppressors. In those stirring tales, the Jews chose to die with their integrity intact, to expire still obedient to the dictates of God and Torah. They could not conceive of a Judaism without kashrut, so central were the dietary laws to the entire rhythm of Jewish living.

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