The literal translation of Kosher is “acceptable in Jewish Religious Law”. The common usage for Kosher by the masses (in English) is in relation to food. However, in a broader sense the word Kosher can relate to many different kinds of objects which are governed by Jewish religious law.
Take Tefillin, for example, the boxes, excuse the terminology, with the parshas (scrolls) inside that men wear during the morning prayers, are said to Kosher or not Kosher. Wigs, as another example, that married women wear, can be either Kosher or not Kosher. Still, the main thrust that I plan to take on this blog with regard to the question what does Kosher mean, will focus primarily the application to food, what is Kosher food.
My goal is to bring to the awareness of the reading public the issues and answers of what is Kosher, what makes food, for example, kosher food. I will also provide resources for further perusal on the subject what does Kosher mean.
The problem of providing Kosher food to the consumer has complicated in modern days due the fact that food is processed and many additives are used, and the person taking responsibility for the Kosherness of the foodstuff has to take into consideration everything that goes in.
This is coupled with the fact that not every person serving or selling Kosher food can be trusted when push comes to shove in his business dealings. A person who himself keeps Kosher less than his clients, or not at all, what does Kosher mean to him except to broaden his client base? So as long as things go perfect he will do what the Kashrus supervisor instructs him, and everybody is happy.
But in those, perhaps even higher than 51% of the times that things don’t go perfect, so then the seller has the trial of being honest with himself and with his customers not to bring in non-approved replacements. The Kashrus Organizations are full with stories how with due diligence and due vigilance they caught owners trying to sneak in questionable goods at all hours of the day and night.
I addressed the subject of Kosher meat in an article by itself, at the upper right of this page you will see Recent Posts, one of them should be in the subject of Kosher meat.
In other areas for which the term Kosher applies like sofrus (Tefillin, Mezuzas, and Sifrei Torah), or like Shatnez (a garment forbidden because there is both wool and linen sown together): In the old days, in a small town, where everybody was known, and many people lived there for a few generations, then the town Rav could himself control what was happening with the butcher, with the scribes, with the tailors, etc.
But in a large modern town like Jerusalem where I live, or a semi-large town in the US or really anywhere where there is a large Jewish population, with people moving in and out, and where butchers or scribes or lulav and esrog sellers abound, and unfortunately there is a percentage of people who are unscrupulous, then it is really impossible for the religious leaders to have control without whole organizations of people to take the responsibility to get into the nitty gritty.
For like I wrote above, what does kosher mean really to the unscrupulous more than increased sales?
So then what does Kosher mean? The actual answer to that question is the principles and the details of Jewish Law with regards to every area — food, sofrus, shatnez, etc., which is obviously beyond the scope of such a blog. Maybe I will reference such blogs in my resource list. Still, we will see what we can do to delineate what Kosher is, and what does Kosher mean.
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