Daniel E. Danesh, Brooklyn, NY: Yeshiva Ateret Torah, Grade 12

Dear Josh,

It’s been close to two months since we’ve graduated high school and I’m not ashamed to admit but I’ve been thinking about you. The summer has drawn to a close and I will soon fly to Israel to further my Jewish studies, but before I do, I must write to you a letter which in my eyes is a sacred obligation.

Approximately one week ago we began helping the campers pack their luggage for their trip back home. As I was helping them, I noticed Steven, a twelve-year-old boy whom I had grown close to over the summer. He grew up in a broken home in Southern California and was just recently introduced to his religion. I saw him looking distraught and went over to talk to him. When I asked him why he looked so sad, he looked me straight in the eye and said “Rob, I don’t want to go home.” When I asked him why, he explained to me that money was tight in his single parent home and as a result he and his little sister would have to accept food from the local soup kitchen which obviously wasn’t kosher. As I studied the young boy who had come to have more of an effect on my life than I had on his, I suddenly realized how fortunate I was to be able to walk into any supermarket and find more kosher food than non-kosher. I suddenly realized how the food we take for granted may not be always available to everyone. It suddenly dawned on me that it is a privilege to be able to keep kosher.

Josh, I know you’re probably thinking that I’m trying to brainwash you or whatever you call it. But do me a favor and just read what I have to say. Keeping kosher is not just a commandment that we have been commanded to keep, it is not a burden that has been throw up on us; it is something much greater, it is a privilege that we have been graciously granted. Keeping kosher and in general being observant Jews means that you’re part of something much bigger. Much bigger than you can ever imagine. Kosher is not a matter of health, which on an elementary level we are forced to say that kosher food is healthier. But all physicality aside, kosher food undoubtedly makes you kosher. The Rambam once chastised a certain congregation for their questions on faith by telling them that their questions stemmed from eating non-kosher food. Non-kosher food can warp your mind. It can disrupt your spiritual health. Josh, you’re probably asking, “What do I care about spirituality?” But everyone knows that one day he or she will eventually be lowered into the ground. Many of us don’t think about death until it actually hovers on the horizon. At that time we just hope that we basically did the right thing in those areas. The sages used to say and the philosophers agree, “Life is but a fleeting shadow”. It’s all going to come to an end one day anyway. Josh, I know this doesn’t sound much coming from a guy like me but it would be foolish to rationalize your way into such suicidal folly. Just think of all those holy martyrs who refused to eat non-kosher and instead gave up their lives. Think of how many hardships the Jews of seventy years ago had to face just to get kosher food. They didn’t give up, Josh. They could have, but they didn’t. By virtue of the fact that you’re a Jew means that you’re to buck the tide. It means that you have the inherent power within you to say no when there’s a lot at stake. And believe me Josh there’s a lot at stake. Even if you refrain from lobster and ham, you’re still a long way off.

Josh, it’s getting late and I have to start packing for my flight but I’d just like to leave you off with the following e-mail that one of my friends received. It’s from a father whose son is in critical condition, “I guess there’s not much more to say” he concluded “except that we’re not giving up, because you never give up on the most precious things you have.” A most profound statement. A powerful concept. Josh, the most important asset you have is your soul. After sixty or seventy years, that’s all you’re left with. You cannot give up on your soul. It’s eternal. Josh, I don’t know when we’ll meet again. It may not be in this lifetime, but when we do meet, I hope that you will have taken these words to heart.

Your friend,

OU Kosher Staff