Being ‘Kosher’ People
Yael Eckstein | August 23, 2022
Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God. — Deuteronomy 12:28
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh, which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17.
As anyone who has parented teenagers can tell you, one of the biggest challenges of raising kids this age is teaching them to be themselves and to stay true to their values no matter what their friends say or do.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “kosher,” referring to food that Jews are permitted to eat, based on the criteria in the Bible. But the Hebrew word “kosher” also means ‘fit,’ or ‘proper.’ Kosher is not just a label for food; it refers to the quality of a person.
But we can learn about the “kosher” qualities of a person by looking at what’s considered “kosher” according to the biblical dietary laws. For example, one of the kosher requirements for fish is that it must have fins, which allows it to swim upstream, against the current.
In the same way, the rabbis taught that when it comes to being “kosher” people — people who are strong and proper servants of God — we must have the ability to go against the flow. We must be able to “swim upstream” do what God wants us to do, even when it leads us in the opposite direction from everyone else.
Being Kosher People
We see the importance of following what is right in God’s eyes, regardless of what others think, in this week’s Torah portion. We read, “Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God.”
According to this translation, the verse teaches us to follow God’s command because that is what God wants. But in the Hebrew, there is no word “because” in this verse. The word translated here as “because” actually just says “and.”
In other words, the end of this verse is a separate instruction, telling us that we must always strive to do what is “good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God.”
This may seem like a general and obvious commandment, but it’s not. Doing what is good and right in the eyes of God sometimes means that we will be criticized and ridiculed by those around us.
We must always remember — and teach our children — that it’s what God thinks of us that matters, not what other people may say. Only then can we be “kosher” people.
Have you ever struggled with a decision because of what others might say about you? Remember that God is with you when you choose what is right.