Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The "reason" for keeping kosher

One thing that has always troubled me about the torah is that Jews are expected to keep slews of commandments that have no clear reason. Yes, I know that the OJ view is that God doesn't need to give me a reason. Since He knows best, I should just take it at face value and do as I am told. However, i think even the most fundamentalist OJ would agree that it would be easier to follow the torah if we had reasons for the commandments.

A few weeks back, I was on a business trip in European city where there where next to no Jews. Subsequently, there was no kosher restaurant or take-out available. So I went ahead and ate with my co-workers in whatever places they ate for lunch/dinner. While I don't really care about keeping kosher, if I am in a place where it is readily available I will usually go for it. I think this comes back to my general fear of being found out that I am not really religious. So I would rather just place it safe even if it isn't the most convenient thing to do.

After being in this city for about a week & a half and eating with my co-workers, I have to admit I loved every minute of it. For once, I actually felt like one of the guys and not this pariah that always has to separate himself at meal time.

And that is when it dawned on me. This is probably why Judaism has the laws of kosher. What better way to make sure you don't hang out with non-Jews than to take away the opportunity for meals and parties with them? It makes a lot more sense than the tired reasoning that kosher is healthier or that non-kosher animals are somehow dirtier than kosher ones (let's be honest cows aren't the cleanest animals either).

Even skeptics and non-believers like me have to admit that this is an ingenious way to keep your own culture going and to keep your followers away from people with opposing views.


Garnel Ironheart said...

Good to have you back Rich.

Unfortunately your post isn't much of a chidush. Chazal and later authorities openly state that one of the rationales of keeping kosher, Shabbos, etc. is to keep us separate from the nations around us. As Bilaam said, this is a nation that will dwell alone.

So what you discovered in Europe is that in your frustration you're starting to draw closer to the rest of the world and lose your disinct specialness.

frumheretic said...

Well that was certainly the reason explicitly given for prohibitions like stam yanim, pas akum, and bishul akum - to prevent intermingling with non-Jews (although for stam yanim at least it no longer makes sense - regardless of its origins based on yayin nesech - since other drinks - such as beer - are just as social, if not more so.)

In general, however, I think the whole kosher thing has grown to encompass a similar reason rather having its origins in preventing intercourse (social leading to sexual) with non-Jews.

Check out this post from

Rich Perkins said...

Garnel, I wasn't stating it as though it was this great find, but rather I had never really experienced it in such a clear manner.

I do not feel that I am losing a disinct specialness as you say. Rather I am creating my own specialness and not one that was thrown upon me by a religion i do not believe in.

Garnel Ironheart said...

You may feel that way now but that's because until now you were just another frum guy in another frum community. Right now it sounds like you're transforming into the not-so-frum guy in a frum community and that makes you special.
However, you have to take care. Eventually you'll migrate further and because another secular guy in another secular community and once again you won't be special.

Plus, your experience is interesting confirmation of what Chazal warned about. That should also be noted.

David said...

"Eventually you'll migrate further and because another secular guy in another secular community and once again you won't be special."

Nah, don't listen to him, Rich. You're always going to be special and unique. Just like all the rest of us...

Garnel Ironheart said...

Ah yes, the old Monty Python line from Life of Brian:

Crowd: We are all unique.

Individual: No I'm not, I'm just like everyone else.

Rich Perkins said...

Garnel - Don't give Chazal too much credit for their "ingenious" forethought in having this rule to protect Jews from straying.

This is basic parenting; Don't let your kids hang out with friends who have qualities that you believe are harmful to them. So now it just comes down to whether you think being non-religious is harmful . obviously we disagree on that.