Prop 8 & Keeping Kosher

The WORD 8/5/10. As I was reading through the dietary laws, which appear in this week’s Torah portion, it occurred to me that I would like to see more people observe them.  After all, they are a pretty important component of the Jewish tradition.  So, I tried to come up with an effective way to encourage more people to keep kosher.

And then, it hit me.  I could ask all the Jewish members of congress to sponsor a bill making kashrut the law of the land.  I am certain that in the interest of keeping the Jewish vote, President Obama would sign such a bill into law.  And then, everyone would HAVE to keep kosher – Jew and non-Jew alike.  The police would enforce the dietary laws and issue citations to those who transgress them – a rabbi’s dream come true!

Of course, I am only joking.  Such a proposal is completely absurd.  And yet, year after year, we see laws introduced on both the state and federal levels that are merely an attempt to codify one religious group’s views into law.  The best example of this is abortion law.  The bans that have been introduced over the years are simply a means of transforming the Christian view of abortion into American law.

We saw another example of this with Proposition 8 in California which was overturned by a federal judge in San Francisco this week.  This latest attempt to ban gay marriage (in the state which has historically been most open to gay men and lesbians) is another example of trying to make all Americans follow Christianity’s most conservative views on a social issue.

No matter what our personal views may be on homosexuality, this decision in federal court was a victory for the Jewish people.  Our history tells us that when a government gets involved in enforcing the principles and tenets of another religion, it’s bad news for us.  We don’t want the government enforcing laws about homosexuality any more than we want them enforcing the laws of kashrut.

If I – as a rabbi – cannot convince Jewish people to give kashrut a try, if I cannot convince Jewish people that kashrut is still relevant today, then that’s my problem.  I cannot then turn to the government and ask it to enforce those laws. Yet, that is exactly what some Christian religious leaders are doing when it comes to abortion and homosexuality.

Judaism has a whole spectrum of opinions on these two important issues.  It is incumbent upon us as Jews to learn what our tradition has to say on these topics and come to educated conclusions.  We don’t need the state or federal government to tell us which conclusions are the right ones.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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2 Responses to Prop 8 & Keeping Kosher

  1. Susan Schneider says:

    Thanks for this Rabbi! One comment: Rabbis may have a problem if they cannot convince Jews to keep kosher. The Christian religious leaders have a problem of a whole different kind in trying to convince EVERYONE to follow their beliefs. I agree this decision is a victory for the separation of church and state.

  2. A point well-made, Avi! Susan Schneider also puts her finger right on a key difference between the Jewish and Christian worlds. Christians (alas! — and I speak as one) have a two millennia-long habit of seeking to impose Christian morality (and religion) on the whole population. Never worked very well (so far as any real practice of Christianity goes), and caused immeasurable damage to those who resisted the Christian juggernaut. Since Christianity is now less monolithic than ever before, the day is long past for conservative Christian opinions to apply only to conservative Christians.

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