Raboyseyee and Ladies
Moving Chicken Back to the Parve Menu
Shoin! As expected, many comments on last week’s missive on the subject of whether or not the RBSO punishes those He loves. Too many to print. Here’s the bottom line: Bad things happen because one is bad. 2- Bad things happen stam azoy -meaning randomly; bad luck. One finds him or herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, maybe it’s #3: Bad things happen to good people davka because you are good and the RBSO mamish taka loves you. This one takes some convincing and emunah (belief). Maybe a lot. Which is it? Nu, if you are non-believer, your choice is zicher choice #2. If you believe, you can select from the other two options. Choose the one that allows you to sleep at night and assuages your guilt. Veyter gigangin (let’s move on) to this week’s parsha of Shimini (eights) which we are reviewing for a sixth time.
Opening rant: Growing up frum from birth (orthodox), it was avada understood that eating chicken was mamish like eating meat. One was fleishig and needed to wait the requisite six hours (five hours and five minutes according to others, and three hours according to many) before enjoying a slice of pizza, ice cream or anything milichig (dairy). It never dawned on the future Oisvorfer that it’s shayich that chicken is not really meat, was never meat, should not be considered meat, and that there was a time in history when chicken was taka not considered meat. What was it? It was PARVE (neutral)! What the hec happened to the poor chicken? Why did it lose its identity and independence? How was it that it suddenly found itself over on the meat menu? And what can we do today, bazman hazeh (in our times), to have it moved back and given its independence? Anything? And how are all these givaldige kashas relevant with this week’s parsha of Shmini? Shoin, we will explore these questions shortly, ober let’s first take a shtikel look at a few other parsha headlines.
Much of the discussion in the front half of the parsha concerns itself with the inauguration of the Mishkan, a full seven day ceremony during which Moishe erected and dismantled the edifice daily, and also served as the Koihen Godol (High Priest). Ober, wasn’t Moishe in fact a Levi (Levite)? Shoin, not to worry: Moishe was efsher the first and only person to have been both a koihen and Levi. Then again, that’s not entirely emes because his brother Aharoin was the seemingly the only person to be both a Levi and then a Koihen. Ober how can one be both? Shoin, it all harkens back to the incident at the burning bush and seemingly what happens at a burning bush has long lasting ramifications and is long remembered, if you chap. It was there, a few years back, where the RBSO asked Moishe (nicely) to travel back to Mitzrayim and to act as His liaison to free the Yiddin from slavery. Moishe and the RBSO were locked in negotiations for seven full days during which Moishe tried valiantly to beg off the assignment. Ober the RBSO was insistent and when the RBSO insists, who was Moishe, or anyone else for that matter to say no? And listen to this exchange, words that mistama we glanced over without thinking they would have relevance here in our parsha. Says the heylige Toirah way back in parshas Shemois (4:14) azoy: “The wrath of the RBSO burned against Moishe and He said, ‘Is not there Aharoin your brother the Levi…?'” Was Aharoin a Levi? What’s pshat here? Nu, says Rashi quoting our great sages azoy: it’s taka emes Moishe was preselected to be the Koihen and Aharoin to be a Levi, ober due to Moishe’s obstinacy in accepting the assignment to free the Yiddin, he was demoted and Aharoin elevated.
That notwithstanding, Moishe was selected as the acting Koihen Godol (High Priest) for the seven inaugural days and just as he was getting comfortable in that role, it was ‘Yoim Hashmini’- the eight day in the year 2249, Rosh Choidesh Nissan mamish. Shoin, and just like that, he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by Aharoin. The bottom line: The RBSO has a long memory and that raboyseyee cannot bode well for most of you. Says the heylige Gemora (Zivochim 102a) azoy: “God’s wrath always leaves a lasting effect.” Zicher He recalled Moishe’s unyielding position over at the burning bush, and on this day, the RBSO demoted him. To add a shtikel insult to injury, it was Moishe’s job to officially install his brother Aharoin to the priesthood. The bottom line: one must be well behaved when the RBSO comes calling and zicher when one encounters a burning bush.
Ober the emes is raboyseyee, Moishe got off with but a shtikel embarrassment and that was nothing compared to what took place next. Parshas Shmini also covers the sudden and inexplicable death of Aharoin’s two sons and the myriad rationales offered by the heylige Gemora, and a slew of others as to why the RBSO took their lives. The numerous theories offered are disturbing and dizzying. One will tell us that Nodov and Avihu performed the service while shikkur (intoxicated). Grada this one is puzzling because intoxicating spirits were not banned until after their passing. Another: because they remained single, refusing to get married. They were misguided in thinking that no girl was good enough due to their exalted yichus (lineage). Is being single a crime punishable by death? Who knew? And how old were these two good men when they were taken? Says Rashi: under 20 years of age. Under 20 and given the death sentence for not being married? Shoin, no wonder hyntige yeshivas are promoting marriage as young as 17 and 18; certainly it beats death. Shoin, some might argue; that for another day. Nu, thankfully, it’s only a medrish that tells us they were under 20 years of age, still single, and punished by death. Ober doesn’t another medrish teach us that the RBSO does not punish those that have sinned but are under 20 years of age? It does! Ober, not to worry: yet another medrish will tell us that their age was not calculated based on chronological years mamish. Instead, age was measured by intelligence and based on their intelligence which was seemingly high, they were zicher over 20 and therefore eligible for the death penalty. Yet another pshat will posit that the boys were michutzofim (wisenheimers), they acted without seeking counsel from Aharoin and Moishe. There are others; we will however not dwell on this topic. Why not? Because we have previously well covered Aharoin’s two boys and you can read all about them in the archives over at the Oisvorfer’s burgeoning site –www.oisvorfer.com. Shoin, what shall we talk about? Let’s talk kosher food.
A long time ago (parshas Bereishis), the RBSO told Odom (Adam) that he was free to eat from all trees and vegetation barring one, the eitz hada’as (tree of knowledge). Shoin, it so happened that punkt the snake, Chava and he, Odom, were in the mood of an apple or whatever fruit that tree had to offer. As an aside, who started that apple myth anyway? And why davka were they longing for fruit from that tree? Davka because it was forbidden. Shoin: ever since, man has been attracted to forbidden fruit. That, seemingly will never change. Veyter! You know what happened next. Following the mabul (flood) which destroyed humanity, all but the Noiach’s and his animals, the RBSO told Noiach that he was henceforth free to enjoy the animal kingdom (for eating purposes) as well. His menu was mamish expanded. Seemingly his generation had been enjoying the animals as well, ober in other ways that the RBSO found despicable. Let’s recall that Odom had been given dominion over the animal kingdom ober, he was not granted permission to slaughter any for the purpose of eating their flesh. Other than being told not to eat ‘eyver min hachai (limbs from a live animal), no further restrictions were imposed on Noiach. Then again, Noiach was not Jewish. And that raboyseyee, is a brief history of kosher eating until parshas Shmini. Lommer lernen veyter.
The action picks up in our parsha where the RBSO quite suddenly, introduces the Yiddin to a new set of food regulations. In but 47 pisukim He will have given the Yiddin and Toirah inspired entrepreneurs in generations to follow, the best and biggest gift of all – the laws of kosher. How big? Very! In today’s times, there are well over 200,000 packaged food products and close to 1,000,000 products coming out of 8000 plants that carry a kosher symbol. That’s a lot of kosher. And how many dollars do all these products represent? Billions, many of them. Avada it’s a machloikes at to how many ober hakoil moidim (all agree) that it exceeds 12.5 billion and the number might be close to 17 billion annually. The differential is mistama due to markups seen during the Pesach season and the revenues generated by the many hotels that operate kosher for Pesach programs. Grada this is quite impressive when considering that fewer than 2% of Americans are Jewish and but 20% of that number keep kosher. What’s more impressive is that all this came about from this week’s parsha and these few words “You must not cook a young goat in the milk of its mother” which are repeated in the heylige Toirah in three different places (Shmois 34:36, Shmois 23:19 and Devorim 14:21). Efsher you recall from last week’s review and from many Oisvorfer rants, that no Toirah words are repeated unless the RBSO wanted each to mean something. And when the very same words are stated in three different places in the heylige Toirah, our good rabbis used that troika to create yet more kosher restrictions and rules leading avada to hundreds of kosher laws. One thing is zicher: they did also create jobs and thousands of them for many Yiddin.
Ober, let’s get back to the chicken, its history as an independent class and ultimate migration to the meat menu. Of course we all chap that when it comes to kosher consumption, chicken is considered to be meat and therefore cannot be mixed with, or eaten with, any dairy product. And we know this -those of us that are kosher and frum from birth- because we never knew differently. Chicken and meat were always ‘di zelba zach’. Grada many kosher caterers, during menu planning, will suggest offering the ‘duet’ consisting of a few slices of meat alongside a portion of chicken. They do this because ershtens, astatically, it makes for a more colorful plate, it’s also somewhat less expensive, yet, they can charge more for the additional labor of having to strategically align the chicken and meat side by side. Some avada prefer their meat on top or bottom of the chicken, ver veyst? And why is this relevant to our parsha? Davka it’s mamish timely as the back portion of the parsha introduces the Yiddin, for the very first time, to the laws of kosher. It so happens that the RBSO, when delineating which animals, fowl, and fish are kosher for consumption and which are considered treif (not kosher), will not categorize the chicken together animals or fish. The RBSO gave fowl its own category and efsher that’s taka where the chicken belongs. Ober, avada we all know that somehow, over the generations, the chicken not just flew the coop, but somehow made its way over to the meat side of the menu board where it remains, and today, it’s les-man-dipolig (few would argue) that chicken and meat are di zelba. Ober the sheylo is why?
Did the RBSO envision that the kosher food gisheft which He created and mamish gifted to His Chosen People with very specific instructions about which animals, birds, fish and insects were kosher for consumption, would explode into a multibillion dollars business and that 12 million Americans mostly not Yiddin, would demand kosher food because they perceive it to be healthy? Avada he did: He is the RBSO! And did He have in mind that chicken, zicher in the family of fowl, would be later moved to the meat category where it remains ad hayoim hazeh? Maybe not! Does the chicken in any way shape or form resemble a cow or any other kosher animal? Does a cow lay eggs? Not! Does a chicken have split hooves or chew its cud as do kosher animals? Not; neither is it required of the chicken. Again we ask azoy: Why was chicken moved over to the meat menu?
Let’s chazir (review): Based on the words in this week’s parsha (Vayikro 11:3 and also Devorim 14:6), it’s mashma that fowl and land animals are mamish in different dietary categories. Land animals must have split hooves and chew their cud. Ober when it comes to birds, the heylige Toirah does not mention any such requirements. Grada, it lists only those birds that are not kosher for consumption, and it’s mashma (appears) that all others are mamish kosher to eat. They are. Just as fish have always been classified as being parve (neutral) and can be prepared and eaten with both dairy or meat dishes, so is, or at least was, fowl. Chicken could, back in Toirah times and for generations later, be eaten with any dairy product. And that’s taka how it remained until somewhere in the 15th century. Exactly when, we don’t know. What happened next? How and why our rabbis decided that a bird which lays eggs is considered an animal, ver veyst? Thankfully, they allowed the now fleishig chicken’s eggs to remain parve. Veyter.
There came a time when after studying the thrice repeated verse “You must not cook a young goat in the milk of its mother” over and again, and after also looking at what Rashi had to say, they decided azoy: the Toirah’s usage of the goat was but an example, and what the heylige Toirah really meant was that all domesticated animals and also birds, cannot be cooked with milk. Seemingly, they concluded that people of their generation might come to equate chicken with meat and could chas v’sholom (heaven forbid) somehow mix real meat with dairy. Grada, kimat everyone knows a good piece of meat upon sight, if you chap, and few would mistake a good piece, with a chicken. Ober that for another day. And notwithstanding the verse which was likely not meant or intended to include fowl, specifically the chicken and other non domesticated animals, our good rabbis decided to change its status. Why? Mistama for sociological, business, or personal reasons. Got all that? Veyter.
Can rabbis make such changes to the heylige Toirah’s instructions? Nu, as it turns out, our good rabbis, for reasons they deemed appropriate at the time, efsher because one of their children wanted to open a fleishig (meat) restaurant and was looking for a meat alternative to expand the menu beyond dogs, burgers and real fleish, decided that chicken was a nice addition. Using rabbinic clout – which traditionally they had plenty of -and seemingly sanctioned by the heylige Toirah mamish which’s tells us and them in Devorim (17:11) “You are to act according to the word that they tell you from that place that G-d will have chosen; and you are to be careful to fulfill exactly as they told you”- the rabbis simply declared that fowl was no longer neutral. Shoin: It became a meat equivalent with all of meats’ restrictions as they pertain to slaughtering, cooking, preparing and eating and more. Shoin, go argue. With one stroke of the quill, the chicken needed to be moved. Did it go willingly, or, did it have to be choked, if you chap? Shoin, that for another day. Says the Mishneh (Chulin 8:4) azoy: Rebbe Akiva states that separating fowl from dairy is but Midirobonon (a rabbinic decree). Ober said Rebbe Yoisee Haglilie that eating chicken together with some cheese is no problem at all. Shoin.
As stated above, chicken and all fowl did enjoy many generations on the parve menu board and it was taka the minhag for many to enjoy some chicken-pizza or chicken parmesan. Ober along came the Shulchan Oruch (Yorah Deah 87:3) somewhere in the 15th century and moved the chicken to the meat category. Shoin, ever since this was codified, the chicken nebech languishes on the meat side of the menu, with the understanding that this is strictly a rabbinic prohibition and is not min hatoirah (the RBSO’s decree). Let’s not blame the RBSO. Can we bring it back over? It’s efsher possible that He’s not very happy about its present state but is waiting for a few courageous rabbis who don’t mind having their houses stoned and their beards pulled out -hair by hair, to come along and move it back to its neutral position. Will this ever happen? Mistama not. Then again, the Oisvorfer recalls Yiddin stoning the house of a rabbi in Brooklyn that tried bringing an erev to Boro Park in the 60’s. Decades later, one chasidishe (hasiddic) rabbi courageously came along and shoin, the erev is up, and many abide by it.
Until then, if you are davka in the mood for chicken parmesan or chicken with a glass of milk, all is not lost. Geloibt der Abishter (thank the RBSO), the food industry has developed a soy alternative that mamish looks like chicken and can at times taste like chicken. Though they moved real chicken over to the meat menu claiming that people might mistake beef for chicken and create a non kosher dish out of the chicken, they seem to be content with soy chicken appearing on the parve menu board, they have no issue with soy chicken. And there are no maras ayin issues. Why not? Could it be because in our times they are paid handsomely? Shoin, something to think about. Life is good!
A gittin Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv