Just like most things that you're learning, Kosher is not an all or nothing proposition.
When starting to keep kosher, there's nothing wrong with starting slow. If like me, cheesesteaks were a staple of your diet (I did grow up in
The first thing that we have to cover is the degrees within Jewish law. It will become clear later why this is important. From the most serious on down is as follows:
1. Torah Law: G-d said the "though shalt" or the "though shalt not" right in the Torah
2. Traditional Law: We have a tradition that Moses taught the law orally at
3. Rabbinic Law: Decrees from our sages
4. Customs: Something that the Jewish people took on without being told.
5. Stringency: Going beyond the letter of the law in service of G-d.
Level 1 - "Blatant Traif": "Traif" means not kosher food & for better or for worse, there are certain things that are not kosher under any circumstance. Example: pork, shell fish & meat with dairy. These items are prohibited directly from the Torah. A first step on your quest to eating kosher, should probably be to eliminate these things from your diet. What about cheeseburgers? Sorry. They have to go. You can try a real beef burger with fake cheese or a vegi burger with real cheese. It won’t be the same, but after a while you won’t miss the real thing anyway.
Level 2 - "Non Kosher Meat": I believe this falls under a "Traditional Law", but all animals and birds that we eat must be slaughtered according to our tradition. A good Level 2 step is to only buy kosher meat when you go to the supermarket, and when you go out to restaurants, order dairy or vegetarian. Another Level 2 activity would be to start waiting 6 hours between the time you eat dairy after meat. The good news is that you can eat meat after dairy without too much restriction. Just wash your hands, rinse your mouth out with water and go ahead. Practical Example: You want to eat a hamburger (yes you’re eating kosher meat and yes you left off the cheese) and then an ice-cream sunday right afterwards. I love ice-cream as much as the next person and don’t like waiting 6 hours either. Practical Solution: Eat the ice cream first. J
Level 3 – “Cold & Separate”: A good Level 3 activity for outside the house would be to either limit your restaurant activity to only kosher restaurants. You’ll soon learn that there are a lot of different agencies that say restaurants and other things are kosher. Unfortunately, there isn’t a general standard among all of Judaism. For Level 3, eat at anyone that you feel like. If you do eat at a non kosher restaurant, stick to salads, fruit cup, sushi or cold uncooked foods. Most domestic beers along with most alcohols are kosher, so you can still have that social drink with your old friends or coworkers. At home, a good level 3 activity is to start buying foods with kosher symbols only and to buy new sets of dishes for meat and dairy. When buying anything for the kitchen, it’s best to stick with glass or metal if possible. With a glass dish, it’s much easier to correct a kosher mistake then with ceramic. In Level 3, we’ve entered the realm of Rabbinic Laws and you’re making great progress
Level 4 – “Blow torches & hextures”: At Level 4, it’s time to break out the blow torch and “kasher” your kitchen. Do NOT do this on your own. Call your local orthodox Rabbi and they’ll be able to help you. Lubavitch Rabbis, especially, have a ton of experience in this area. When it comes to eating out, start sticking with the orthodox certified restaurants only. You may also want to start making sure that the food that you’re buying in the supermarket have reliable orthodox certifications. You should also start washing your vegetables thoroughly and checking for bugs. Disgusting as it may sound, there are non-kosher bugs all over our produce. 2 days ago, my wife threw out a bunch of asparagus, because she couldn’t get all the bugs out. There are plenty of books on the subject. The good news is that, if you do it right, you’ll stop unknowingly eating little bugs all the time.
Level 5 – “Super Jew”: At this point, you’ve covered all the Torah, Traditional & Rabbinic Laws of keeping kosher. We’re into Customs & Stringencies if you want to go there. Level 5 is the only level that’s totally optional according to Jewish law. However if you want to keep pushing the envelope…. The last steps are: 1. Eat dairy only milked under orthodox Jewish supervision (Cholev Yisroael). 2. Eat baked goods only baked under orthodox Jewish supervision (Pas Yisroael). 3. Eat foods only cooked under orthodox Jewish supervision (Bishul Yisroael).
I hope that this clarifies some things and makes your Quest for Kosher a little easier.