The Kosher Kitchen


Keeping Kosher

If you would like to learn more about kashruth, we can instruct you. If you decide to keep kosher, we can send someone to help you in the process of ‘kashering’ your kitchen.

What is Kosher?

The Hebrew word kosher means "fit." The kosher laws define the foods that are fit for consumption for a Jew. The kosher laws were commanded by G‑d to the Children of Israel in the Sinai desert. Moses taught them to the people and wrote the basics of these laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14; the details and particulars were handed down through the generations and eventually written down in the Mishnah and Talmud. To these were added various ordinances enacted through the generations by the rabbinical authorities as "safeguards" for the biblical laws.

Why keep Kosher?

Throughout our 4000-year history, the observance of kosher has been a hallmark of Jewish identity. Perhaps more than any other "mitzvah," the kosher laws emphasize that Judaism is much more than a "religion" in the conventional sense of the word. To the Jew, holiness is not confined to holy places and times outside the everyday; rather, life in its totality is a sacred endeavor. Even the seemingly mundane activity of eating is a G‑dly act and a uniquely Jewish experience.

Keeping kosher is a mitzvah, a divine "commandment" and "connection." We eat kosher because G‑d commanded us to, and by fulfilling the divine we connect to G‑d.

Our sages also point out the various advantages of the kosher laws: the health benefits, the humane treatment of animals, their unifying effect on a dispersed people, and their role as shield against assimilation. Nachmanides, the great 12th century sage and kabbalist, points out that "the birds and many of the mammals forbidden by the Torah are predators, while the permitted animals are not; we are instructed not to eat those animals, so that we should not absorb these qualities into ourselves." Kashrut can thus be seen as "spiritual nutrition": just as there are foods that are good for the body and foods that are harmful, there are foods that nourish the Jewish soul and foods that adversely affect it.

None of the above, however, are "reasons" we keep kosher. Rather, the reverse is true: because it was commanded by the Creator of our bodies and our souls, the kosher way of life will obviously be beneficial to both.