Non-Jews seem obsessed with kashrus.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the idea of being limited in what you can eat. After all, most of what they know about kashrus is that I’m not eating things. None of them have ever experienced the cornucopia of the kosher supermarket. They often wonder how I don’t starve.
Joseph: You know, with us Christians, if we eat something wrong when we’re away, we just get re-baptized when we get back.
Me: Um… Judaism is a way of life, not a hobby. There’s no instant purification process.
Joseph: What if you get stuck somewhere and you can’t find anything kosher to eat?
Me: Have you ever heard of Chabad? (blank look from Joseph) There’s always fruit and vegetables.
Joseph: What if you can’t find any?
Me: Then you don’t eat.
Joseph: What if it’s for a long time?
Me: You still don’t eat.
Joseph: What if you’re going to starve?
Me: Don’t go there. Or leave.
Joseph: What if you can’t?
Me: Then you eat the least non-kosher thing you can find.
Joseph: And when that runs out?
Me: The rule is that you don’t eat non-kosher, but an even bigger rule is that you don’t die.
Joey: How do you know when something is kosher?
Me: There’s this little symbol over here – it means the company paid a rabbi to come in and check out their factory and make sure everything is kosher.
Joey: Can’t you just tell from the ingredients?
Me: Not when there are secret ingredients. Plus, the machinery has to be kosher.
Joey: The machinery? Wow.
Joe: How do you know the plastic fork is kosher?
Me: I’m assuming it’s never been used – American sanitary laws.
Joe: What if I got you one and I spit on it?
Me: That would be pretty gross, but your spit is kosher.
Joe: What if I did this? (he grinds the fork into the counter)
Me: (examining the fork and finding nothing) That would be very low of you, but it’s still kosher.
Joe: Why? You don’t know what might have stuck.
Me: If it isn’t visible to the naked eye, it’s as good as not there.
Joe: Aah, that’s cheating!
Me: Do vegans breathe animal dust? Are bacteria kosher? I’m not a Jainist, I’m a Jew.
Joseph: My fruit juice has a K on it. You can drink it.
Me: No – ‘K’ is just a letter of the alphabet. It doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can put a K on their packaging. Or a B or a G or a Z.
Joseph: It means everything is kosher.
Me: It means the company thinks everything is kosher. Do you trust a car salesman? Take legal advice from a truck driver? There are books as thick as your arm on kashrus. I don’t think Dole knows what kosher is.
(brief certification introduction)
Joseph: Isn’t it wrong for these rabbis to make a business out of your needs?
Me: It’s not a business, it’s a service. I want to eat Oreos, and Nabisco wants me to buy them. The rabbi just makes that possible. Believe me – he’d rather be studying.
Joseph: No – he’s taking advantage! Because you only buy the products with the symbol on it.
Me: If that symbol wasn’t there, I wouldn’t buy it.
Joseph: If there were no symbols on any food, what would you eat?
Me: I’d do what my grandparents did – make it myself.
Joe: Just because a store is owned by a Jew, you trust his food?
Me: No. On the wall there’s a piece of paper certifying his food as kosher, with the name of the certifying rabbi, so you can check up who he is and if you trust him.
Joe: Wow. You guys have major trust issues.
Maybe. Or maybe we just understand human nature. But I wasn’t going to tell him that even Jews will sell other Jews non-kosher for a quick buck. So I just shrugged and laughed.