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A Kitchen Confessional

Written by Rabbi Mordechai Rackover on Tuesday, 04 October 2011. Posted in Food for Thought

As we approach Yom Kippur I thought this would be a good time to take stock, not only of my spiritual and moral self, but also of my culinary self. To be sure we could all reflect on the kitchen sins that are au courant in the contemporary kosher diet. Asking ourselves should I say ashamnu, bagadnu,…“Did I wash out all the bugs?” “Was there a red dot in that egg?” “Should I trust this kosher certifier or not?” But I wanted to approach this with a more universal notion – that all the choices we make, not just the question of issur ve’heter (prohibited and permitted) are Jewish choices that deserve to be reviewed using a lens of Jewish values and halakha, Jewish Law.

There are a lot of clichés concerning Jews and food. And, just like the notion of “Jewish time” is a poor excuse for being late, so too are the clichés poor excuses for some of our behaviors in relationship to food. In preparing to write this it occurred to me that there aren’t very many chores left in the world that are as critical, personal, and labor intensive as food. We have dry cleaners for our clothes. Gardeners for our lawns, growing food has become a luxury – it means you have land – and not a necessity. But cooking, no matter how much take-out you eat, is still a labor-intensive and critical chore.
Another element of cooking and food, it is by its nature, the aspect of our lives that is the most involved with shipping, transporting, and importing. True we get crude oil from overseas and clothes from Asia. But we don’t consume clothing on a daily basis, and no matter how much you drive, your oil intake doesn’t compare to your food intake in terms of carbon and waste. 
With all of the above in mind I came to think about the idea of looking back at my year in food. There are two times of the year when Jews take stock. At Passover we clear out our homes obliterating any crumbs of leaven, preparing to reenact the Exodus from Egypt. And, during the Ten Days of Repentance, between Rosh HaShannah and Yom Kippur, we again take stock, obliterating any crumbs in our soul as we prepare to leave the bad behind and head into a year focused on the good. 
In the familiar mode of the Yom Kippur viddui, the confessional, I present a list of reflections. These reflections range from the lighthearted to the serious and are to be read to awaken thought and mindfulness in one of the most important areas of our lives – and our souls - how and what we put in to our bodies:
For the offense of 
eating and running
For the abuse of
white sugar
For the lie of 
“one ‘last’ piece of pie”
For the shortsightedness of eating
fruit imported from half-way across the globe
For the lack of fortitude in 
ignoring the warnings and drinking a 64oz Slurpee
For seeking comfort
in that childhood favorite that wasn’t meant for an adult stomach
For the violation 
of eating in front of the TV
For fooling ourselves in saying
“I’ll do any extra thirty minutes on the tread mill” 
For not checking 
the pantry before going shopping
For ignoring the prophet Michael Pollan
in eating California lettuce in the eastern time zone
For setting the wrong example and
giving-in to the whining and buying those cookies
For forgetting 
our bags
For wastefully
not clipping coupons
For pretending that this time 
I’ll wash-up in the morning before I go to work
For thinking of myself and not the world
by using disposable pans and plastic plates
For buying 
that fish even though there may not be any left in 5 years
For not trying
new foods
For not using 
an oven mitt and burning yourself for the ‘millionth time’
For tasting 
and not washing the spoon
For double dipping
For not 
using leftovers
For all of these and more. For the sins that hurt others and those that hurt me. For each one I am sorry. I will try harder in the year to come to improve myself, my family and my home, the planet Earth, through my kitchen and my belly. Through these behaviors I hope to bring tikkun – a corrected state on God’s Earth.

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About the Author

Rabbi Mordechai Rackover

Mordechai (Michael) Rackover is a husband, a father and an orthodox rabbi serving as a chaplain at a major U.S. university. He also loves to cook. In his posts he tries to express some of his love, while sharing the occasional moment of creativity that he might be blessed with.

He also writes about food, food culture, as well as the spiritual and physical impact of some of our habits and mania.
As a man and a rabbi he hopes to show that a man’s place is in the kitchen and that as a role model and caregiver, to his children, his spouse, his students, and himself, he takes that place with responsibility and love. 
He blogs at and you can follow his more frequent observations on twitter - @mrackover.

Comments (4)

  • venyov
    05 October 2011 at 15:39 |

    Thank you for the info! We can't avoid all the chemicals in food but we can still control what we eat and make choices how to look and feel.

  • ima2seven
    05 October 2011 at 16:31 |

    This is a great piece! I was hoping to read down your list and add a clever one or two myself, but I think you have covered them all! Shana Tova, and may we all do proper kitchen teshuva.

  • Doctor
    11 October 2011 at 12:30 |

    I really enjoyed this! it gave me food for thought for Yom Kippur!

  • CookMama
    31 October 2011 at 10:41 |

    What a great article! Very creative! I just got a chance to check out cookkosher-it's been a while-and I am going to print this out and put it up in the kitchen to remind myself and family to make better choices!

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