Sunday, August 20, 2017

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Going into a Not Perfectly Kosher Event

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

imageMoshe Chacohn commented  on "Cruising the Jerusalem Wine Festival":   “Dear Rabbi: is it kosher to visit an event selling non kosher wine?”

First it’s important to say, “consult your local orthodox rabbi”.  This question is rather vague, and the specific details matter…a lot.  Since this question was attached to a specific post, which mentioned a non-kosher wine being given out and sold at The Jerusalem Wine Festival – where probably 90% of the products are mehadrin (glatt) kosher, and the remainder are (just) kosher, and a non-kosher product is an unusual exception – we’ll focus on that situation…when we get there.

Kosher in specific Jewish religious terms refers to foods or drinks that are prepared according to the Jewish religious strictures or “Jewish religious law” aka halacha.  The laws include what can and can’t be eaten, how animals are slaughtered, foods that can’t be eaten together (notably milk and meat), and restrictions in the preparation and handling of wine.

At the very basic, kosher laws state about non-kosher products (such as pork) 3 things:

1. One may not eat (or drink) it.

2. One may not cook it.  (So a religious Jew can’t work as a chef in a non-kosher restaurant, even if he/she doesn’t eat any of the food.)

3. One may not benefit from it.  (The religious Jew can’t own and operate a non-kosher hot dog stand.)

Since a religious Jew attending the wine festival may choose not to consume the non-kosher offering, they are not violating #1 by attending.  #2 doesn’t apply in this situation.  And, unless they were working at the booth giving out and selling the non-kosher product, they would not be violating #3.

Could a religious Jew be one of the owner/operators of the wine festival and rent out a booth to the vendor selling the non-kosher product?  I believe this would be a problem (consult your local orthodox rabbi)…although if national laws prohibit such discrimination in offering services one could (probably – consult your local orthodox rabbi who has expertise in business religious law) not ask the status in the contract offering but require that each vendor post their particular kosher status and kosher supervision provider.

From a spiritual standpoint, chassidus states (sichos of the Baal HaTanya) that the way one elevates a non-kosher product is to NOT consume it…more specifically, to turn away when one is faced with such an opportunity.  One should not intentionally challenge oneself, but when coming across such a challenge and turning away one has elevated the sparks.

Now if one lives in the US or UK, the average non-Jewish supermarket may carry a variety of kosher products…so is one allowed to visit a grocery store with non-kosher products?  Yes, and it might be impossible to do otherwise with a few rare exceptions of neighborhoods with very high orthodox Jewish concentrations.

But could an religious Jew go to a NON-KOSHER wine festival, going with the intention to NOT consume any product at the event?

This possibility would bring us to another Jewish religious practice called maris ayin (literally appearance of the eye).  This might be best translated as if it looks like it’s wrong, even though it’s not, it must be avoided.  For example, one would not drink a glass of soy milk (which contains no milk) at a meat meal because eating milk and meat together is prohibited and drinking a white liquid looks like it could be milk… which could be avoided by placing the soy milk container on the table so everyone can see that the white liquid being consumed is NOT milk. 

So a religious Jew should NOT attend a non-kosher wine festival, because it would give the wrong impression (either that he’s going to intentionally sin or someone may see him and believe that there are kosher products available there). 

Now it may be possible for a religious Jew, particularly in the Land of Israel, to place him or herself in a neighborhood which has only kosher grocery stores and businesses which cater to the religious Jewish community, and therefore never even SEE a non-kosher product.  There definitely is merit in placing oneself in a “more kosher” environment, yet one may also be poorly prepared to deal with “the world” if one must leave such an environment – such as for work. 

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