Kosher Gifts: Sending the Proper Present
Deciphering Kosher Laws
When preparing and sending gifts for loved ones
, friends, or business partners who are Jewish and who observe kosher laws, it is important to understand kashrut requirements in order to make sure the offering is suitable to their needs.
The word kosher itself is derived from Ancient Hebrew, and it used to mean “to succeed, to prosper,” however in modern Hebrew it is used to mean “proper, appropriate.” Kosher rules are a complex set of dietary laws that any observant Jewish person abides by. These laws include the major ones mentioned in the Torah itself and others derived by the rabbis and sages throughout the centuries. The whole set of laws, or mitzvot, that envelop Jewish life are 613 in number; these are divided by Jewish philosophers into three types: the logical laws - those that are understandable by people or laws an evolving society would have developed on its own; the laws that are not quite clear initially, but which can be grasped with more in-depth study and through commentaries of the Sages; and, finally, the laws that a human is unable to understand - the laws of the divine. Kashrut requirements are often put in the third category, even though through the ages many philosophers have been trying to come up with various explanations for this strict and complex set of regulations.
The foods under kashrut rules are split into three types - those for meat, those for milk, and those for parve, which includes fish, vegetables, and fruits and their products - given that these are completely free of any stock or dairy components. For example, a fruit jam is parve, but if it is prepared using gelatin - which is usually produced from cow bones - it then falls under the meat product category. It is strictly forbidden to mix meat and dairy products in one meal, and the gap needed between each type of meal varies from 3 to 12 hours. Parve foods, however, can be eaten with either, since these are neutral.
Keeping Them Separated
Even the slightest element of a conflicting type of food renders it non-kosher. Similarly, non-kosher foods are fruits, vegetables, and other produce that have been spoiled by bugs or moths; wine, milk, and butter that have been produced by non-Jews; and meats produced by any other slaughtering method than the traditional shehita. The laws regarding meat products also dictate the types of animals that are acceptable to eat. The Torah strictly forbids consuming the meat of predators, and only allows the consumption of animals which are ruminates and which also have cloven hooves - this includes cows, sheep, and goats. Curiously enough, besides for the normal farm animals, another technically kosher cloven-toed ruminate is the giraffe. A separate rabbinical ruling made in 2008 allows for the consumption of giraffe. Of course, no one really consumes this rare and beautiful animal’s meat.
Kosher and Passover
Kosher rules become even more strict over the holiday of Passover
. All the normal Kosher rules apply during that time, but all foods or recipes containing chametz are prohibited. Chametz includes wheat, oats, rye, barley, and spelt that have been in touch with water for more than 18 minutes - since this results in the grains rising like bread. Chametz also includes leavening agents such as yeast and sourdough. Since beer uses grains in its production, even it is prohibited during Passover. In fact, it is not sufficient to avoid eating chametz, it is also necessary to remove every crumb of chametz from the house. Some Jewish people - Ashkenazi Jews - also prohibit the consumption of kitniyot during Passover. Kitniyot includes rice, corn, millet, dried beans, peas, green beans, soybeans, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and mustard - basically anything that is similar to grain and expands in water.
Choosing the Right Kosher Gift
The easiest way to set up a kosher gift basket is to refer to the hechsher label (a label by a rabbinical authority certifying that the product is kosher and the category it falls in) when selecting the products, or leaving this task to specialist. Selecting produce made directly in Israel can also make the task easier, but there are multiple types of hechsher and non-kosher produce. As a rule of thumb for a proper, kosher gift - avoid mixing meat and milk, check hechsher, and when in doubt choose fruits and flowers, as these are in most cases kosher and can add joy to anyone’s day.