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Passover ©Ilan Jaffe/Flickr
Passover ©Ilan Jaffe/Flickr

Here's How You Can Follow a Kosher Lifestyle

Picture of Lior Kantor
Updated: 13 November 2017

Following a Kosher lifestyle generally means abiding by the rules of the Jewish Halakha (book of guidelines deriving from the old testament). The two most familiar elements are the Kashrut dietary laws and observing Shabbat; however, there is much more to it than that. Check out this guide to know the gist of what it means to maintain a Kosher lifestyle.

Who keeps Kosher?

Kashrut observance is something quite personal, and even though there are main guidelines based on the Old Testament, there is a wide spectrum of strictness levels. For example, some Jews will avoid any shellfish or pork but will have no problem with a cheesecake after a steak. Some will follow Shabbat Kosher guidelines, while others will just observe on the high holidays.

A study conducted in Israel in 2012 showed that 43% of Israelis classified themselves as non-religious; 23% said they adhere to Kashrut laws; 15% said they were observant; 10% were religious and the final 9% claimed they were Orthodox.

2559969136_d072437579_bKosher Deli ©Rachel Hinman/Flickr

How do I maintain a Kosher diet?

The basic elements of a kosher diet are:

  1. Avoiding any non-Kosher animals. Most people know that Kosher Jews don’t eat shellfish and pork, but the guidelines actually indicate not eating any kinds of seafood that don’t have fins and scales, any land animals that do not both chew their cud and have cleft hooves, and most types of birds.
  2. The second rule, derived from two verses in the old testament that forbid “boiling a (kid) goat in its mother’s milk”, is to avoid eating meat and dairy together. Kosher Jews usually wait six hours between meat and dairy products. That’s why there are three kinds of Kosher foods: Bsari (meats), Halavi (dairy), and Parve (neither). Observant Jewish kitchens will usually have two or three types of utensils in their kitchens for the different meal types.
  3. The last rule refers to the slaughtering method (Shechita) of meat and poultry dishes, which according to Kashrut laws, should be conducted in a certain way and drained of blood. Meat slaughtered in a non-Jewish way will be non-Kosher.

The strictest level of Kashrut is often referred to as Glatt Kosher, which technically means meat from animals with smooth or defect-free lungs, but more commonly to suggest that the meal/product has undergone a stricter Kashrut supervision.

4012847626_aba904ef52_bShabbat Elevator Instructions ©Ethan Ableman/Flickr

What is a Kosher Shabbat?

According to the Jewish Halacha, Shabbat is observed starting minutes before sunset on a Friday evening until the appearance of at least three stars in the sky on Saturday night.

During Shabbat, a Shabbat observer (Hebrew: Shomer Shabbat) avoids all duties that may be considered as creative acts. The observant Jew does not drive, operate electrical devices, cook, spend money, write, or carry out any actions that may be perceived as labour. The idea is that Shabbat, the seventh day of the week, is preserved for rest only, and should be all about rest, family, dining together, and praying.

That is why Kosher establishments will always be closed during that time, and observant Jewish businessmen and women not be available for work.

In modern times, these guidelines are often bypassed by using Shabbat lifts (which stop on every floor so that there is no need to press any buttons), Shabbat cooking (made in slow cookers or electrical heaters which run throughout Saturday to avoid operation of equipment), and many other similar inventions, created to adapt religious guidelines to modern lifestyles.

Many non-adhering Jews will choose to follow the guidelines on the high Jewish holidays, especially during Passover (Pesach). Then, Halakha rules dictate to avoid any foods made from grain (barley, oats, rye, spelt, or wheat) and water that have been allowed to rise – these foods are called Chametz. Observant Jews clean their homes and pantries thoroughly before Passover to ensure they avoid any contact with Chametz foods. Restaurants and stores across the country will not serve Chametz during Passover, but they will serve Matzoh as a replacement for bread and use Matzoh flour instead. Matzohs are unleavened bread crackers made with flour, consumed over Passover as a token for what was described in the Old Testament as the last thing the Hebrews ate in the desert while escaping slavery in prehistoric Egypt.