Parashat Shemini

Kashrut After Refrigerators

Jewish dietary practices allow us to welcome the sacred into our daily lives and into mundane acts.

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Another understanding of kashrut, advanced by persons interested in abandoning the dietary laws, is that kashrut was an early compensation for unsanitary conditions. If the Jews of the Torah had invented refrigerators, they wouldn't have required kashrut. Now, with modern technology, we don't need these outmoded precautions.

My grandmother was one of the most devoted exponents of that opinion.  Now that we have homogenized milk and air-tight containers, we don't need kashrut. Such a viewpoint has no basis in either science or religion. No sacred text links the practice of the dietary laws to a fear of epidemic, or to a need to avoid rotting meat. That viewpoint also ignores the fact that most of the world's religions observe some form of dietary laws (Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, among them).

Why Is It Significant?

Why, then, is kashrut significant? If not health or physical well-being, what is the goal of the dietary laws? The answer is found in the Torah itself. "You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I [the Lord] am holy."

Kashrut is a way of welcoming the holiness of Judaism into our daily lives. At each meal, we rededicate ourselves to the high standards of Jewish living and behavior. The network of Jewish values--loving our neighbor, caring for the widow and orphan, affirming a connection to the Jewish people, and establishing God's rule on earth--gain strength and depth through the regular practice of kashrut.

Every form of effective pedagogy involves regular repetition and frequent exposure. Since we eat three times each day (at a minimum!), kashrut is the basic school to recall and reinforce a sense of living in brit (covenant) with God, to making the values of Judaism visible through our deeds and priorities. Affirming our Jewish commitments by adhering to kashrut cultivates a greater awareness and an unwavering commitment to the eternal values of Torah--justice and holiness.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.