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Nathans Eating Contest & Jewish Eating Etiquette

Nathans Eating Contest & Jewish Eating Etiquette

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Jewish Eating Etiquette & the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island NY

Often we may look at eating as an end in itself. This is not holy; it is a shallow approach.

Lets understand the Jewish approach to eating and life itself. Put simply, we are here to transform the physical realm into a place that G‑d can call home. Every aspect of our life is an element in the Divine abode.

First, one aspect of serving G‑d is being healthy and strong; and eating is part of this service. As Maimonides puts it "...keeping the body healthy is part of serving G‑d."

Second, we are endowed with the ability to actually elevate the food by eating it with the proper intention. Let's take a look at an apple. A G‑dly spark was invested in the apple. That spark was its 'soul' or vitality. The spark, however, was entrapped in the physical form of the apple. When one eats the apple within the life context of serving G‑d, the spark is released from its physical trappings. It unites with the person's intention to serve G‑d, and becomes a revealed part of G‑dliness. When this spiritual energy in the food is realized it also adds to the eater's spiritual awareness.

So, eating is not just a matter of pleasing our palate. It isn't even a matter of keeping ourselves alive. It is a spiritual service that requires focus and direction.

Now that we understand what eating is about, we can understand why certain foods are forbidden.

BOUND

Jewish mysticism explains a reality called 'Klipah' or 'husk'. This husk conceals the G‑dly spark that gives life to every creature. The husk renders the spark inaccessible. This is what we call evil.

The Hebrew word for forbidden is 'Asur' which literally means bound up. The energy or soul of food that is not kosher is bound to the husks and cannot be elevated.

Since the point of eating is to elevate the food, and non-kosher food cannot be elevated, it is forbidden to eat it.

Eating non-kosher food results in another problem. The unprocessed spark in the non-kosher food acts like any foreign element in the body. Energy was meant to be metabolized, and this applies to spiritual energy as well. Since the spark cannot be processed by elevation, it causes a spiritual blockage that retards our ability to relate to holiness.

BE HOLY

The Torah says, at the end of the laws of kashrut, 'And you shall sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy.' Through keeping kosher we attain a level of sanctity. What is this sanctity about?

In Hebrew the word for holy is 'Kadosh' which connotes being removed or separated. Being holy means being a little separated from the mundane world. It means breaking free of the cycle of eating, sleeping, working, etc. Rather, one has a higher aspiration: the pursuit of G‑dliness. We remember this every time we eat. We cannot eat whatever our heart desires, because we are beyond this level of existence. Our eating is for a specific purpose and we thus ingest a specific diet.

Often we may look at eating as an end in itself. This is not holy; it is a shallow approach. The concept of holiness through kashrut is that eating becomes a means to an end. We are not connected to the mundane, we are only utilizing it. Then, things of the world are not mundane at all, but rather a part of spiritual growth.

Here are some facts about keeping kosher that you may not know.

 1.       An egg found to have blood in it is not kosher, this is because Jewish eating beliefs state that the blood indicates that an embryo has started to form and it is forbidden to eat any embryo. So before frying or baking, eggs are normally cracked open into a separate bowl and checked first if they contain a spot of blood they are discarded.

 2.       When boiling eggs you need to boil at least three at a time. This is so that if one egg has blood in, it would still be considered Kosher when cooked with another two, as the majority of eggs had no blood.

 3.       Flour must be sieved using a silkscreen net sieve, as the normal metal or plastic ones have holes that are too big. This is to make sure that there are no small bugs in the flour as in Jewish eating traditions eating an insect of any kind is forbidden.

4.        Wine must be made by Jews for it to be Kosher. This comes from the fact that wine was often used in pagan ceremonies, and was sanctified during the preparation process.

5.        For milk to be a kosher food a Jew needs to be present from the time of milking to the bottling, to make sure that it is from kosher animals and that nothing non-kosher has been added.

6.       Liver is not made kosher like other meats, because it contains so much blood. Other meat is soaked and salted, but liver can only be made kosher if (broiled) grilled, so that the excess blood can drip out of it.  

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