Friday, April 14, 2023

Why Keep Kosher

Hey Rabbi, I'm in Trader Joe's, and I see they just got this new cool organic seaweed product, and it's all the rage on Twitter. The only thing is that it has a Hechsher that appears to be the Vaad of the Mariana Islands. I researched it online, and there is a mixed review on the acceptability of the symbol. Please advise.  This question is (more or less) a fairly common one that I receive at least weekly. Gone are the days when kosher certification meant looking at several Manischewitz products in the local supermarket aisle. The OU (Orthodox Union) Kosher itself is the world's largest and most widely recognized kosher certifying agency, with over 1,261,754 products produced in more than 3,000 plants located in 103 countries around the world. That is just one kosher certifying agency in the world! There are dozens of agencies all over the world, including our very own Gesher K agency based in Jacksonville. One can now find a gourmet kosher meal on par with any cuisine in any space, from the Whitehouse to the most elegant restaurant and cruiseliner. The prominent publication of The Wine Spectator routinely lists Israeli (kosher) wine as some of the top 100 wines in the world! As the kosher industry continues to advance more than ever, it's important to pause and reflect on the true nature of the reason to adhere to Kosher dietary observances.  This week's Parsha provides an insight into this fundamental aspect of observant Jewish life.  כִּ֣י ׀ אֲנִ֣י ה' הַֽמַּעֲלֶ֤ה אֶתְכֶם֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם לִהְיֹ֥ת לָכֶ֖ם לֵאלֹהִ֑ים וִהְיִיתֶ֣ם קְדֹשִׁ֔ים כִּ֥י קָד֖וֹשׁ אָֽנִי׃  For I am Hashem, the One who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God: you shall be holy, for I am holy. In essence, the reason to maintain a Kosher diet is for us to retain our holy spirit within us. As the Rabbis explain, just as foods have physical properties, they also have spiritual properties. The physical properties can be viewed in a lab: calories, fat, carbs, etc. The spiritual properties cannot be viewed in a lab but are nonetheless present. The spiritual properties that are productive and conducive to spiritual growth are referred to in the Torah as "Tahor." The spiritual properties that are corrosive and toxic to our spiritual growth are referred to as tamei or impure. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes in his famed Mesilas Yesharim the consequences of not adhering to kosher dietary laws: "The forbidden foods bring spiritual contamination in a person's heart and soul so that the holiness of G-d, blessed be He, departs and withdraws from him".  The next time you are strolling down the aisle in your local grocery store and you out a product with a kosher symbol in the cart, you are not just doing a mitzvah. Instead, you declare within yourself a desire to be holy. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thoughts on Shavuos

As we celebrate the holiday of Shavuos, it is worth reflecting on the significance of this date and its impact on the Jewish People in parti...