A Sideways Look at Kashrut

Kashrut is in the news again. First is the news item from the State of Florida and its prison system. The state wants to cut its kosher food program in the state prisons because too many inmates are requesting the kosher meals. The meals cost up to three times as much as the regular meals in the prisons and apparently taste much better.
The second item is a false rumor circulating around the Department of Defense. The DoD issues kosher MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat) for any observant Jews (or Muslims) in the Armed Forces. These MREs do not taste better than the regular MREs according to those in the know. The DoD is not cancelling kosher MREs.
This month we are making our way through the Book of Leviticus where one finds the original sources for kashut. In fact, one of our Bar Mitzvah students will preach on the subject in the coming weeks. The Levitical theme of kashrut was that food could transform the human body into a temple vessel, a tool for worshiping God.
In our day, ideas about food have gone through a series of revolutions. Food can be entertainment. Food is the science of nutrition. Food is fundamental to health throughout one’s life. Food is curative, in mind, body, and spirit. Food causes disease. Food can be transformed into “frankenfood”. We have new terms like “locavore” and “foodie” while recipes for Pesach or Hanukkah have been eclipsed by a billion wings served on Superbowl Sunday and chocolate everything on Valentines.
The core teaching of Kashrut is that food can be a meaningful human experience. In our day we have many imitators of this lesson. These imitators leave us fat and bloated, insatiate and unhappy with the choices we have made. If you feel any or all of these symptoms, then it is time to follow the age-old customs of our distant ancestors: open the pantry and make some significant decisions about the foodstuffs you are going to choose to eat.

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