Is Keeping Kosher More than Just a Way of Eating?: To Eat or Not to Eat, that is the Question

I run down the supermarket aisles, desperately searching for something tasty enough to make my disgruntled stomach stop growling! I run past the vegetables, the frozen foods, then I turn the corner and VOILA!!! The CANDY section!!! I tear through the shelves till I find the largest, most mouth-watering candy bar of them all. I’m ready to gobble the chocolate bar up, wrapper and all, when it hits me. There’s no OU. My eyes read every tiny piece of information, searching every miniscule corner on the bar, but my search proves futile. There is no OU, it’s not kosher, and therefore I can’t eat it. Thus, I fail to appease my stomach which is growling so loud that other shoppers turn in amazement at the thunder that seems to be coming from me. I toss the candy bar that will never be able to kiss my lusting taste buds with its rich milk chocolate back to the shelf.

A mere three seconds after I do this blasphemous act, a boy in khakis and a North Face coat comes barreling down the aisle with the same hunger thunder erupting in his stomach. He comes to a total stop right next to me as a look of amazement covers his face, as he looks at a massive pile of sugar, chocolate, and thousands of calories. And sitting on top is the mother of all candy bars: the same candy bar that I had reluctantly tossed back into the pile moments before. But his drooling is interrupted as he notices me, a potential rival who might wish to contest his right to set his taste buds on fire. I answer his worried looks saying, “Don’t worry, you can have it.” He looks at me, puzzled that I would let a candy bar so amazing go without a fight. Then for some strange reason, maybe I was in shock from letting the mother of all candy bars slip from my fingers, I said, “I cannot chew something missing an OU.” The boy looks at me like I am a real loon, grabs the bar and runs off.

For a few moments, I looked down the aisle after the boy and the candy bar he is most likely enjoying this second. Then the moment passes and questions fill my head. How is that fair? If we’re the chosen people, then how come the non-Jews get to eat whatever they want and I can’t? I saw the OU as a limitation, a wall that blocked me from what I wanted. I felt like I was so different from everyone else in the supermarket. I didn’t understand why G-d made what to me seemed like a pointless law. These questions began to tear away at what I had learned at Yeshiva for so many years, and for a brief, wild second, I considered chasing after that boy and taking back the candy bar. The idea began to grow, but before my Yetzer Hara’s whispering could hypnotize me completely, logic joins the debate. “Well, studies have discovered that many of the foods prohibited by the Torah are actually very bad for you.” The Yetzer Hara begins to grow fainter, but is then reinforced by my stomach’s protests. It returns louder than ever an says, “Those studies aren’t universally accepted and besides, one chocolate bar won’t KILL ya, will it?” Logic shoots back, “Yes, but once you eat one non-Kosher candy bar you’ll say you want just one more, then another and another, till you will no longer be keeping Kosher.” But the Yetzer Hara whispered, “That won’t happen, you have enough control, it’s just one candy bar!”

It seemed for a second the Yetzer Hara might win when something inside me said, “Yes, but it’s not just about not eating things, it’s about being spiritually pure, to have control over yourself. If you can stop yourself from eating a non-Kosher candy bar, imagine what other Avairos you could stop yourself from doing!!” The Yetzer Hara’s voice grew smaller. “Kosher is a way of practicing not to give in to things. It’s a way to learn from a young age that certain things you can and some, you cannot do. Eating that candy bar would be like trying to smoke, JUST once—but you can anyway get addicted.” The Yetzer Hara had grown so small now I could barely hear it. “Don’t give in; don’t surrender to the Yetzer Hara!!!” Then with a shriek, the Yetzer Hara’s voice disappeared entirely. I began to leave the aisle when something fell from a shelf and hit me on the head. I looked down and couldn’t believe my eyes!!! It was a Kosher version of the candy bar!!! It was a little smaller, but more importantly it had an OU on it. I picked up the Kosher candy bar and walked towards the cashier. I didn’t even think about the larger non-Kosher candy bar. It wasn’t for me. I unwrapped the chocolate bar and said the bracha with more kavanah than ever. Then I took a massive bite out of the candy bar. It tasted good, but doing the mitzvah tasted even better.