Today I gave the Kosher Shpiel. It is a shpiel, or story, that I have had to give several times a year, every year, since I left New York. I've had to give it so many times, I've thought about printing it up and handing it to people. It usually goes like this:
Them: What's that you're eating there?
Me: A tuna sandwich.
Them: Is it "kosher"?
Them: So tuna is kosher?
Them: I see...so what is "kosher" anyway? Did a Rabbi have to bless it or something?
Me: (Deep breath) OK...there are a couple of basic rules. First of all, the laws of kashrut are in your bible there. They're in the "old Testament".
Second, certain animals are kosher and certain aren't. That's spelled out there too. It has to chew its cud and have split hooves.
Them: Ewwww....I'm eating here! So why is that?
Me: Because it says so.
Them: Isn't there some reason for it? Is it a healthy diet?
Me: You ever seen Jews eat??
Them: Well why can't you eat a pig?
Me: Because it says so. There is no reason given. It's a rule. Like leaving the tags on the pillow.
So aside from the which-animals-are-kosher bit, they also have to be slaughtered in a specific way. No electrocution. Some people say it's more humane. But that's not necessarily the reason. It still fits into the "because it says so" category.
Them: Don't you want to know if there's a reason behind it?
Me: Sure I do. But that's immaterial. Besides, as a parent I know that if I try to explain my rules to my kids, they will always find a compelling argument for breaking them.
So the next part is no mixing meat and milk.
Them: Why would you want to do that?
Them: NO CHEESEBURGER??? Are you sure you want to stay with this religion?
Me: Small price to pay. Anyway, that's a verse too. Something about not cooking a kid in the milk of it's mother.
Them: I told you I'm trying to EAT here. Knock it off with the farm animals. So is that some kind of rule for compassion?
Me: You can look at it that way, I guess. There's also a rule that if you want to take an egg from a nest, you should shoo away the bird so she doesn't see you take her kid. Same thing, I guess. It's not written out that way.
Look, the laws of Kashrut were given without explanation. We're just supposed to do it. You can read into it anyway you want. Maybe if we're careful about what we put in our mouthes, we'll be more careful about what comes out of them.
Them: I'm warning you...So what about the Rabbi? When does he bless stuff?
Me: The only blessing occurs when I eat the food. The Rabbi is there to make sure all the other rules are followed. He's the inspector. If I don't know that a restaurant or a product is under supervision, how do I know that they don't sneak a couple of squid eyes into the soup?
Them: You better run...