I've always disliked it when people use the phrase, "Is that kosher?" to mean, "Is that OK?" An example: "We're thinking about moving our weekly meetings from Tuesday to Wednesday since we're missing at least two people every Tuesday. Is that kosher?"
People will use "kosher" – which they've otherwise only heard used in relation to pickles – even when they'd also use phrases like "developmentally disabled," "differently abled" and "African-American" (even when that last isn't an accurate description for the the person).
Some background on the word kosher. It's most commonly used to describe food that follows the laws of kashrut, spelled out in the Old Testament. Even if you're not Jewish, you probably know the biggies: no mixing milk and meat, no pork, no shellfish. It stretches well beyond that, of course; the laws of kashrut outline not only which animals may be eaten, but also how they are slaughtered.
I grew up, as did some of you, in Reform Judaism. Our tradition is that times change, and so must we. We now raise milk and meat cattle separately; does the ban on eating the "meat of the calf in the milk of the mother" still apply? How about the ban on pork, now that we understand how to cook it without risking disease?
But it goes beyond food. Here is a part of Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro's
Consider kashrut. In the beginning, Reform Jews tended to ignore kashrut. It seemed to be a relic from the past without any apparent meaning in the present. When I grew up as a Reform Jew, that was the interpretation of kashrut that I learned.
But now comes the fun – and the real possibility of Reform. In these last few years, Reform Jews have come back to that word kashrut, which means “appropriate,” and we’ve asked if the term can’t be adapted. Perhaps kashrut for us can become a way of thinking about all the implications of what we eat. Modern kashrut can mean we pay attention to how veal or coffee or any food product arrives on our plate. Is it appropriate? Is it moral? Is it kasher?
Note that kashrut means "appropriate," in the sense of morally appropriate, as opposed to an appropriate decision to move a meeting.
What is appropriate, food-wise or not, today? I don't have answers, so I'm asking. What, do you think, is an appropriate way to live, to eat, to spend your money?