‘Kosher for Passover’ . . .
‘Kosher for Passover’ is a phrase ‘used and abused’ this time of year and is the center of a question we have been asked several times this season as we prepare for Passover. Allow us to apologize for not addressing this concept sooner but, perhaps, it will be helpful for next season.
First, let’s address the word and concept of ‘Kosher’. The word ‘kosher’, or ‘kasher’ in Hebrew (כָשֵׁר) is defined as ‘proper or fitting’, and it is a word having as many ‘uses’ as there are groups that use it. What is ‘kosher’ to one group is not ‘kosher enough’ for another and so on and so forth. It is like throwing the phrase ‘eternal security’ on the table in a meeting of evangelicals or throwing a bone in a kennel full of canines. It can get exciting quickly.
So what does The Word say concerning Kosher ? Well, for starters, you might find it interesting that the word ‘kasher’ is NOT in Torah, Torah being the first five books of the Bible. Yes, the concept of that which is ‘proper and fitting’ is most certainly in Torah, but the word ‘kosher’ is not there. In fact, the first place the word ‘kasher’ appears in Scripture has absolutely nothing to do with food. Instead, it is associated with ‘proper protocol’ in relation to coming into the presence of The King and is found in the book of Esther, chapter 8,verse 5. “Then she (Esther) said, “If it please (tov- good) the king and if I have found favor before him and the matter seems proper (kasher) to the king . . .”
Primarily, in our time, the word ‘kosher’ is used in reference to food – whether or not it is ‘kosher’. The problem appears with the interpretation and application of what an individual or group considers kosher to mean. Some groups are very meticulous with not only cleanliness standards but also each and every ingredient that goes into a product, as well as what those ingredients and finished product may come into contact with during the process. Other groups are much less stringent and much more relaxed in these areas. So which is correct ? Which is ‘kosher’, if you will, from a Biblical standard? Well, What’s The Word say?
As a general rule, The Scripture has two distinctions – clean vs. unclean, or the holy vs. the profane or common. So how does ‘kosher’ fit into this picture ? According to Scripture, if something (a creature, an item, an act, etc) is ‘kosher’ it is ‘proper and fitting’ to the situation or circumstance at hand, being used or applied as intended by it’s original design. There is also an underlying picture that this determination of being ‘proper’ is made by The King, or the One who has the authority to make that determination. Paul reminds us in his first letter to Timothy that “everything created by God (and God created everything) is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified (set-part) by the Word of God and prayer.” (1Timothy 4:4-5). He did NOT say everything created was ‘clean’ but that everything created was ‘good-tov’( Genesis 1:4,10,12 18,21,25,31), which includes both the clean and the unclean, since God created both.
So, now, here’s the kicker . . .according Scripture . . . a pig, which is a ‘good’ creation of our Heavenly Father, created unclean for an unclean purpose, can be both unclean AND kosher (according to definition) if used for and according to it’s original design and purpose . . . which, by the way, was and is not ‘food’ for us. Say what ? That’s right . . . if the Biblical definition of ‘kosher’ is ‘proper and fitting’ and IF I use a pig or snail or a shrimp for the purpose for which it was created . . . although these creatures are unclean by their created nature, they are, by definition, both ‘kosher’ and ‘unclean’ .
OK . . . now that we have either given you’all a brain cramp or made you mad enough to be yelling at your computer screens . . . what does all this have to do with Matza being ‘Kosher for Passover’ ? All matza, as a result of it’s ingredients and the nature of those ingredients , is both clean and ‘kosher’ for Passover. According to Scripture, for bread to be ‘proper and fitting’ for Passover, it must be unleavened, which is literally the definition of matza. It is made from oil, grain, perhaps a little water and salt, all of which would be considered ‘clean’ ingredients. So, by it’s design and ingredients it IS ‘kosher for Passover’.
OK then, so why does one box of matza say ‘Kosher for Passover’ and another box says ‘NOT Kosher for Passover’ ? Tradition . . . Rabbinic (for lack of a better word) Tradition teaches for matza to be considered ‘kosher for Passover’, the matza can take no longer than 18 minutes from the time the preparation process begins until it goes into the oven. Any longer than 18 minutes allows for the possibility of ‘rising’ to begin naturally due to the reaction of the ingredients and possibly any wild yeast in the air. Now that all sounds Ok, but it’s NOT in the Word and yet we accept this tradition as if it has Scripture-level validity. So, are we saying it is wrong to buy matza marked ‘Kosher for Passover’ ? No, absolutely not. What we ARE saying is ‘words mean things’ and we need to understand, from a biblical perspective, the words and terms we use and the difference between tradition and What The Word Says so as to make ‘proper and fitting’ (kosher) decisions.
Shabbat Shalom And Chag Sameach from us to you – J&R