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Kosher Food Plays a Major Role in Jewish Faith and Culture

Similar to the practices of Muslims and Hindus, kosher is very much important to the Jewish faith. Stemming from their deeply-rooted beliefs about food - its preparation and consumption - this practice of "keeping kosher" is their way of expressing their devotion to God.

You can find a store that caters to the kosher requirements of Jews in virtually every city. Not limited to butchers and fish mongers, you can also find delis and grocery stores selling kosher ingredients and serving cooked food.

With much more to it than merely buying food from certain sources, those looking for kosher foods know how to search for the rabbinic seal - a symbol guaranteeing that the food has been prepared under the supervision of a rabbi. For a true adherence to the laws of kosher, everything; from the equipment, to the methods of slaughtering animals, to the workers who prepared the food must follow stringent requirements set forth by the Kashrut. Every country has a rabbinic association that ensures the adherence to the rules. They are the ones who check if the shops claiming to sell kosher food are really selling the real thing.

Because Jews have differing theological schools and religious traditions, the Kashrut accounts for this fact by having different degrees. Often, food shops offer essentially the same kosher foods with different packages and different rabbinic seals signifying the difference in the said degrees. Prices are different for these foods simply because some pass more stringent rules than others.

You might have encountered the term "kosher-style". Although adhering to similar laws such as not using forbidden animals and not mixing dairy with meat, kosher-style is less stringent and not really considered kosher in the strictest sense of the word by purists and devout Jews. These are more fitting for individuals who are not practicing Jews.

Jewish Holy Scripture, the Torah, forbids Jews from eating non-kosher food. Special attention is given to kosher meat, which can come only from certain animals and prepared only in a certain way called the "shechitah keshera." The shochet, or Jewish butcher, is a key person in the community's ability to keep kosher. (Remember Lazar Wolf, the butcher, from the musical "Fiddler on the Roof"?). According to Torah law, any Jew can perform a butcher's tasks according to the prescribed ritual. In reality, however, the custom has become that only a man who has been approved by a supervising rabbi is considered a kosher butcher. What's more, a kosher meat shop is only kosher if the butcher is an observant Jew. Non-Jews, also known as Gentiles, cannot qualify as kosher butchers.

These laws were explicitly contained in the Torah. What is practiced today came from the interpretation of countless rabbis through the centuries. This period encompassed the time when food was scarce and preservation was virtually nonexistent. This led to some practices that seem dated by today's standards. But no matter how old the practice is, keeping kosher is all about eating soundly. Appeasing the will of god by taking care of one's body cannot be argued - no matter what your religion is.


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