's Kashrut Class - Non-meat rules

PATH : Chelm -> Jewish -> Kashrut -> l2 - non-meat

Lesson II - Law is regulation of meat, but...

III. Law is regulation of meat, but...

Kashrut laws only apply to items considered food. The ability to eat non-food items because kosher 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 Talmud 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, kashrut is the regulation of eating meat. Almost all kashrut 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.

  1. 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 kosher wine is quick boiled to allow non-Jewish middle-men to handle it). The Orthodox adhere to this strictly. The Conservative CJLS 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.

  2. 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 chumra 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/ "Chalav Yisrael" or Jewish milk.

  3. 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 kosher rennet, in non-rennet based ways or (as is now more common) using vegetable based rennet. The Conservative CJLS has ruled that in processing, rennet becomes a non-food and thus kashrut does not apply to it. Therefore the CJLS has ruled that all cheese products can be eaten.

  4. 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.

There are five areas of practice that affect the food. These are :

  1. Challah - 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 challah (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 not considered kosher. Because of the question of what is a small amount, dough between 3 and 5 lbs. should have challah 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).

  2. The reciting of blessing - All meals must be accompany by the proper blessings.

  3. The breaking of a mitzvah in the preparation of food traditionally renders that food unkosher. This means food cooked (as opposed to reheated) on Shabbat is unkosher (with exceptions). Both Orthodox and Conservative positions on this are the same.

  4. Chametz owned over Pesah is not kosher and can not be used or sold.

  5. 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 Ashkenazi custom is that as long as a Jew does as little as light the stove, the food is kosher. The Sephardic custom is more stringent.

It should be noted that violation of these rules does not unkasher the appliance used, only makes the food prepared unfit.
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PATH : Chelm -> Jewish -> Kashrut -> l2 - non-meat
Last updated on Aug 9, 1999 at 4:57 PM

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copyright 1999 - Steven Ross Weintraub