Most Jews are familiar with some of the basics of keeping kosher, no mixing of milk and meat, no pork, no shellfish, but many people, even those who adhere to the laws of kashruth, do not have an understanding of why Jews should eat kosher food today. Although the Bible contains no reason for the dietary laws, over the last three millennium Jewish commentators have sought explanations for kashruth. In "Why Kosher? An Anthology of Answers", Irving Welfeld offers a variety of opinions on the topic of Kashruth from some of Judaism's greatest thinkers past present. The sources explored come from ancient Egypt and the Internet, from Hasidic stories and the Bible, and from Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and non-Jewish individuals. Among the comments expressed are those of Maimonides, Nehama Leibowitz, Cynthia Ozick, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Dennis Prager, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Adin Steinsaltz. Their perceptions vary; Some consider kosher food to be health food and soul food; others look at sociological, allegorical, ecological, and ethical explanations. The effect of kashruth on Jewish identity is explored along with the belief that the body is the receptacle of the soul and therefore must be kept holy. The relationship between kashruth and vegetarianism, and the idea that the kosher laws are pathway to the sanctification of the ordinary, are also examined. In the contemporary world, the possibilities for keeping kosher are at an all-time high. There are more kosher restaurants than ever. Ironically, however, the observance of the dietary practices is near a historical low point. In large part, this is due to the lack of understanding of kashruth. "Why Kosher?" offers a fascinating and inspiring look at the reasons behind this integral component of Jewish life.
by Irving Welfeld
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