Lesson II - Law is regulation of meat, but...
III. Law is regulation of meat, but...
laws only apply to items considered food. The ability to eat non-food
laws do not apply to them might seem crazy, but it should be pointed
out that many of our additives are derived from sources which we do
not consider food. The
comes up with many criteria on what is a food. One of the first line
tests is whether a dog would eat it. If a dog would not eat it is not
considered a food (Those of us who own dogs and see what they will eat
recognize this as a good minimum test.)
As stated in the last lesson,
is the regulation of eating meat. Almost all
laws put restrictions on eating meat in one form or another.
Remembering this might help in practice of certain laws. I can only
think of four rules that apply to non-meat products, all of which are
rabbinic in origin.
There are five areas of practice that affect the food. These are :
- Grapes (particularly grape juice products) - Because of the long
standing practice to grow grapes (particularly wine) for idolatry, the
Rabbis prohibited the eating of grape and grape products if they were
grown by an unsupervised non-Jew. Grape juice must not be in the
possession of a non-Jew unsupervised unless it is made unfit for
idolatry by boiling (Thus most
wine is quick boiled to allow non-Jewish middle-men to handle it). The
Orthodox adhere to this strictly. The Conservative
recognizes (under a teshuvah of Rabbi Silverman) that this is no
longer a problem and have relaxed this prohibition to allow general
use of grape and grape products, but supervised grape products are
still to be used for ritual purposes. A recent investigation by Rabbi
Dorff has shown that treif components might be used and wine production.
As a result a change in this policy to only allowing supervised wine may
soon take place.
- Milk - Because the practice of mixing the milk of clean and unclean
animals used to be prevalent (and to increase the Jewish dairy trade),
the Rabbis decreed that milk should only be used if produced by a Jew
or under the supervision of a Jew. The Modern Orthodox recognize that
government regulation is sufficient to prevent bad mixing, so in many
Western countries milk is considered OK to drink. This is also the
Conservative position. There are still some Orthodox groups who (as a
or "stringency" to guard the law) don't follow this.
Next time you are in Williamsburg or Crown Heights look for signs in
restaurants which say/
or Jewish milk.
- Cheese - Not only is there the problem with mixing, there is a
problem with rennet (the enzyme used to separate milk into curds and
whey). Rennet originally derives from the stomach of an animal and
is thus a meat product. As such it must come from a halachicly slain
animal. Since the rabbis saw this as a problem, they decreed that
only Jewish supervised cheese can be used. The many Orthodox adhere to
this. Milk for strict Orthodox cheese is separated with
rennet, in non-rennet based ways or (as is now more common) using
vegetable based rennet. The Conservative
has ruled that in processing, rennet becomes a non-food and thus
does not apply to it. Therefore the
has ruled that all cheese products can be eaten.
- Health - Jewish law strictly forbids behavior that are dangerous
to one's health. Food that will harm your health can not be eaten.
This provision can be interpreted widely or narrowly, although a
fairly narrow definition is generally used (i.e. fatty foods can be
eaten (Yeah!) unless you are restricted by a doctors order). One
behavior this rule has been applied to recently has been to smoking.
Some of the Orthodox groups now ban smoking. Also it was
(in ancient and medieval times) thought that eating meat and fish
together was bad for one's health. Eating this combination was
banned at that time. Many Orthodox Jews still practice this tradition.
It should be noted that violation of these rules does not
- in baking bread (of wheat, oats, spelt, rye or barley) one must
take a portion and burn it in the oven reciting the proper blessing.
This portion is known as
(not the bread). This is not necessary for bread baked by non-Jew or
dough in very small amounts (less than 3 lbs). Any bread made without this blessing is
kosher. Because of the question
of what is a small amount, dough between 3 and 5 lbs. should have
taken, but no blessing should be done. (Note OU says the weights are 2 lbs.
10 oz. and 4 lbs. 15 oz. - Pollock says anything over 3 lbs requires blessing).
- The reciting of blessing - All meals must be accompany by the
- The breaking of a mitzvah in the preparation of food traditionally
renders that food
This means food cooked (as opposed to reheated) on Shabbat is
(with exceptions). Both Orthodox and Conservative positions on this
are the same.
- Chametz owned over Pesah is not
and can not be used or sold.
- Extremely fine food prepared completely by non-jewish hands. The
food we are talking about are literally stated as those fit for a
king. The key word he is completely. The
custom is that as long as a Jew does as little as light the stove,
the food is
custom is more stringent.