Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kosher Apple Jacks?

I did not know Apple Jacks were kosher. I never really bothered to ask or to think about it. I won't eat them for a variety of reasons. But when you do think about it you have to ask, how can a cereal that is mostly sugar and that is not healthy for kids really be kosher? Oh, you might say that I am missing the point. The point is that for those for whom this matters the cereal has a hekhsher and they can eat them or not depending on their penchant for sweet cereal. But then this weekend I discovered how even the most kosher of cereals can become trafe. We read the tale of rabbis accused of laundering money and in some instances even hiding cash in Apple Jacks cereal boxes (and apparently selling human organs on the black market as well!). If you really want to read more about this sad and embarrassing story click here. And so the real point is that kosher is not just about the food we place in our mouths. The kosher certification on the outside of the box cannot make unethical behavior ethical, cannot transform trafe into kosher. There are some who are by all appearances religious, but in actuality are anything but. When someone is scrupulous in their ritual observance but ignores such basic human, ethical mitzvot, such as "You shall not steal," they are not religious. The fact that they are rabbis and are therefore regarded as representatives of religion in general and Judaism in particular is in the Talmud's estimation, a hillul ha-Shem--a desecration of God's name. I am saddened and embarrassed that the Torah I so love was defamed, that people will now say, "Why do I need religion?" My answer might be: You need religion to remind you that no matter what cereal you eat in the morning, you require a community, a book and a God to prod you to do good in this world. No one sees what you eat for breakfast, everyone sees (eventually) whether your hands bring healing or harm.

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