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Transcript
Alan Karam
World Religion
Shannon Atkinson
October 3, 2012
Kosher Law
What are the significance of the kosher law Kashrut and Kosher foods and products
within Judaism? What is the reasoning behind the kosher law? Does the Torah have a better
explanation? The Kosher cleanliness is far more than just the slaughtering of the animal. It is
beyond and above other things within Judaism. Anywhere from plain dairy to meat and to the
dishwasher must be carefully inspected.
The purpose of this paper is to relate the kosher law to my experience at the Kol Ami
synagogue in Salt Lake City, Utah. On September 22, 2012, I arrived at the Kol Ami to decipher
some of the questions and other elements of the kosher law. I arrived about 8:30 AM, their
Sabbath prayer services started at 9:00 AM. The wide doors of the entrance were open even this
early, but there were no one inside as of yet. There were shelves of prayer books by the door for
guests so, I picked up one. Their prayer services were held in the main sanctuary. There, Rabbi
Ilana Schwartzman greeted me warmly and shook my hand and welcomed me into the large
prayer room. There were many chairs in the room and a podium. Behind the podium was the
Ark; where the Torah is kept behind closed doors. Ilana Schwartzman started to welcome all the
guests this morning and asked if we could all rise while she read a Psalm from her prayer book.
And, Sabbath started.
I was hesitant whether to stay for the whole prayer time or just leave, but I really wanted
to speak with Rabbi Schwartzman and ask my questions. So I decided to stay. I mingled with the
rest of the people there. I sat often and rose as many times according to the Rabbi.
The service ended at 12:00 PM, it was an interesting service. I enjoyed it very much.
As Ilana Schwartzman stepped down from the podium, she noticed that I had stayed the whole
time. "You managed to stay the entire time. Guests are usually in and out while the service is in
session."
"I have a few questions for you when you're free"
"Why don't we go eat a little and join the rest?" she asked.
As we walked over to the tables decorated with cakes, muffins, fruits and another table with
alcoholic beverages; I started with my questions for Rabbi Schwartzman.
What is Kosher?
"Proper or fit" Ilana said.
The Kosher products must conform to the Jewish law Kashrut. When animals are slaughtered,
there are a few things that must be done in order for its purity. Ritual slaughter is known as
shechitah, and the person who performs the slaughter is called a shochet (Jewfaq.org). It
emphasizes the fastest way possible when slashing the animal's throat. This will be pain free and
the animal will be unconscious within a couple of seconds. The next important thing is to drain
the blood rapidly. The Torah explains that no blood to be consumed as the soul of the animal is
contained in the blood. But this does not apply to fish and the Jewish law does not specify either.
All shellfish, such as clams, oysters, crab, lobster, and shrimp are not kosher. All sea mammals,
such as dolphins, whales, and seals are also not kosher. Swine is not prohibited by the Jewish
law; conservative, reform, Orthodox, or liberals.
Eggs from kosher birds are kosher; they are also considered pareve (neutral). Turkey,
chicken, duck, goose and dove are all Kosher. Eggs containing blood in the white may be used, if
the blood can be removed, but the egg must be discarded if any blood is found on the yolk. When
eating an egg, one of the best practices is to examine it for any blood or traces of blood. And the
Kosher way is to crack the egg into a glass cup before cooking it. This way you will be able to
see if there's any blood in the egg. Very often it isn't easy to see the blood and when you mix it in
the pan it dissolves quickly. The Kashrut heavily restricts the consuming of blood.
Meat and dairy must be separated according to the kosher law. The reason behind this is
that evidence shows that indigestion occurs when the two foods are eaten together. This
separation includes not only the foods themselves, but the utensils, pots and pans with which
they are cooked, the plates and flatware from which they are eaten, the dishwashers or dishpans
in which they are cleaned, and the towels on which they are dried. A kosher household will have
at least two sets of pots, pans and dishes: one for meat and one for dairy. And that dairy tends to
stick to the mouth. Rabbi Schwartzman’s view is, to separate the two by six hours. In addition to
separate sets of dishes and utensils for meat and dairy, observant households keep an additional
set of everything to be used only at Passover.
All fruits and vegetables are Kosher; however, if bugs or other insects hide in it then it
isn't kosher. Especially the leafy vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli can be problematic and
must be diligently inspected before consuming. Grape-products can also be a problem only if it is
prepared by non-Jews. This does not mean whole grapes, which are fine, but only products that
are processed. There are certain requirements within the grape products which need a valid
certification showing the validity of the kosher law. However, a “K” alone does not validate the
product because anyone can put a “K” on any product to make it Kosher. The letter “K” is not a
trademark, henceforth it is not to be used. But the letters, “OU” are valid along with Star-K
which are trademarks and are prepared by Jews.
Even the utensils used at home need to be kept separate or better still, having two sets of
pots and pans. One set can be used for dairy such as warming up milk and the other set for meat
products. The only concern here is that when you cook meat using a pan, then that pan will have
meat residue which will transmit when warming up milk or other dairy items. This is why most
restaurants are not kosher for the Jewish people. The chef could be cooking up pork lions and
with the same pan cooking up beef steaks. So the Jewish people are very strict, especially those
who follow the Kosher regulations where to dine and eat. When using the dishwasher, one must
separate the cycle of loads. For example, if meat was served then only wash those dishes and
pans and wait until the load is done then wash the dairy cups and dishes.
Kosher foods can be Kosher year round except for the Passover holiday. As Rabbi Ilana
Schwartzman explains, "A bagel, for example, can be kosher for year-round use but is certainly
not kosher for Passover." That means that when buying foods from the stores, it is imperative to
look for the signs like; Star-K, “OU” including a “P” for Passover. Only products with the letter
P can be eaten during the eight days of Passover. And the labels should specify that clearly.
Alcoholic beverages are Kosher if labeled properly.
"So, alcohol is not prohibited within Judaism?" I asked Rabbi Schwartzman.
"No. Alcoholic beverages let us savor the moment, especially wine when reciting rituals
like Kiddush during Shabbat prayers." There can be anything from wine, beers, and or whiskey
the Jewish people can happily drink while savoring the moment with other fellows at the table.
How difficult is it to be a Kosher? Well, that all depends on how well one can keep it up.
All you need is good judgment when buying foods at the stores. According to the 2000 National
Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), 21% of American Jews report that they keep kosher in the
home. This includes the vast majority of people who identify themselves as Orthodox, as well as
many Conservative and Reconstructionist Jews and some Reform Jews (Jewfaq.com)
I have covered many elements of the kosher law and some of its root details. It is a fascinating
religion because of its many aspects. Not eating dairy and meat won't cause any indigestion.
Jews observe these laws only because the Torah says so. There's not a palpable explanation as to
why observe these laws, however, modern Jews think that the laws of Kashrut are simply
primitive health regulations.