Kosher: More than Just a Way of Eating?

To me, keeping kosher is an extremely important thing and one of the meanings of being Jewish. Kosher defines who we are, and connects us to our Judaism. Even though it may seem like food is a trivial matter, it epitomizes the extreme detail that is in every aspect of our Jewish lives. Kosher is a spiritual diet, commanded straight from Hashem. Kabbalah says that non-kosher food blocks spirituality from our neshama.

Kosher not only connects us to Hashem, but it teaches us moral behavior as well. An example of that is found in the way we schecht our animals. We schecht them with an extremely sharp knife, to make sure that they will die immediately and won’t suffer at all. Another very important example is not eating milk and meat, not eating meat together in its mother’s milk. We are also prohibited from taking an animal’s limb while it is still alive. Vicious birds of prey can’t be eaten; this reminds us not to be vicious. Although not everyone realizes it, we also benefit from kosher in health matters. We can’t eat animals that have not had their blood properly drained, because it is a cause of bacteria. We also can’t eat shellfish, mollusks, or lobsters, which can spread typhoid and are a source of a skin disease. We also can’t eat birds of prey, which produce hormones that make them unhealthy to eat. Lettuce that doesn’t have a hechsher often has bugs, which are non-kosher and not very appetizing!

When we keep kosher, it separates us from the rest of the world and makes us unique and true to the name “chosen nation.” We are different from everyone else, and it is important to keep it that way through everything we do, including food.

Kosher is something that seems totally normal to us, but to the rest of the world it’s utterly puzzling. My father tells me countless stories of when he is on business trips and is served kosher food. Curious questions always arise, making him stand out and showing people a part of what being Jewish means. There are so many halachot regarding kosher, so that we’ll pay close attention to it and learn discipline in kosher, and in other places in life as well. We must wait six hours between meat and milk, which also instills discipline. Kosher reminds us of our creator, Hashem, who is the one that supervises and sustains our world. We have a mission of Tikkun Olam, and kosher, our special diet, reminds us that. Kosher also prevents assimilation, because children who grow up in a completely kosher home will not likely want to marry someone who doesn’t have a kosher kitchen or is not Jewish.

I also read about an interesting lesson we learn about pigs and kosher. We know that while pigs have split hooves, one of the signs of kosher, they don’t chew their cud, making them traif. But from the outside, their split hooves would indicate that they were kosher, teaching us to judge from the inside and outside, not just one or the other.

Kosher is also a test; for some people it might not be so easy and will test their belief in Hashem and whether kosher is something that’s really important to them. If you keep a kosher kitchen, you need two sets of dishes, glasses, and silverware for meat and milk. You need two sides in your kitchen: one for meat and another for milk. You can’t wash meat dishes in a milk dishwasher. All of these things can be a hassle, but they are important to complete our Jewish lives.

When I was writing this essay, I truly came to see why kosher is more than just a way of eating. Before, I simply thought of it as something we do because we are commanded to by Hashem. For most frum Jews, keeping kosher isn’t that hard- there are kosher supermarkets, imitations of every kind of non-kosher food you could possibly want, and kosher food is nearly everywhere. But it’s not just about that.

As I read about kosher and thought about it deeply, I clearly saw why kosher is so important. It purifies our soul and it connects us to our Creator and Master, Hashem. It teaches us how to act simply by commanding which animals we can’t eat, and how to kill animals. It shows us how lucky we are to be Jewish. We have a sense of morality, and we think about other people, and lesser beings than ourselves: the animals. Kosher is truly one of the essences of being Jewish. It’s important to remember that wherever you are not to compromise anything for kosher. It is one of the most important things we, the Jewish people, have and we must hold on to it.

OU Kosher Staff