Gentile has question for Jews about dietary laws, etc.

I know all about the prohibition against eating pork and shellfish and the need to prepare foods in a kosher manner but there are some things I wonder about:

  1. I know you’re not supposed to mix dairy and meat (thus, cheeseburgers would be off limits) but what about dairy and poultry (e.g., a turkey and provolone sandwich)?

  2. Christmas candy and Easter candy–Last year, on a package of Cadbury Mini-Eggs, I noticed that it had been labelled as “parve” thereby making it acceptable under Jewish dietary laws. I’ve also seen similar labelling on Christmas candy. Now, I realize both Christmas and Easter have their secular aspects (e.g. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny) but seeing the kosher marking on the labels got me wondering whether individual Jews would have problems consuming candy tied in to the celebration of a Christian holiday (especially in the case of Easter candy). How do the various Jewish sects (Orthodox, Reform, Liberal, etc) address this? What’s your personal viewpoint?

(I hope this thread doesn’t come off as being stupid and/or offensive. If it does, I’m sorry.)

  1. Poultry is considered meat, so there are no deli sandwiches with cheese.

  2. As long as something is under reliable kosher supervision, it would be OK. I’m sure some people wouldn’t care, and I’m sure there are people who would not eat such things, kosher or not.

After all, there are kosher [fake] bacon bits, and I love 'em.

“Parve” does not mean “kosher,” nor does it mean “acceptable under Jewish dietary laws.” “Parve,” or “pareve,” indicates that the food is neither meat nor dairy. However, parve foods are kosher.

Generally speaking, Easter Eggs and Christmas themed candy are OK, provided, of course, that they are kosher. It should be pointed out, however, that objects that actually find their way into the actual rituals of other religions (communion wine, for example), would be forbidden (regardless of whether it is “kosher” or not).

Zev Steinhardt

Technical and interesting historical aside: The debate over whether poultry was actually “meat” was waged around 2000 years ago. The actually biblical injunction is not to boil a kid in the milk of its mother, and some argued that a chicken (turkeys being a New World invention) had no mother’s milk and thus was excluded from the “meat” category. Sadly, that side lost the argument, and chickens have been considered meat ever since…hence, a turkey-burger with cheese is out.

CK Dexter Haven:

Actually, no one says that the biblical prohibition extends to fowl meat. The prohibition on fowl with milk is a Rabbinic decree to keep people from sinning by mistake - it’s too easy to confuse an unlabeled piece of mammalian meat (biblically prohibited) for a piece of fowl meat.

Thanks for making the distinction. However, as a follow-up to the kosher Easter candy question, am I correct in thinking that milk chocolate Easter eggs, in order to be kosher, would have to be prepared in the proper manner?

That’s interesting; I was not aware of the distinction. What does it mean to say something is a “Rabbinic decree”? Does that mean that although it is not strictly the law, it carries the force of the law? Or does it mean it is more of a guideline?

Yes, it carries the force of law.

The distinction that cmkeller makes here is that of a gezeira – literally, “fence”. They are based on Deut 17:11, “Thou shalt not depart from the sentence”. The concept is that of a prohibition of a thing which, although permitted under Torah law, is too easily confused with something that is prohibited.

Thus, chicken might be confused by the casual observer with veal. The observer might then conclude either that:
[li]Eating meat (or at least veal) with milk is permitted by Torah law, or[/li][li]The eater is committing a sin by deliberately ignoring the mitzvah (commandment) not to eat meat and milk together[/li][/ul]

In previous generations, talmidei chachim (scholars) were permitted to ignore gezeirot, as they were considered capable of making the fine distinctions which necessitated their institution. Now, however, it is considered that their are no scholars so capable, nor that the example set would be a good one.

There are (I am told) a very few communities that have not adopted various gezeirot. As these enactments are of Rabbinic, not Torah, authority, their transgression of them is considered minhag (customary) and not in anyway a violation of halakhah (normative law). Others, however, are still bound in their observation of gezeirot, even if they visit such a community, and those of such a community are bound to the stringency of following the gezeira when among those that do (see Talmud Bavli, tractate Ta’anit).

This is incorrect.

Here, you are confusing a custom with a Rabbinic decree.

And on an unrelated note, does anyone know why so many Jews become lawyers?


I once asked a Jewish Friend of the family that when I was younger and was told that Jewish folks value education and knowledge and their kids are encoraged very strongly to become doctors, lawyers, etc

I have another question that I have been wondering about for a while, and here’s as good a place as any:

What do y’all think of pigs?

I know they’re off limits foodwise because they have cloven hooves, but what does it mean? I was taught in religion class (comparative religions, in a public school) that it was a way for the ancient Jews to avoid trichonosis (sp) but there’s got to be more to it than that.

I mean, nowadays most people, when they’re not thinking about eating them, know that pigs are actually extremely intelligent and resourceful animals, and will stay pretty clean if allowed to be. How far does the prohibition that they’re unclean go–are none of the folks cooing over the cute piglets at county fairs Jewish? I mean, are there any Jewish folks with Vietnamese potbellied pigs or those cookie jars shaped like pigs or even piggy banks? How strict is it?


Shiksa in NY who never dared to ask

Actually, there is more to it. The reason we don’t eat pigs isn’t because we’re afraid of trichinosis. The reason we don’t eat pigs is simply because God said so. There is no reason given in the Torah for the prohibition against eating non-kosher food. The result of that is that if trichinosis were wiped off the face of the earth tomorrow, then we would still be forbidden to eat pigs.

And, one minor nitpick… All kosher animals have cloven hooves. Pigs, however, are not ruminants. All kosher animals must have both cloven hooves and be ruminants in order to be kosher.

Lastly, there is nothing wrong with having a piggy bank or cookie jar in the shape of a pig. It’s simply eating the animal that is forbidden.

Zev Steinhardt

I’m a Conservative Jew, and while I keep strictly Kosher at home, when I go out to eat I don’t always ask whether or not they put butter in my mashed potatoes… if you know what I mean. Pork, though, just seems vile to me. People tell me bacon tastes great, but I get a culturally-induced gag reflex whenever it comes near my mouth.

Frankly, I have no problem with that. Not eating pigs is one of those things that help define my identity.

Wait a sec:

So I wouldn’t be violating God’s law by eating a turkey and swiss sandwich if I was 100% sure that the turkey was, in fact, turkey?

Or is it an “apperance of improprity” thing where I’d also have to prove to my tablemates that the turkey wasn’t very thin, stringy veal before chowing down?

Coming from an extremely Reform background I’d never heard of this before.


Thanks for the response, Akatsukami.

There you have it. Many Jewish customs seem to have come into existance all those millenia ago precisely to set the Jews apart from the rest of the ancient world (snip snip, anyone?).

It was likely very important for the early Jews to have a strong sense of who they were, being such a radical new religion in a world of polytheism.

On a side note: McDonalds cheeseburgers. Does it count? Is anyone sure if the meat or the cheese is real?

Fenris: no, that wouldn’t work. To expand on IzzyR’s reply above, there are several different levels of gezeirot (Rabbinical legislation prohibiting some act). In broad outline, they are:[ol][li]Laws whose purpose is to prevent the person themselves from violating Torah law, and which were promulgated by the Great Sanhedrin of 71 members, the highest lawmaking body of the Jewish people. Eating poultry with dairy falls into this category: contrary to what Akatsukami wrote, the purpose of this law is not to avoid confusing onlookers, but rather so that the consumer doesn’t mistakenly think that if it’s OK to eat turkey with cheese, it’s also OK to substitute meat for the turkey. (This is clearly explained in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Forbidden Foods 9:4.) Such a Rabbinical law has nearly the force of the associated Torah prohibition, and there are generally no loopholes for Torah scholars or anyone else, even if they are 100% certain that they won’t come to violate the original Torah law.[/li]
[li]Next lower down would be a law also passed by the Great Sanhedrin, but whose purpose is to prevent onlookers from getting confused (either about the law or about the onlookee’s level of observance, as Akatsukami noted). An example of this would be the law that one may not cook meat in ersatz milk (almond milk, coconut milk, etc.), because an onlooker could mistake it for real milk. Such laws are also universally binding on all Jews, but there are generally various kinds of loopholes and escape clauses (e.g., you can put some almonds into the dish, so that onlookers will realize that it’s made with almond milk).[/li]
Finally, there are laws enacted by various local Rabbinical authorities. (The Great Sanhedrin ceased to exist during the time of the Talmud, so any laws passed after that necessarily belong to this category.) An example of this is the “Ban of Rabbeinu Gershom” (c. 1000 CE) prohibiting Ashkenazic Jews from marrying more than one wife. Such laws are technically binding only on those living under the jurisdiction of that authority, although it can happen that other communities adopt them as well (in which case it takes on the force of a vow); depending on various factors, a person may be exempt from such a law when traveling to another community, and conversely they may be required to temporarily adopt their hosts’ custom (consult a qualified Rabbi for details).[/ol]

For Heaven’s sake, what do Easter eggs have to do with Easter?
Same applies to chocolate Santas