What Happens when your Food Gets Mixed up with the Dog’s Food? Invite your Rabbi over to Eat it!
By Rabbi Meir Rabi
Here is a very sad story. Someone I know brought home eight sausages for the family and two for the dog. He put the two bags down in the kitchen and rushed off to attend to the ringing phone. One thing led to another and a good hour had passed before the aroma of grilled sausage reminded him of his forgotten packages. He followed his nose to the kitchen where he found his efficient and happy daughter grilling ten identical sausages.
Well they looked the same but he knew that two of them were from the non-kosher section of the supermarket.
With great composure he kissed his daughter and thanked her for being such an angel. “By the way”, he asked, “When are we eating supper?” After determining that he still had 40 minutes to supper he said, “Anyway make sure that you don’t even taste them before supper, OK? They are very special ‘bangers’ and they are a surprise for supper.” Little did he know how special they really were.
In the privacy of his study he called the rabbi and outlined the problem. It was a good thing he was seated when he heard the rabbi’s response. The orthodox rabbi had to repeat himself three times before his answer was understood not to be in jest or a misunderstanding of the query. The rabbi said they could sit down to supper and eat all ten sausages. He even accepted an “invitation” to join them for supper.
Some time later as the rabbi and the sausage family were all seated at the table eating the grilled sausages the rabbi explained why they were not playing “Russian Roulette” with the non-kosher sausages.
“We think that food is kosher because we have processed it according to the guidelines in the Shulchan Aruch, our Code of Jewish Law. We think of it as a mechanical sort of thing: if the process is incomplete or distorted then the food is not kosher. But this is only partially true and as such is misleading.”
“The truth is: food is kosher because we have followed G‑d’s rules. There are rules guiding us how to prepare kosher food and there are rules guiding us in situations such as the one we find ourselves in today. All of these guidelines emerge from the same G‑d. These rules may appear to us to be nonsensical but that is the will of the Almighty. He who told us not to eat these foods instructs that those same foods, in different circumstances should be eaten.”
“In this particular case we are instructed to follow the majority. Since the majority of snags in this mix are kosher we must consider them all to be kosher. We are not playing “Russian Roulette”. Far from it, we are fulfilling a very special opportunity that is not available very often. Even if we consider that non-kosher foods are “toxic” [which I am very disinclined to accept and very much deem to be a blight on our glorious Torah], certain toxins are known to not only be healthful but absolutely necessary for our survival: but they must be consumed in the appropriate manner.”
“Take chlorine for example. Our drinking water is chlorinated to ensure that dangerous microbes are destroyed. It is also fluoridated for various health benefits. These chemical elements are highly toxic but in the correct concentrations are of enormous benefit to humanity. But I have an even better illustration. When chlorine is combined with another highly toxic element it becomes something without which we cannot live. Regular food salt is a combination of sodium and chlorine.”
“You see, all matter in this universe exists through G‑d’s will. This means spiritual energy resides in every single atom of the world. Every single food harbours G‑d’s spiritual energy. In some foods that energy is suitable for us and those foods are considered to be muttar – untied (think of the bracha we make each morning – Mattir Assurim) and permitted for us to consume. Other foods contain a form of G‑d’s energy that is assur – tied and locked. It is not in a form that we can use and may even harm us. However when circumstances are such as we have them here today these energies become “untied” and available. We have now before us spiritual energies which otherwise are unavailable to us. The great author of the Sefer Bnei Yissaschar therefore concludes that it is preferable to eat such food mixtures.”
“But”, cautioned the rabbi, “this does not mean that we should mix non-kosher and kosher foods. Such mixing creates a prohibited mixture; well to be honest it is not prohibited but there is a penalty imposed upon the cook and those for whom it was prepared. The mixture is permitted, no penalty is applied, when it has occurred inadvertently or deliberately but not by or on behalf of, a Jew.”
This information struck them like a thunderbolt and they all sat there like stunned mullet whilst the rabbi continued enjoying their sausages. It all made perfect sense and they discerned the rabbi’s sincerity, but it was too much to digest at the moment of disclosure. After further learning, analysis and discussion however, they felt that this episode had made them re-evaluate their appreciation and evaluation of Judaism.
Why did I say at the start that this is a sad story? Because this rabbi and this family represent only a very small minority. There are many more who are unaware of these perspectives and mistakenly believe that it is wrong to eat such sausages. Often this conclusion is based upon one’s own gut feeling, it just would not feel right to be eating those sausages. Is this however an appropriate method by which to assess what G‑d wants and does not want?
Indistinct Spiritual Attainments
Is it possible that the foundation of halacha, pursuing G‑d’s guidelines, has become clouded by the pursuit of indistinct spiritual attainment? This quest may be predicated upon Torah and halacha but essentially has its own dynamics and direction.
Upon reflection a serious concern begs for our attention. The response of the general body of orthodox Jewry to such a scenario provides a glimpse into the mind and philosophy of today’s average orthodox Jew, about whom, I believe it can be safely said, would be repulsed by the very idea of eating any of the sausages.
But how can this be? How can commitment to a system of Divine Law by which we pledge our loyalty and allegiance to G‑d, give rise to an attitude that defies the rulings of that very same Divinity? It is as though a new organism has emerged from G‑d’s system, which is in fact a Briyah Chadasha, a new entity.
Some kashrus authorities have recently recognised this type of distortion. They have ceased offering Pesach lists banning or not recommending certain medications for Pesach use. The reason for this change is that many well meaning people were ignoring the warnings that decisions must only be made with approval of their rabbi and doctor.
This is to be applauded but it fails to address the root of the problem; why are so many acting against G‑d and His halacha, and doing so sincerely believing that they act in the name and best interests of G‑d?
Shabbos & Kosher
We are commanded to desecrate Shabbos and almost all other Torah Laws to save a life. We must slaughter and/or cook on Shabbos for one who is seriously ill. And one who is seriously ill must eat non-kosher foods if necessary.
Which option is to be chosen if both are available: non-kosher food, or slaughtering and cooking on Shabbos?
The Shulchan Aruch [O”Ch 328:14] rules that we desecrate Shabbos rather than have the patient eat non-kosher food. We nod our heads in unified agreement. But wait, it’s not for the reason we think.
The Mishneh Berurah offers three approaches as proposed by the Acharonim, to explain the rationale, none of which include a consideration that the non-kosher food will adversely affect the recipient’s spiritual life. On the contrary, according to one approach, if the patient is a child then it is better to feed him non-kosher than to desecrate Shabbos.
May HaShem guide us to know His statutes, be inspired to know His wisdom and see the truth of His Torah.