D’var Torah: April 1, 2016

Dear Friends,

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn some of the laws of kashrut.  It is a common misconception that Reform Jews do not keep the laws of kashrut.  In reality, the philosophy of the reform movement teaches us that we should make educated choices about which mitzvot are meaningful and fulfilling in our lives.  While I would guess that most reform Jews do not keep kosher, many do.  Some do it because that is how they were raised, but for many others, it is an obligation that they have taken on for themselves after study.

One of the things that I really appreciate about being a reform Jew is the opportunity to affirm and choose, to parse out what a particular commandment means to me and to find a way of observing it that may not be traditional, but speaks to me personally.  Kashrut is a perfect example.  To me, kashrut is about making food sacred.  If, when shopping for food, we consider the ethical treatment of animals and awareness of environmental impact, then we can choose food with a holy purpose, whether or not there is an actual hechsher (or kosher mark) on the ingredients. This is sometimes called eco-kosher. 

Reform Kashrut can also include a sense of mindfulness. Traditionally, we say a brachah, or a blessing before we eat.  The purpose of that is to remind us of our Creator, Who has provided us with food.  But it also can give us a mindful moment to appreciate the gift of sustenance.  In addition, we are attentive as we make choices about what to eat.  If we choose not to mix milk and meat, for example, we need to take the time to inquire about ingredients when eating out.  For me, this adds a measure of thoughtfulness about G-d that may have previously been absent.

I invite you to take some time this week to consider ways that you can bring holiness into your eating, and thus into your body.  This can mean trying out keeping traditionally kosher for a while to see how it feels, it can mean being mindful about eating and how blessed we are to have enough, it can mean making ecologically sound choices at the grocery store.  As reform Jews, we can choose so many ways to bring sacredness into the seemingly ordinary. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Cantor Sally Neff