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FIVE GOOD REASONS TO KEEP KOSHER As you read, circle at least FIVE words that are unfamiliar to you. Then, go to “rewordify.com” and put the passage into the text box. Use this tool to then “define” these words on a separate sheet of paper. In this day and age, most Jews do not keep kosher. Why not? Is it because we are more knowledgeable than our forbearers of the past 3,000 years? Do we know what they knew, weighed the information and concluded that keeping kosher is out? Or was it a slide away from observance over the years and over the generations due to getting along in a modern world? I am betting that 99 percent will answer (truthfully) that it's the latter case. We don't know what our ancestors knew, and we are comfortable doing what we are doing. What could possibly motivate us to keep kosher? Well, if we really knew that there is a God who gave us the Torah and that we have a covenant with Him to keep the Torah -- it would probably motivate some people. Then again, I can hear the response -- "What? You want me to buy new dishes, pots and pans... and two sets? Are you nuts? Do you realize how difficult it would be to keep kosher? The changes to my kitchen and to my lifestyle?" Everything in life has a cost. The only question is if one believes that the payoff is worth the investment. A person is going to do what a person believes is in his/her best interest. What if keeping kosher would help ensure that your children marry someone Jewish and that you would have Jewish grandchildren? Would that be a motivation? What if it were healthier, enhanced your spirituality, increased personal discipline, and inculcated moral values? Would that intrigue you to look further? Perhaps the following understandings of keeping kosher will be food for thought: 1) Hygienic: There are many laws that promote health. Judaism forbids eating animals that died without proper slaughter and the draining of the blood (which is a medium for the growth of bacteria). Judaism also forbids eating animals that have abscesses in their lungs or other health problems. Shellfish, mollusks, lobsters (and yes, stone crabs) which have spread typhoid and are a source for urticara (hives) are not on the diet. Milk and meat digest at an unequal rate and are difficult for the body; they are forbidden to be eaten together. Birds of prey are not kosher -- tension and hormones produced might make the meat unhealthy. 2) Moral Lessons: We are taught to be sensitive to others' feelings -- even to the feelings of animals. A mother and her young are forbidden to be slaughtered on the same day, and of course "don't boil a kid (goat) in its mother's milk." The Torah prohibits cruelty to animals. We must not remove the limb of an animal while it is still alive (a common practice, prior to refrigeration). When we slaughter an animal, it must be done with the least possible pain; there is a special knife that is so sharp that even the slightest nick in the blade renders it impermissible. This prevents pain to the animal. And we are reminded not to be vicious, by the prohibition to eat vicious birds of prey. 3) National Reasons -- The Jewish people have a mission of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. A special diet reminds us of our mission and keeps us together as a people to fulfill it. (Intermarriage is kind of hard when you have to take your non-Jewish date to a kosher restaurant, or if you go to a prospective mother-in-law's home and you won't eat her food...) Keeping kosher is also a reminder of gratitude to the Almighty for taking the Jewish people out of Egypt, and a symbol of the holy covenant. (see Leviticus 11:45-47) 4) Mystical -- The Torah calls the Jews a "holy people" and prescribes a holy diet (see Deut. 14:2-4). You are what you eat. Kosher is God's diet for spirituality. Jewish mysticism teaches that non-kosher food blocks the spiritual potential of the soul. Kosher animals properly slaughtered and prepared have more "sparks of holiness" (according to the Kabbalah) which are incorporated in our being. 5) Discipline -- If a person can be disciplined in what and when he eats, it follows that he can be disciplined in other areas of life as well. Kashrut requires that one must wait after eating meat before eating milk products and we may not eat certain animals or combinations of foods. (Even when you're hungry!) All of this instills self-discipline. REFLECTION QUESTIONS: 1) Who is the author’s audience? What is he trying to accomplish by writing this article? 2) What do you think so few Jewish people still follow a “kosher” diet? 3) Which reason(s) for following kosher mentioned above do you think are most convincing? Why?