Can I Bow Down During Karate Class? - Episode 59
Rav Avi: Welcome to Responsa Radio, where you ask and we answer questions of Jewish law in modern times! I'm Rabbi Avi Killip, here with Rabbi Ethan Tucker, Rosh Yeshiva at Hadar, a center for higher Jewish learning based in New York City. Good afternoon!
Rav Eitan: Hi Avi, how are you?
Rav Avi: I'm good! I am excited about the question we're gonna do today, even though it seems like a lot to bite off. The thing I like about this question is that it raises the reality that when you do any activity in the modern world, there could be a myriad of halakhic concerns that are coming up. You know, it's rare that there's just one question when you're encountering an activity.
Rav Eitan: Okay, let's hear it. My interest is piqued.
Rav Avi: Alright. Here's the premise: "I volunteer in a soup kitchen." Sounds simple, right? "And I wonder if there are halakhic limits to what kind of work is permissible for me to do there." And now we have five multi-part follow-up questions. The heading is "Halakhic limits that may pertain to soup kitchen volunteering." Number one: "If I'm working in the food line, does it make a difference if I'm handing out fruit versus pork chops versus cheeseburgers?" Number two: "When I'm prepping the food, do I need to refrain from mixing milk and meat, and what if, by some chance, the meat was kosher?" Number three: "Is prepping or cooking the food different from serving it?" Number four: "I know there's a prohibition on deriving benefit, hana'ah, from cooking milk and meat together. Does the good feeling of volunteering count as hana'ah?" And finally, from a totally different realm: "Does it matter if I look identifiably Jewish?"
Rav Eitan: Alright, that's a lot of questions. I feel like we might even be able to consolidate some of them —
Rav Avi: And I'm sure that if we were to brainstorm, we could come up with even more questions about this activity that, on the surface, would seem so obvious, right? Should Jews be out there volunteering in soup kitchens?
Rav Eitan: Yeah, feels like the answer can't be no to that, even though there are some really good questions here that are asking a lot of things about our responsibility, my agency, how I protect my own integrity around kashrut, when I'm dealing with other people even if I respect that it's not obligatory on them or any number of other things. Great. So let's try to break it down and, I guess, I don't know, we'll try to keep coming back to the initial questions.
Rav Avi: Yeah. You tell me where we should start.
Rav Eitan: Let's start with the first one, which I feel like also doubles up with what you talked about as the fourth one, which is, can I serve this food? Can I hand people in a soup kitchen line food that I wouldn't eat, that is not kosher for me? So this is actually the easiest part of the question to answer. There's no problem whatsoever telling or enabling someone who's not Jewish to do something that's forbidden for you, but permitted for them. So, the Torah itself already says that when you have a neveilah, a carcass of an animal that wasn't properly slaughtered, you sell it to a gentile, or give it to a resident of the land who's not Jewish, because they can eat it. And so you're handing this thing directly over to them, and you have this amazing extension of this in the tosafot in one passage on the Talmud, where they very graphically describe this as permitting you to place non-kosher food directly into a non-Jewish person's mouth. Okay? So anything related with handling it and handing it over, that's just not a problem at all.
Rav Avi: And it sounds like, from your description of selling the carcass, that this may also be applied to working as a waiter or a waitress in a restaurant?
Rav Eitan: Yeah, I would say when you're dealing with something, a garden-variety prohibition, that you can't eat, but someone else can eat it, there's no problem with getting rid of it or even selling it and making a profit off of it. Now, the person correctly, then, quickly goes into milk and meat, and asking whether that is different.
Rav Avi: Right, and I'm curious also about pork chops versus cheeseburgers, if there's any difference there.
Rav Eitan: Alright, great. So we'll get back to the cheeseburgers and the milk and meat in a second. The pork chops are like the carcass: they're okay. They're no problem. Might surprise some people to hear that pork chops are potentially less of a problem than milk and meat, but that's because it's understood to be different to not just eat milk and meat, but even to benefit from milk and meat in a way that's not true of other kinds of prohibitions.
So let me try to, a little bit, reconstruct where that comes from, and then we can get into some of the nuance. One of the things that's interesting is, you know, sometimes the Torah says not to do something once, or maybe it tells you not to do it twice, and sometimes it tells you a lot of times, that you shouldn't do something. And not cooking milk and meat is something that the Torah warns against doing three separate times. And one of the ways that rabbinic sources generally relate to those kinds of repetitions is that they're somehow adding on added layers of concern. So, when we talk about not cooking milk and meat, that is understood by rabbinic sources to basically put three separate prohibitions into play. One is not to cook it. The second is not to eat it, which already is suggested by the Torah because that prohibition on cooking appears in Deuteronomy in a list of things you're not allowed to eat. And then the third is, you shouldn't even benefit from it.
Rav Avi: So saying that you shouldn't eat it, that actually means that you can't even cook it for someone else?
Rav Eitan: That's right. There is an actual prohibition on the act of cooking milk and meat together that is stated independently, and then on top of that, we build not eating and not benefitting from it, but yes, you are not allowed — let's start with the Torah talks about — to cook a kid in its mother's milk. Now, the real trick here is, we talk about meat and dairy in Jewish life and practice; we tend to talk less about kids and mothers' milk as being the categories. And the question is, how do we understand the scope of those terms, of the kid and the mother's milk? And the basic rabbinic tradition on that assumes that the kid basically refers to all kinds of kosher animals that are flesh in some basic way, though there's some debate around chicken, because chickens don't have milk, et cetera, et cetera — but let's say, certainly any mammal, the meat of a kosher mammal is covered by that "kid." And the mother's milk is just the example of what might be nearby, but applies to any kind of milk from a kosher mammal.
Now, you'll note I said "a kosher mammal" because one of the main rabbinic interpretations is that meat and milk from non-kosher animals are not subject to the cooking and benefit prohibitions of milk and meat. So that leads to an interesting conclusion, it might surprise some people, which is, yeah, according to halakhah, you're not allowed to eat a ham sandwich, but there's nothing worse about eating a ham and cheese sandwich than eating a ham sandwich, because pig is forbidden to eat, but it's not a kosher animal — it's not analogous to the kid that the Torah is talking about — and so the prohibition of milk and meat does not apply to it.
Rav Avi: It's like non-kosher meat isn't even considered meat for Jews.
Rav Eitan: Good, with one really important possible exception: when you say "non-kosher meat," that already takes us into a category that's larger than the meat of non-kosher animals.
Rav Avi: Ah, right. Right.
Rav Eitan: So the meat of non-kosher animals, or milk that comes from non-kosher animals, has nothing to do with this prohibition. But what's less clear is, what about meat from a kosher animal that's not permitted to eat? Specifically, for instance, neveilah, the category of an animal that, if I had slaughtered it, I could eat, but which died of its own accord or was improperly slaughtered, or as we mainly encounter it in our contemporary environment, the kind of beef you might find on the supermarket shelf, which comes from a cow but you are not allowed to eat it within a halakhic framework because it has not been ritually slaughtered by a Jew in the proper way.
Rav Avi: So this sounds like, other than pork chops, a very likely category that you would encounter in your soup kitchen volunteer experience of serving cheeseburgers.
Rav Eitan: That's right. That feels already like it's relevant, so we really need a clear answer to this. So the pork chop will be fine because there's no benefit prohibition around that — if there happens to be something where there's pig and a dairy product mixed together, that's also fine. But what about if I have non-kosher meat now mixed with or cooked with milk, or I need to prepare it in some way? So, Shmuel in the Talmud says that when we say "kid" in the Torah about the things you can't mix with milk, that includes non-kosher meat that comes from a kosher animal. Now it's actually a really complicated Talmudic passage that follows up on that ruling where Shmuel partially undermines it — those who are interested can go look it up — but I'm gonna cut to the chase of what happens at the end.
The Rambam and other people looking at the Talmudic record conclude that we do rule that neveilah is subject to the prohibition on milk and meat with respect to cooking. That is to say, it's very clear that you can't cook neveilah with milk, because something kind of new, it makes sense to say that, well, it was already forbidden to, you know, eat the carcass of an animal that wasn't slaughtered, so yeah, this was already a forbidden object. But there's no reason that, like, the additional prohibition on cooking things with milk shouldn't also apply to it once the Torah elsewhere talks about not mixing this kind of meat with this kind of milk. Where the debate and the complexity comes in is, but do I think that there's an added prohibition on eating the un-slaughtered animal, the neveilah, with milk, in addition to just the fact that the meat is not kosher itself?
In other words, it's very clear from the conclusion of where the Talmudic discussion goes that if you pick up some beef off the supermarket shelf that's not kosher, and you cook it with dairy, you have violated a Biblical prohibition. But is it worse to eat a cheeseburger made with a non-kosher beef patty than it is just to eat a burger with a non-kosher beef patty? After all, the burger was already forbidden — do we say that there is like an added dimension of forbidding eating it that comes in with the cheese, or that can't really go to that next level? And, of course we can add onto that the third prohibition, do we say that there is a prohibition of benefit that then kicks in, which wouldn't have applied to the burger, but does apply to the cheeseburger?
Rav Avi: Yeah, I will say — and maybe that to some kashrut-observant people, they question sounds entirely theoretical or potentially even absurd — like, I'm not eating a non-kosher burger, who cares if Ii'm eating a non-kosher cheeseburger or not? But having grown up in the South, it's actually a very common practice of what people call "kosher-style," and what they mean, generally, when they say "kosher-style" is, I eat non-kosher meat, but I don't eat it with dairy, you know? It's like I order my Chick-Fil-A, but I ask them not to put butter on it, or I'd get a burger, of course I'd never eat a cheeseburger. I think there is a segment of Jews for whom that feels like an intuitive difference. So I'm curious to hear, halakhically, how it will fall out.
Rav Eitan: Yeah, so they're tapping into some instinct as to maybe that added cheese, that added dairy, adds a new component. And this is exactly the question that we want to ask: does that make sense? So, here too, Rambam, Maimonides, in his commentary on the Mishnah, comes in with a comment where he actually says, you know, the prohibition on benefit is different from the prohibition on cooking. The prohibition on cooking can kind of take effect because there was no prohibition on cooking the neveilah, the non-kosher meat, on its own, and so there's something kind of brand-new that comes into the picture with cooking it with cheese, or with dairy in some way. But because it was already forbidden to eat this non-kosher meat, there's no sense with which we can say something more forbidden happens when we add the cheese, and because the ban on benefit is so bound up with the ban on eating, the ban on benefit can't come into play either. And so the Rambam actually seems pretty clearly to say in that passage that while one couldn't make a cheeseburger, one would be allowed to sell a cheeseburger to someone not Jewish and make a profit off of it if they wanted to buy it to eat.
Rav Avi: Okay. So let me just go back through this. You'll correct me if I'm missing something. If I'm the short-order cook standing at the grill and someone orders cases of bacon, good to go, I can cook it for them, no problem. If someone orders a burger and I'm presumably working with non-kosher meat, I cannot cook that for them, nor can I cook them a cheeseburger, if I'm the cook.
Rav Eitan: So you can cook the non-kosher burger.
Rav Avi: I can cook the non-kosher burger?
Rav Eitan: You can't cook the cheeseburger.
Rav Avi: But I can't cook the cheeseburger.
Rav Eitan: That's right.
Rav Avi: But when I get to the stage of being the waiter, I can serve any of these things.
Rav Eitan: According to the Rambam, you can receive benefit — we'll even get to the watier question in a minute, and whether that's really benefit — but I could sell someone a cheeseburger and definitely give it to them for free because, according to the Rambam, there's no ban on benefitting from non-kosher meat mixed with milk. It just doesn't come into play — you just gotta make sure not to actually prepare it. So on that level, if we're following the Rambam, our questioner would have to say, I'm really happy to sign up to work in this soup kitchen — I can't be doing any prep jobs that involve meat and milk being cooked together, but I'm happy to staff and do whatever you need on the line.
Rav Avi: Right. And/or it would be fine in a restaurant example to own the restaurant, and in the soup kitchen example, to run the soup kitchen.
Rav Eitan: Yeah, that's right. We did have an earlier Responsa Radio episode — I think about owning stock in Burger King —
Rav Avi: Lot of non-kosher burgers on this show.
Rav Eitan: A hot topic. There are — you know, in that earlier episode, we talked about the problems with having a whole business that's around non-kosher food, but we addressed that there, listeners can go back and listen to that. But in terms of this issue of benefit from milk and meat, it would not be a problem for the Rambam. Now, not everyone bought this. Right? Because some people came along and they were like, well, it's true that it was already forbidden to eat it, but it wasn't forbidden to benefit from the burger on its own, and therefore it feels like the addition of the cheese should be adding something new that should take effect, you know, in some way. This goes — it's a whole Talmudic principle, whether prohibitions can kind of stack up — so people resisted the Rambam, and some people say you can't follow that.
The Dagul Mervavah, Rav Yechezkel Landau in the eighteenth century, tries to mediate this dispute and basically say, you know, I know these people who seem to disagree with the Rambam, but the Rambam feels like he has a good enough point that people can rely on it in cases of loss. In other words, where if you held to the standard of, I cannot benefit from this, I therefore have to throw out all this stuff, or lose an enormous amount of my business for this month, or maybe forego all kinds of economic opportunities, the Dagul Mervavah says eh, it's okay, you can rely on the Rambam, whereas a slightly later authority, the Pri Migadim, Rav Yosef Teomim, comes along and says no, we don't follow the Rambam, too bad, you'll have to swallow those losses. So I would say where we end up on that question of benefitting from the cheeseburger that you didn't prepare but you're now going to do something with it — there is basis to rely on, and it's somewhat controversial.
Rav Avi: So then my question is, if we think of the framework of hana'ah, of benefit versus loss, somewhere on that spectrum is what we're talking about. Do you think of volunteering as relating to that spectrum? Would you say there's loss if I don't do this volunteering, or as this person describes, is the good feeling I get when I volunteer hana'ah?
Rav Eitan: Yeah. So you're asking, and the questioner is asking about volunteering in the sense of, like, I'm not drawing a paycheck from it, I'm not in any way, you know, getting some direct monetary benefit. But I am getting some feeling that I'm doing something good. And there's, I think, a couple other angles here we could even add in, like is benefit granted to someone else considered benefit? Like, if you think of your volunteering as you're helping out the guy who ran the soup kitchen, or you're somewhere in a chain of benefit — I think this is true of a lot of employees too, where they're sort of essentially maybe getting some money, but they're maybe, like, helping the person who's running the business make a profit — that's a sort of whole question, like, as a hired employee, are you a beneficiary of the act in question? Or are you just doing a job and sort of being paid by the hour?
Rav Avi: Right, it's interesting — I never thought about that question of does it create hana'ah, does it have to be my hana'ah, my benefit, or can it be anybody's?
Rav Eitan: Yeah. So there's a lot of complexity here. There's a really interesting responsum by the Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, who talks about someone who is serving as a nurse in a hospital, and the question of serving non-kosher meals to the patrons. And it's not quite exactly like our soup kitchen situation, because this person is not volunteering, it is their job — but it is very similar in the sense that they are taking this object that is forbidden in benefit and basically they are getting a paycheck based on whether they properly hand this thing out, and so the question is, well, aren't they kind of benefitting from doing that? So he begins with what we quoted, the Dagul Mervavah, and some of those other views that are lenient and say, well, you're allowed to benefit from meat-milk mixtures of this sort anyway, as long as the meat is not kosher, which is the case he's dealing with.
So maybe you don't have a problem at all. But he's not, he's not totally satisfied with that. There's enough people that disagree with that, he wants to find some other angles. And one of the things he says again in the case of the nurse, and then we can compare it, is he says the nurse has no financial stake or ownership of the meat and milk stuff that she is handing out. Meaning that it's almost like the hospital owns all of this food, and then, like, puts it in a cart and tells her, go hand this out. And then, based on doing that job, she gets paid, but it's not like she has a whole, like, storehouse of, you know, milk and meat products that she is now selling and giving away, and then getting benefit from.
Rav Avi: She's not getting paid.
Rav Eitan: Exactly. She's not the caterer, she's not the one who is — she has a job. And therefore you can make a very strong case, he says, for the idea that even though, yeah, she's doing a certain action and she's getting paid as a result of doing that action, and that action involves an item which is forbidden, she's really just being paid on some level for, like, following orders, or doing what needs to be done at that moment in the hospital.
And that, I think, has a very strong parallel to when one is a volunteer, where what one is doing is just showing up, and even to the extent that you are getting benefit from a good feeling, which I'm not even sure we would count, the feeling or whatever benefit you're getting is coming from a place of doing something that's helpful to enable these people to get dinner, et cetera. It's not actually bound up in the fact that I gave this person this cheeseburger. If they had put you at a different part of the line where you weren't serving that, you would have been doing the same kind of contribution, you would get the same sort of benefit, and it would feel fine, and just the same. And so the Tzitz Eliezer points us to the notion of, that should not necessarily be the kind of benefit we're thinking about when we employ this category.
Rav Avi: I'll admit that feels a little bit of a cop-out to me. I, you know, it's like I could see someone who just ate a non-kosher burger saying, well, I wouldn't have minded if the burger were kosher. I guess that's the wrong example, since that's eating as opposed to hana'ah, but in any of the hana'ah examples where you would say it would have been okay with me if it was kosher, I would have been just as happy if it happened that it was not kosher. It's a surprising stretch, I feel.
Rav Eitan: So, part of what's interesting about this responsum of his is that he keeps going with many more angles here — I think because he's concerned that kind of critiques like the one you just raised might undermine any one of them. And so he goes on to explore other things, you know, that he thinks are different here. For instance, he says that, well, you know, in the case of the nurse, let's say the non-Jewish patient that she hands this meat-milk mixture to didn't want to eat it. She would still get her paycheck.
In other words, it's not actually dependent on this happening, this being consumed or handed over in that way, like — she's supposed to sort of move things from here to there. And that's true also, I think, in the soup kitchen context, where it's not as if you are being hired to make sure that people — or you're even volunteering — to make sure that people maximize their consumption of meat-milk products at the soup kitchen. Instead, you're being asked to come and to serve dinner. Then it turns out this thing is on order for dinner, you happen to randomly have been selected for this — to call that benefitting from a mixture of milk and meat starts to feel like a stretch, says the Tzitz Eliezer, when we think about cases like this.
Rav Avi: I'm curious whether this feels like it comes up as an answer in the text that you're describing, whether hana'ah as the idea of benefit is ever described as a feeling of any kind, about anything, or if hana'ah is always a substantive gain of some kind. Like, is there ever a situation of, you know, if I ate a cheeseburger I would feel really happy about it, versus I would have some, you know, I sold it, I got money, I was able to recoup a loss.
Rav Eitan: Right. So in that sense, I think we really are talking about a word that sort of means something, let's say in its technical sense or even maybe in modern Hebrew, in a way that is different from the sense in which it's being used kind of halakhically. Right? Sure, hana'ah means benefit, and that's what leads the questioner here to ask in those broad terms.
But really when it's used in rabbinic sources, it means a way that you are sort of enlarged, I might almost say, by interacting with this object, other than through eating it. So you obviously get benefit from eating it, but that's in its own category of eating, and it's obvious that that's forbidden under any rubric of benefit to eat something. But once you say it's forbidden to benefit from something, yeah, most of the time, you do mean something monetary, though it can potentially be also other kinds of physical interaction. But it'll start to go to liminal spaces — for instance, does smell count? You'll have debates among Talmudic sages, am I allowed to go by and, you know, smell incense from an idolatrous temple, right? Is that considered benefitting from it, or is it nothing? Everyone agrees that thinking about something is not considered benefit, even though intellectually you could say I grew in some major way. And everyone agrees that turning a profit on something or really in a very clear way benefitting physically would be the case. I think the kind of emotional feeling that the questioner is talking about here, though, doesn't really ever make the grade.
Rav Avi: Alright, let's move to this last question. The question in particular is, does it matter if I look identifiably Jewish? And I think I will add some surrounding questions that come to mind for me, which relate to whether or not it matters if I'm the only Jew volunteering there that day, is everybody Jewish, is it a Jewish-run soup kitchen, are the people who are coming Jewish? You know, I think all of those could be very different, potentially different answers, so I'm curious to hear how those play out and affect this question.
Rav Eitan: Yeah, and I'm glad you've broadened it, because I think those different dimensions are very different. Look, so far — I think we'll sum up at the end, but I think we've seen that there's some pretty solid basis for this person doing most of the things one would do in the soup kitchen. And in that sense, whether the person looks identifiably Jewish, that is to say the volunteer, I don't think that matters at all. If anything, I could imagine someone feeling like, I better be sure to have my kippah on, maybe even like, you know, my tzitzit out, or whatever it is, so I'm actually very clear on my own boundaries in terms of, I don't eat this food, I'm serving it to someone else, and, you know, not that I think people have to demonstrably sort of show off their sort of, you know, pious stature as Jews when doing mitzvot, but there's no question that if you are helping other people out, that is an incredible opportunity to fuse that with your sense of, I'm a Jew and I'm proud to be doing this, and it's part of my mission in the world.
So, yeah. I don't think that's an area of concern at all. When you asked about, you know, some of the other characters in the story here, that can start to add some wrinkles. Meaning, what if the owner of the soup kitchen is Jewish, and there's lots of preparation of meat and milk going on, and how do I think about my role in that?
Rav Avi: Right, or if I happen to know that the short-order cook is Jewish.
Rav Eitan: Yeah, that's right.
Rav Avi: Then I'm still serving the food.
Rav Eitan: That's right.
Rav Avi: Does that matter?
Rav Eitan: So, you know, there's a couple of things to think about there. I think when we're dealing with a soup kitchen and we're not dealing with a business and we can argue that maybe there's no benefit going on here at all, it's just people giving of the goodness of their own heart — okay, you might disagree, you might say if you were asking me for, you know, a rabbinic directive, I would tell you as the short-order cook if you're Jewish, you shouldn't be cooking the cheeseburger. That doesn't really have to affect whether you then serve it in line. If anything, there's some really interesting opinions in various sources that say that maybe the only area where we even care about meat-milk mixtures are when they're done by a Jew, such that, yeah, we might have to care in that place, but then the whole discussion we've been having assumes that this might have been prepared by a Jew at some point, and nonetheless it might still either be okay to benefit from it or to simply say this kind of interaction with the food is not really considered benefitting.
So that, I think, is sort of easier to get around. Probably the trickiest piece here, and I don't know if we can get to the smoothest answer on this, is what if it comes to your attention that one of the people lining up at the table is Jewish? And you are then suddenly in a moment of handing over meat and milk to someone that, you know, from your frame of reference, shouldn't be eating that? I think we had an earlier episode on some of these issues also, around not placing a stumbling block before the blind, and the limits on that.
Rav Avi: Yeah, it makes me think a little bit of our question about can I swap shifts with the Jew on chag?
Rav Eitan: That's right, I think that was the one. And, you know, here too most of those same rules would apply. That is, yeah, there's probably a solid argument of saying you're not really the agent of giving that person that food; that person can come to the soup kitchen, if someone else was at that place in line, they would get the food, you're not, as we used the metaphor back then, sort of standing on two sides of the river, where their only access to that object is for you to pass it over to the other side.
Rav Avi: Yeah, or it makes me think, the text you cited earlier said that I could put the bacon directly into the mouth of the non-Jew, which may sound absurd unless you think of childcare, in which case, not at all absurd, and in fact very practical. This is maybe short of that.
Rav Eitan: Yeah. And those leniencies talked about by the tosafot and others with respect to feeding non-Jews, they won't apply directly in the same way to someone who's Jewish. And that's where you'll have to — the only way to a flexible approach will be, I'm not really the gatekeeper here; I just happen to be a middleman in a process where ultimately I am dispensable. That said, I do think at that point it starts to get uncomfortable. Meaning, it's hard for me to imagine feeling comfortable in a long-term way with people who were repeatedly coming back again and again, who I knew were Jewish, being the one who was handing them that food. That would start to erode something for me, and I think to the extent you're not talking about a one-off engagement where you can assume, certainly in a place where the majority of the population is not Jewish, that any given person is not. If you start to move towards, this is a place I'm deeply involved and I might actually begin to have some say over how things are done, then it might make sense to begin to leverage, at least in small ways, to change that situation. Which is to say, you might say, well, can we at least, like, have an option every time that doesn't involve meat and milk, or you're getting to a point, at that point, where beyond the meat and milk, the food not being kosher starts to be an issue.
Rav Avi: Well, or my other question is, at that point, would you say, I'd like to be the dishwasher, I'd like to be the pantry stock-person, as opposed to, you know, maybe just take yourself out of the food line?
Rav Eitan: That's right. And again, I don't want to take away, because I think you can justify a lenient approach to it. But it really depends on you on some level sort of being totally dispensable to the process. The more you're there all the time, and it's a fixed relationship, the more I agree with you, it may make sense to find another way to do that. And of course to the extent you start to realize that there are more and more Jews who are lining up to receive food in that way, in a place of need, and there's not convenient options for people obtaining kosher food, that might be another project to kind of work on, and at least try to get the word out on, so people have the option of, you know, not having to make that kind of choice.
Rav Avi: Right. There's something in that last statement that you said that raises, for me, a really important broader picture, where I think we can get so caught up in the nitty-gritty of the what should I or shouldn't I be doing that we think this question is about the person volunteering, and forget to ask broader systemic questions of saying hey, how did I end up in this situation, and is there something in the system that can shift or needs to shift, that this halakhic concern could be alerting me to if I solve it by switching to dishwasher, is a sidestep, actually, on my responsibility here.
Rav Eitan: Yeah, it's really nice. There's always the possibility of avoiding those problems, and sometimes that is the way to go in the short term, but we shouldn't become numb.
Rav Avi: Or, worst of all, to say this could be complicated, too many halakhic concerns, I won't volunteer anymore.
Rav Eitan: Right. I'm out. Yeah. We try, on this show, to find a way for people to lean in rather than out, even as sometimes you might have to draw some sort of complex and difficult lines.
Rav Avi: Alright, so before we close, do you want to give us, maybe, just a quick bottom line? It's not usually how we do things on this show, but just to be clear about what we think is and is not a practical concern for this person the next time they show up at their shift?
Rav Eitan: Great, I think I got it. You should not be prepping and cooking meat and milk together in the kitchen if that meat is from a kosher animal, whether or not it was slaughtered right or not. You shouldn't be cooking that. As far as serving stuff in the line, you can basically serve whatever you want, and you don't have to worry about that. When you get to a point where maybe you feel like you are repeatedly interacting with someone you've come to understand is Jewish and you're directly handing them non-kosher food, you may want to think about whether there's another role you can play, and/or whether there's some larger systemic issues that you can address so the values of kashrut and of taking care of the needy don't remain in tension.
Rav Avi: Great. I'll say, I hope this question is relevant for everyone, and if it's not relevant for you, then I encourage you to go find a soup kitchen and try it out and see what that experience is light.
Rav Avi: Responsa Radio is a project of Hadar and is produced by Jewish Public Media, which creates, curates, and promotes excellent Jewish content. Have a halakhic question you'd like answered on the show? Email us at at [email protected], or you could leave us a voicemail message at 215-297-5254.