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An Important Note on Food and Kosher Observance

A life of Jewish spiritual engagement should examine every aspect of our lives: our work, our relationships, our prayer, how we teach our children, the social issues we care about, and everything else that is part of human experience. That certainly includes food. 

Eating can be a base, animal act; it can also elevate us if we approach it mindfully and in keeping with the Jewish spiritual tradition.

That tradition, through the Torah and the Talmud, specifies foods that are prohibited and permitted, and in which combinations. Most of us in the Har HaShem community did not grow up keeping strictly kosher. But very many of us did grow up with some level of kashrut observance and continue to live those choices today.

On the traditional end of kashrut, there are people who have separate dishes for milk and meat, and another set for Passover and who only eat kosher meat. There are people who have one set of dishes but don’t eat milk and meat together, though the meat may not be kosher. For others, just avoiding pork and shellfish is a legitimate expression of Reform Jewish kosher eating. Still others have added on to the concept of kosher by ensuring that the food they purchase must come sources that follow humane practices for treatment of animals and fair labor practices for workers.

In short, we are a diverse community with an array of Jewish observance. That makes the act of eating together – which is such a vital and important part of Jewish life – particularly tricky.  Out of respect for traditional Jewish spiritual practices relating to food, and out of recognition of the diverse practices within the Har HaShem community and the broader community, we ask that you respect kashrut in a broad sense when you are part of hosting or bringing food to a communal meal (whether a Shabbat dinner or a larger gathering). 

At a minimum this would mean not having dairy and meat foods together and not having trayf foods such as pork and shellfish. The simplest solution in these situations is probably to have a vegetarian meal.

Ultimately, the laws of kashrut are intended to help us sanctify our lives, and to elevate our awareness of our relationship to God through eating. There are many ways that this is done within the Jewish world and our goal should be to open our minds and our hearts to the broader Jewish world and diverse spiritual practices within our community.

If you would like to learn more about the meaning of kosher, please reach out to our clergy by phone or email, or click here.  

If you would like to say a traditional blessing before you eat bread, click here to listen to HaMotzi.