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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

A Song of Kashrut

Updated: Apr 3

Parshat Shemini continues onward with the drama of the first sacrifices. Just when we think that everything is all in place and will go flawlessly, Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aaron, offer a "alien fire" before God and in the blink of an eye, they are dead, incinerated for their indiscretion. Did they harbor too much spirit, were they drunk, did they neglect directions? The rabbis struggle with an answer. Aaron is left mourning and silent while Moses takes charge of continuing with the ceremony and ordering others to remove the bodies of the two men to outside the camp.

Almost as if the text recognizes the readers great shock at this tragic and mysterious story, it begins listing permissible and impermissible foods so that readers are immediately filled with images of creepy crawlies, pigs, sheep and flying birds. Nadav and Avihu are left to the past while a plan is laid out for the future of Jewish eating and perhaps even Jewish peoplehood.

Ahad Ha'am said that the Sabbath has kept the Jews as the Jews have kept the Sabbath.

I am not sure if there is a parallel quote for keeping the laws of kashrut, but kashrut is an all encompassing way of life. It defines where a person eats, how they eat and often even with whom they eat. People have given up their lives for the sake of kashrut. Kashrut has evolved since the ancient days in the desert, and I am not sure that those people in the desert would recognize kashrut as it is today, but the basic building blocks of kashrut remain the same. Keeping kosher in 2024 is probably much less complicated than it was a century ago or a thousand years ago, but it still offers its own unique challenges ,even now.

Perhaps you will recognize some of the things that I write about below? Do you have anything to add to this "song of kashrut?" Please add a line in the comments!

Waiting and hoping for good news. May it come soon.



A Song of Kashrut

From the remote corner of a dairy cabinet

to the shelf of kosher cookbooks,

from the mayo in the fridge,

to the lettuce in the crisper

it's the complex song of kashrut!

From the fork to the knife

and the knife to the spoon.

From the stainless dish rack to the red and blue sponges.

from burnt potholders to fraying cotton towels

it's the sometimes messy song of kashrut!

From Passover yogurt to rennet-less cheese.

From briskets on sale at Costco,

to the art of hunting for bugs in cabbage.

From OU to OK, Star K and KSA,

to labels on draws and cabinets

it's the alphabet song of kashrut.

From closely reading ingredients

to hunting for new kosher products.

From cracking the eggs and carefully checking

to pareve ice cream and kosher gummy bears,

it's the sticky song of kashrut

From cod to salmon, but not sure of swordfish

to all the pareve utensils.

From kosher airline meals to kosher pizza restaurants,

From Paris to LA, from Jerusalem to Coolidge Corner

to the shul's stainless steel kitchen

to the mashgiach peering at ingredients

it's the age old song of kashrut

From grapes made into wine red, white and pink.

From glass to pyrex to scalding metal pots.

From kosher Bazooka gum

to the enamel Passover pot that belonged to your mom.

From the numbers of hours of waiting, 1 or 3 or 6

It's the ever evolving, but never changing, song of kashrut

From things we understand to things we sometimes question

From the mistakes we make and move on.

From obeying and veering to finding our way

From questions asked and answered.

From nation to nation,

from kitchen to kitchen

from counter to counter,

from sink to sink,

from fork to knife and knife to spoon

and back to the remote corner of that dairy cabinet

It is our....


our very own song of kashrut.


Speak to the Israelite people thus: These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the land animals: any animal that has true hoofs, with clefts through the hoofs, and that chews the cud—such you may eat. The following, however, of those that either chew the cud or have true hoofs, you shall not eat: the camel—although it chews the cud, it has no true hoofs: it is impure for you; the daman—although it chews the cud, it has no true hoofs: it is impure for you; the hare—although it chews the cud, it has no true hoofs: it is impure for you; and the swine—although it has true hoofs, with the hoofs cleft through, it does not chew the cud: it is impure for you.

Leviticus 11:1-7


"Great is eating for it distances those who are near, and brings close those who are far."

Talmud Sanhedrin 103


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