Welcome to our new 'Go Kosher' newsletter, a periodic service which we hope to provide for our friends and supporters. In it we present various articles of interest about our organization and about Kashrut in general. We hope you will find it useful.
The Rebbe's Army
Adapted from The Rebbe's Army
Rabbi Sholtiel Lebovic is director of the nonprofit company Go Kosher, which he runs out of his Crown Height office. He grew up in New Jersey, where as a boy he helped his father kosher Jewish homes. Now he runs a home-koshering operation that whips through hundreds of Jewish homes a year in the Greater New York and wider tri-state area. Some of Lebovic’s clients are observant Jews who have moved to a new home and need help making it kosher, but he estimates that 70 percent are non-observant people looking to make that first step toward creating a Jewish home. “There are a host of reasons,” he says. “They could be the parents of children who went to Israel, and they want the grandchildren to be comfortable in their homes. They could be becoming observant themselves, or maybe they’re not shomer Shabbat [Sabbath-observant] but they want to keep kosher.”
Lebovic and his crew can usually kosher a home in one session, including taking all the utensils for ritual dunking in a mikvah, blowtorching the oven, cleaning out the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets, and advising the client on what has to be thrown away. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “Lots of rabbis do this. But we have the system down. I try to make it as easy as possible. Once someone has committed to eating kosher, it’s just a matter of keeping separate parts of the kitchen for milk and meat, and buying kosher food. If they backslide, that’s fine. They can call me and I’ll walk them through it again.”
Many clients, koshering their homes for the first time, get emotional. "It is a big thing for these people. It means identity, it means feeling attached to Judaism.”
We are all familiar with the phrase 'You are What You Eat'. From early childhood I recall hearing this phrase - it is used to dissuade a child from eating too much chocolate and sweets; it is used to encourage us to eat healthy foods; it is used by advertisers to convince us to consume their particular product. Ubiquitous as it may be, it is not so far from the truth. According to Kabbalah, everything which we consume not only becomes part of us physically, but also spiritually. The food or drink which we consume affects us on a spiritual plane, on a soul-level, influencing our character and affecting our natural tendencies.
If we take a look at the Kosher animals, for example deer, sheep and cows, we find that they are naturally timid, modest, non-predatory, quiet animals. The birds which are Kosher are those which are not birds of prey. We see that, at the simplest level, the characteristics of Kosher animals are those that we would seek to emulate - peaceful, modest, non-predatory, 'civilized' creatures.
Regarding mammals, the Torah teaches us the signs to look for on a Kosher animal, namely that it should chew the cud and that it should have cloven (split) hooves. These signs were not chosen arbitrarily. Each of them teaches us a way of behaving, a good character trait.
What do we learn from the idea of chewing the cud? That we do not say immediately what we think, we do not always act on impulse. We 'chew things over', we consider carefully before acting. We carefully weigh up our decisions and do not act in haste but with thought and foresight, taking into consideration the consequences of our actions.
What about cloven hooves? The hoof is the lowest part of the animal, with which the animal connects to the ground. The ground symbolizes materialism, the physical world around us. A cloven hoof has a split in it - the hoof is connecting the animal with the ground but at the same time, there is a distinction, a separation. This mirrors our approach to the physical world - we have to be involved in everyday matters, in mundane, material affairs - but we also maintain a conscious separation, a realization that there is something more beyond the physical world, a higher dimension, a spiritual dimension. We are involved in material affairs yet we maintain a certain detachment.
So much of Jewish life revolves around food. The Torah gives us ways to elevate this otherwise routine aspect of our lives, to infuse it with holiness, and to learn from it.
Some Thoughts for the New Year
|We are rapidly approaching the High
Holy Days, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and Day of
Rosh Hashana means, literally, the head of the year. It is not called the start of the year, rather the 'head of the year'. As the saying goes, start as you mean to go on. Rosh Hashana is not just another landmark in time. Rosh Hashana is a time when the whole year ahead is laid out in front of us. The way in which we start out marks our chosen path until next Rosh Hashana.
The mystical teachings explain that Rosh Hashana gives chayut (life) to the entire year. In the same way that each and every limb is connected to the head, specifically the brain, which then controls and gives life to each individual limb, Rosh Hashana is connected to the entire year ahead. Just as we would take great care when dealing with the brain or the head - neurosurgery is one of the most highly-qualified professions around - so we must take great care to utilize Rosh Hashana to launch the New Year in a positive manner, as we intend to go on. This then affects the entire year and puts us on track to continue in a similar vein. By using these precious moments, we can map out our year ahead in Jewish terms.
Many of us will attend synagogue services on these days. Some of us attend daily. For others, this will be one of the few times in the year that we attend the synagogue, for whatever reason.
Whether we appreciate it or not,
the fact that so many Jewish people will be taking these days off work and
praying and coming together as a community, on whatever level, is a
magnificent feat. We live in a time of great concealment, where it becomes
progressively more difficult to see G-d and to see the good in things, yet
we still flock to the synagogue in our droves. Of course, no doubt many
will put forward their own sociological or psychological explanations for
May G-d grant that this coming year, 5764, in the merit of all those who, despite the difficult times and challenges we live under, will be giving up their time to nourish their Jewish soul, to pray, to celebrate these festivals, that each of us, along with all of Klal Yisroel, the Jewish Nation, and the entire world be granted a Happy, Sweet and Healthy New Year, a year of material and spiritual fulfillment and a year of peace for all. May the coming year see all those who are lacking or are in need be granted their needs, whatever they may be. May this be a year of peace, prosperity and redemption for all.
The story is told about the Jewish mother who had just moved into a new apartment and called up her son to give him directions:
“When you get to Park Street you come into number 15. Use your elbow to press the buzzer for apartment D5. When I buzz you in, come in through the front door, use your elbow to summon the elevator, then press number 4 with your elbow. Take it to the fourth floor, press my doorbell with your elbow and I’ll let you in…”
“Why on earth do I need to use my elbow?”
“Surely you’re not coming empty handed?”
This Rosh Hashana, many of us will be found in the synagogue, praying and wishing for good things in the coming year. Let’s not come empty-handed! Let us use this opportunity to examine the previous year, to make a vessel through which to channel these blessings which we are seeking from G-d.
May each and every one of us, together with our families, be able to look back on the past year and to honestly say that we are not coming empty-handed, but that we have grown, and will continue to grow and to improve, in the coming year. Now is a time for good resolutions and sincere intentions.
May we all merit to be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy and sweet new year, together with our loved ones and may we merit a year of success, happiness, good health, prosperity and peace for all.
Wishing everyone a Happy and Sweet New Year
For more info on the upcoming Jewish holidays please visit http://www.jewishnewyear.com/.
Go-Kosher continues to kosher many kitchens around the tri-state area and nationwide, never turning people down for financial reasons. Help us to help others by making a tax-free donation to Go-Kosher, either by mail at the address below (please make checks payable to Kashrus Yisroel) or by PayPal™ to email@example.com. Thank you for your support.
Kashrus Yisroel is a non-profit organization