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Do I Say a Blessing on Non-Kosher Food?

Do I Say a Blessing on Non-Kosher Food?

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Question:

Is it improper and hypocritical to recite a blessing on non-kosher food? I'm starting to become more observant of the Torah laws, but I'm not yet at the stage of keeping 100% kosher. What do you advise?

Answer:

First of all, may I commend you for your desire to keep growing in your Judaism and spirituality. Our sages tell us (Ethics of the Fathers 4:2) "A mitzvah brings another mitzvah." Doing mitzvot puts one in a "positive cycle," where one mitzvah leads to another. So, generally speaking, "all or nothing" is definitely not a Jewish mentality… and the fact that you are not yet observing one mitzvah is not a reason not to do another. And starting slowly and moving upwards steadily but sincerely in one's observance is certainly not hypocrisy! (See also I'd feel hypocritical wearing a Kippah full-time...)

But as it happens, this particular case is an exception to the abovementioned rule—allow me to explain:

What exactly is the purpose of making a blessing on food? Two basic answers are given for this mitzvah:

1. With the blessing we are acknowledging G‑d, the Creator of the food, and thank Him for providing it for us.

2. According to Kabbalah, all matter exists because it contains within it a spark of G‑dliness. When we recite a blessing over food, we activate and elevate this G‑dly spark. Thus the food nourishes us both physically and spiritually.

So, with regards to reciting a blessing on food that is not kosher:

1. It's a mockery to bless and thank G‑d for the un-kosher food that one is eating—in opposition to His will.

2. Although all of physical matter contains within it the G‑dly sparks that give it existence, in some cases the Divine energy is accessible to us, while in other cases it is inaccessible. The purpose of our existence on this world is to interact with the physical world in order to elevate the divine sparks within it. It therefore follows that when the Divine energy within something is not accessible, we have no business with it. Since the purpose of the blessing is to release the Divine energy within food, one does not recite a blessing over food whose Divine energy is so tightly imprisoned, that we cannot access it and it cannot be elevated.1

I hope this has been helpful.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg,
Chabad.org

Footnotes
1.

This applies to food that is definitely un-kosher .The generally accepted opinion is that when we do not know that food is definitely un-kosher – though we should not be eating it unless we are certain that it is kosher – we do recite a blessing.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for Chabad.org’s Ask the Rabbi service.
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David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel November 23, 2015

Attitude to Non-kosher Food To Chaya Sarah Silberberg, Michigan--I don't know why you cannot accept the fact that although the food may not be kosher, it is still the result of a Heavenly creative force, and that we should remember this when we recite our blessings for receiving it? Our forefathers (and fore-mothers) have been killed in their refusing non-kosher food when under terrible duress, but that is not the situation with us today and our attitude should be one of tolerance not strictness. Reply

Chaya Sarah Silberberg Michigan November 18, 2015

It requires extraordinarily twisted reasoning to claim that an action that directly contravene's G-d's clearly expressed will allows us to be "participants in G-d's works and recognize his power," and shows our "our acknowledgement of G-d." Reply

David Chester Petach Tikvah, Israel November 17, 2015

There should be deeper examination of what a pronounced blessing is. In the Tanakh fathers bless their sons. These patriarchs had Divine means for passing a part of G-d's benevolence on to at least one child, but today this does not apply. We do not read in the Tanakh of blessings addressed directly for G-d. But today we choose blessings for other purposes.

To bless G-d for providing a particular thing is a confusion because G-d has such greatness that there is no need for more, He is already blessed to the maximum! Those who claim that the pronounced blessing is a "thank you" message, seem unaware that the "brechat hamazon" after the meal are adequate here. So the blessings for food preceding our meals are actually reflections in ourselves as being participants in G-d's works and recognize his power.

When we take this attitude, it allows us to make a blessing on non-kosher food, since we are showing our acknowledgement of G-d in all manner of things, both the good and the bad. Reply

Natan Ha Goy Seattle, WA November 16, 2015

Re: It's a nice idea Dear holy Viktor,

This possible quote from the Rebbe is perplexing. Eating is one of the most animalistic things we do. In fact, one of the debates between Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai is over just this issue--whether eating feeds the yitzer ha'ra (the animal, evil inclination) or the yitzer ha'tov (the spiritual, good inclination). Beit Shammai held that it feeds the animal nature, except on Shabbat. Beit Hillel (and thence the sages) hold that the eating on Shabbat can elevate eating the entire week, making every meal an act of holiness.

Thinking back to the idea that "a mitzvah leads to a mitzvah and a sin leads to a sin", one might be led to ask if there was a sin that led to all sins. I dare to mention the sin of Adam HaRishon. His sin? Violating kashrut.

The laws of kashrut apply to everyone (even gentiles!), everywhere, and at all times. (And even change!) Adhering to them requires planning and costs money. Perhaps this is not such a strange saying after all. Reply

Anonymous Long Island, NY November 16, 2015

Why would any Jew who says a blessing over food before eating, eat what is considered to be non-kosher to begin with? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for chabad.org November 16, 2015

Re: It's a nice idea Although I don't know where that supposed quote from the Rebbe comes from, it is true that 2000 years ago they didn't necessarily have certifying Kashrut organizations. They also didn't have any supermarkets or processed foods. Today too, there are many things that you don't need any certification for, however, at the same time there are many products, especially processed foods that you have no idea how it was made or what is really inside of it. And you would need to rely on certification to be sure it was Kosher. Reply

Viktor San Francisco, CA November 10, 2015

It's a nice idea I respect and value the thought of the article, but respectfully disagree. It is a nice thought, and creates a path towards elevating a mitzvah. The problem is that there is no reference to how this is actually breaking hallacha. It seems like this is mostly something that is taught as a custom that is taught in orthodox education.

In reality, the master and creator of the universe puts us in very unique situations of all kinds of observancy. The Rebbe is quoted to have said, that the path to "Judaism should begin with food." I always thought that was a perplexed thought; to focus on food as opposed to going to synagogue, or studying Torah, etc... what elevates the food is the conscious thanks that we make for the energy that our creator gives and sustains us. Do you think Jews 2,000 years ran around buying hectured-products? No, it's known that they didn't. What is known is that they said the brachas. Reply

Chaya Sarah Silberberg Michigan April 8, 2015

Dear Deborah,

You can say a blessing over such a salad. However, there are a number of problems with eating in a non-kosher restaurant, even if you order just a salad.

1) Since insects are not kosher, and frequently bugs attach themselves to leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, etc., ordering a salad would be a kosher problem.

2) Salad dressings may be non-kosher.

3) The knives, cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops used in preparing your salad may have residue of non-kosher ingredients.

3) We have a responsibility to avoid creating a situation where others may draw the wrong conclusion ("marit ayin"). If you are sitting at a table in a non-kosher restaurant. a passerby might see you and think that the restaurant is really kosher and it's okay to eat there. Or he might think that since you (who keep kosher) are lax in observance, then somehow it's okay for him, too.

So it's best not to eat salad in a non-kosher restaurant... Reply

Deborah Talsky April 8, 2015

Very helpful! Is salad that has not been washed 3 times not considered Kosher?
When at work and offered lunch with coworkers and choose salad - is this not appropriate to say Blessing? Reply

Nathan Ha Goy Austin, TX, USA April 3, 2013

Blessing Non-kosher Food Dear holy Mr. Flinkstein:

Jews in the entire world, including America, (as well as many Gentiles) are and remain acutely aware of the sanctification of the Name that was brought through the faithfulness of the Six Million of the Shoah. The question here was about one who continues to chose non-Kosher food when other options (including vegetarian or even skipping a meal) remain ready options. When someone knowingly and willingly violates Hashem's declared will, then reciting a blessing is a mockery.

The imprisoned who cannot prevail on his captors for kosher food, the ill who cannot procure a kosher remedy, and the famished who can only find non-kosher are required to eat, as life is more important than kashrut. There is a blessing for this circumstance, but in the hands of one who is not whole-hearted, it is likely to be abused. Given the question which was asked, it was important to avoid this faux "easy out". Reply

C S Silberberg West Bloomfield, MI December 27, 2012

Dear Sir,

Which Shulchan Aruch are you referring to?

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 186 Seif 1 states as follows:

"Women are obligated to say the Grace After Meals. It is a question whether they are obligated d'Oraisa, and can be motzi men, or whether they are only obligated d'Rabbonon and may only be motzi someone whose obligation is also d'Rabbonon."

There is no discussion here whatsoever about reciting a blessing un non-kosher food.

You might want to check your facts... Reply

Flinkstein london, UK October 13, 2012

Blessiing non-kosher food It is obvious that American Jews do not know what some European Jews, such as for example the Patriotic Jews who were put in concentration camps instead of the gas chamber, had to eat in the German concentration in order not to starve.. Reply

Alan Habbaz Staten Island, NY February 9, 2012

Dear Hashem, help me not eat this unkosher morsel of what you deem not kosher. If I cannot control my desires this time help me do better next time and increase my wisdom to do your will better and better each and every moment, day, week, month and year. Reply

Anonymous October 21, 2010

cruelty to animals / halacha actually, it is against halacha to be cruel to animals... but these halachot are in effect for any animal, whether it is destined to be eaten or not, independent of whether or not the meat of the animal in the end is deemed kosher. Reply

Rochel Leah Natick, MA, USA October 21, 2010

Blessing over non-kosher food? What a lovely group of comment writers!

Barbara Niles, AZ, you are right on target about small doses. Please don't feel you have to adopt Jewish laws as soon as you read about them. Ideas slowly take root in my mind and after a long while I feel I am ready for another step in observance. Each person has their own journey to make through life.

Not supporting cruel parts of the food industry is very Jewish; but not a part of Halachah (Jewish law). I no longer eat veal or lamb because of the cruelty with which they're raised; but they are still kosher according to our ancient laws.

A Jew who is new to making a blessing over food and is not completely kosher yet, could begin by making a brocha over an apple or a slice of bread which has a kosher symbol on the packaging. It supports your efforts to keep kosher. When you take the step of making your oven and pots and pans and knives kosher, then your cooked vegetables, fruits, eggs and fish will be kosher, too! Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, AZ/USA October 20, 2010

Blessing Over All Food We should all be grateful for any and all food that we eat whether it is kosher or non-kosher. It is an individual's choice if he or she wishes to say a blessing over the food regardless of its "kosherness." Not all of us are sure of God's existence so perhaps a general thank you for any and all food we consume would be in order. That said, if the person who asked the question is trying to make his/her way back into Judaism, why not make it easier for him and not overwhelm him with rules, rules, and more rules? Small doses might put the person at ease and not chase him away. Reply

Maria New York, NY October 20, 2010

Blessing on non-kosher food By all means say the blessing. Thank the Lord your G-d, who has sanctified you with His commandments, and has ordered you to be grateful. It is the grace of G-d that releases the goodness in whatever thing. The purpose of saying grace is to show your Father and King your gratitude, and to ELEVATE YOUR SPIRIT. That, in turn, will strengthen you and help you to move forward in the PROCESS of observing more and more mitzvot. Eventually, you may wish to kasher your kitchen: Chabad has an excellent "manual" on that, and also on what types of fish and meat cuts are kosher.
Good luck. May G-d guide you and bless you abundantly. Reply

Anonymous Smithtown, NY October 20, 2010

There are Kosher Foods in a Not-So-Kosher World I too am trying to lean towards what is right in our faith. With that I admit to partaking of non-kosher foods at this moment but I do strive to find bread, crackers, dairy products, etc. that are accessible where I live as well as fruit & vegetables. These things I have & will continue to say a blessing over. Meats & Poultry of course cannot & should not be blessed based on the fact that there is absolutely NO WAY to make them be kosher by any amount of blessing. That would be a disgrace to G-d & that is where I draw the line. All other questionable things like pasta products & sauces, I have found in great multitude as being kosher. There is always a way to find the non-kosher but it's become even easier to find the kosher & make a blessing that I know will actually count. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel October 20, 2010

Blessing Over Food We are not blessing the food but are praising our G-D who is partly responsible for its production. Therefore, even if the food itself is not kosher, we should take the opportunity to praise his holy Name. I feel that the strictly orthodox views given above are not acceptable to the majority of Jews including those whose orthodoxy does not split hairs.

Incidentally, the grace ot blessings after meals includes thanking G-D for the land on which the food grows, a most significant extra item. Reply

drumstick bklyn, ny October 20, 2010

just for the record ..... i heard a chabad rabbi once say "for those starting out, it's far better to cook a total kosher chicken in a non kosher over, pan, etc. then to just buy, and cook a non kosher chicken". for sure if g-d sees a person making an effort to do the right thing he'll in fact strengthen that person to continue doing more positive and correct things. r. nachman used to say ,"a little is good too" the baal shem tov used to say, "trying is succeeding" it's not when you'll be successful, if your trying ... you are successful Reply