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Oh, No—That Wasn’t Kosher!

We all know, nobody’s perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, often because they made a guess. But there are times when a guess should not even be entertained. Guessing on what’s kosher is one of them.

kosher cookies
Fresh-baked cookies, ready for presentation

Trying to determine if a food or meal is kosher can be tricky so the rule of thumb is: if in doubt, don’t eat it. Leave the guesswork out unless your very survival depends on consuming something that probably isn’t kosher. Luckily, most of us will be spared such a scenario.

I was reminded of the tenuous nature of guessing last week as I watched my favourite Star Trek movie, Kirk and Spock Save the Whales, also called The Voyage Home. Leonard Nimoy, whose passing has been noted on our five-dollar bills, directed it. It’s the one where he’s wearing a white robe that I always thought made him look kind of rabbinical, even with the headband to disguise his ears.

In one scene, McCoy asks a slightly troubled-looking Spock what’s wrong and Spock admits he isn’t sure he can get the time travel calculations right to return the crew to the 23rd century. I can’t give you specifics—I’m a kosher caterer, dammit, not an astrophysicist—but you can watch the clip.

“Well, you’ll have to give it your best shot…your best guess,” McCoy advises Spock.

“Guessing is not in my nature, doctor” Spock replies.

“Nobody’s perfect,” McCoy says.

Kosher Pretty Much Demands Perfection

Spock would have appreciated our Toronto kosher catering business because we simply don’t guess. We only purchase foods and ingredients approved by COR, which also supervises our catering trucks and kitchen. This way, there are no kosher mistakes.

But what if someone accidentally consumes something that isn’t kosher. What happens then?

The traditional response is to treat is as a “mistaken sin,” says MiYodeya, a Q&A site on everything Jewish. Acknowledge your remorse, and take steps to re-educate yourself so that it doesn’t happen again.

Chabad agrees, but characteristically also suggests a bit of self-analysis. Think about how you felt when you discovered the mistake. Did it make you sad or depressed? If it did, it could be a sign that something was at play that distracted you from being as careful as you would normally be. That’s really what causes a lot of accidents.

It doesn’t mean you’ve committed an unpardonable offence, but it does indicate that you need to re-examine the behaviour that caused the mistake. Resolve to be more careful and think twice before you eat.

My Jewish Learning lists past punishments handed down by local rabbinic authorities for eating nonkosher food, and they pretty much reflect the society around the Jews at the time. They included time in a kune, a pillory-like device, a practice that thankfully petered out in the 19th century.

Some Jews believe that there will be punishment from Gd in the World to Come for sins committed against Him, which would include consuming nonkosher food. This is a concept that has many interpretations that go way beyond atoning for an accidental or absentminded event.

Take Positive Steps to Prevent Future Treif

Don’t let the negative energy you may feel—guilt, anger—take over your emotions. You feel bad, but as Chabad emphasizes, “we don’t chase away darkness with broomsticks. We use light.” Use that light to make amends.

In the olden days, this would mean making an animal sacrifice. Today, we make a tzedakah, which roughly means donating to help others. Do more of it. If you normally give an hour of time to a service you admire, give more. If you donate funds, give more and give up something else in exchange.

Like MiYodeya, Chabad says to review your kosher reading. Even better, encourage someone else to keep kosher. These are steps that can help turn a dark event into a lighter one.


This week’s recipe honors Nimoy and his alter ego. I’ve read that both were vegetarians and abstained from alcohol. At least one was an observant Jew as well. One of them reportedly could get intoxicated from eating chocolate. It took a few minutes to find a recipe that would suit both of them: Moroccan Almond Cookies from LevanaCooks.com.

Live Long and Prosper.




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