The laws of kosher food are presented to the Jewish people by Moshe Rabbeinu in his final days of leadership to highlight their importance to the holy status of our people. Throughout the generations, Jews have observed these complex laws to insure that all they ingest is in accordance with the commandments of our Torah. Many who have no idea at all as to what the Torah demands are aware of the fact that the Jewish people observe a unique set of dietary rules.
Many different “kosher” symbols, representing various supervision organizations, adorn our food packages. The question is: With so many competing organizations employing such a wide range of standards, whom do you trust before partaking of the food offered to whet your palate and satisfy your hunger? Restaurants pose an additional problem in deciding who is reliable and who is not. Many places “look” kosher, while others claim to be and some present an assortment of customers who appear observant. Whom do you trust?
Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was one of the giants of European Jewry 150 years ago. He is known as the one who popularized the study of mussar, Jewish ethics, among Torah Jews.
One time he entered a shul in a town where he was not known. A man in the shul approached him, revealed that he was having guests, and requested that Reb Yisrael do the shechitah of the chickens he was planning to serve. The Rabbi asked the would-be host to wait until the next day before he responded.
The following morning, before the man could ask for his decision, Reb Yisrael requested of him, “Could you lend me 50,000 rubles?”
“Fifty thousand rubles?” the man screeched. “I hardly know you. How do I know I could trust you for such a large loan?”
“You don’t know me? You seem to know me well enough to trust my skill to slaughter your chickens. You, therefore, should certainly trust me with your money!” was the wise man’s quick rebuttal.
The nature of people is to accept doubt and proceed into dangerous territory when the matter in question is in the realm of the spiritual. On the other hand, most people are very cautious when faced with a potential loss of material wealth. This is really the reverse of how we should be. The Kabbalah teaches that all unkosher foods that are ingested, besides being forbidden, attach an impure spirit to the one who ate or drank them. This harmful consequence takes place whether the food is eaten intentionally or in error, knowingly or not. Every person has a responsibility to him- or herself to guard the purity of the holy soul Hashem has implanted within the body. Sometimes self-protection is just a matter of “Whom do you trust?”
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute with Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement, Sephardic Press, 2008.