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I mentioned to my coworker that I can't eat Domino's pizza, not even without meat, as it's not kosher. He pointed out in response that a fellow coworker of ours, whom I'll call Josh, and who is somewhat observant and calls himself Orthodox[1], does eat Domino's without meat. I replied that I can't speak for Josh. Any ideas on what I should have replied?

[1] By "calls himself Orthodox" I don't mean that I disagree. (I don't.) I mean merely that that's his self-identification.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think your response was correct, and agree also with @LazerA's elaboration on it.

There is one thing that I would sometimes add, depending on context (and probably would not apply for you anyway) - I admit that in some circumstances, I do not know enough of the details - whether it be of the way the kitchen is run (as @Will mentioned) or more often simply because I am not well-versed enough as much as I should be, in all the minutiae of the relevant halachot.

So, instead of risking it (or spending the time to find out for this specific situation while I'm hungry), I'd rather go for the less-risky and lower-effort route of just not eating there. Josh, on the other hand, might know something I don't know - but we each have to act according to the limits of our own knowledge (or rely on someone we trust), and I might be more limited in this case (though I might not).

I just dont care enough about eating at Dominos, that it would make it worth it to me. On the other hand, if I needed to, I would spend the time to find out.

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I just caught myself, realizing I'm actually recommending humility??!? When did that happen?? ;) But one other consequence of this approach, is that it makes Josh look good (in potential, anyway), instead of making him seem questionable. Depending on who Josh is, this could lead to much better results, and at the least will give the external impression that we're not always bickering with each other (though we mostly are). –  AviD Feb 12 '12 at 16:32

I think your answer was exactly correct. Simply speaking, your religion doesn't permit you to engage in this activity. The fact that other people, who claim to follow the same religion, do engage in that activity, well, you'll have to ask them about that.

You should not get into a discussion about the other person's level of observance. You can talk about yourself (within reason), but don't talk about other people. This approach will usually be appreciated by the people (at least, by the non-Jewish people) you deal with, who will respect you for not only sticking to your beliefs but also for refraining from denigrating people who differ.

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I'm not sure about the "strictly speaking you religion doesn't permit" part. That implies that Josh is sinning, but of course he might be relying on proper rabbinic counsel in this case (and there surely are arguments to be made about pizza, even if they aren't widely accepted). So it seems it is better to simply state there are different standards of kosher within Judaism and the standard you are comfortable with does not allow eating such pizza. –  Curiouser Feb 10 '12 at 18:14
@Curiouser, I might say that about, let's say, a woman's wearing pants, where varying opinions exist. (How to answer my coworkers' question about that is a separate question from this one, and may be worth asking separately.) But are there really any serious opinions that would permit it Domino's pizza? Nat bar nat within a day from pepperoni and sausage; non-Jewish cheese; and who knows what else. And the problem with saying "there are different standards of kosher within Judaism" if there aren't is that it offers validation to incorrect behavior. –  msh210 Feb 10 '12 at 18:33
@Curiouser (Hm. Otoh, see Vram's comment, below.) –  msh210 Feb 10 '12 at 18:36
@msh210: Certainly buying bread from a non-kosher baker is widely accepted, and the heter for gevinas akum (based on Tosfos) was paskened l'masseh by R. Solovetichik, among others; and the Aruch HaShulchan makes clear that there is essentially no such thing as a non-kosher oven (in terms of vapors or steam). So I guess you would need to find out exactly how the Domino's pizzas are cooked (on a pan, directly on the oven wall, etc), but there seems to be a very plausible argument to be made. But my problem was the unnecessary assumption (which you also make) that the behavior is incorrect. –  Curiouser Feb 11 '12 at 23:27
@Curiouser I assume that by "non-kosher" bakery, you actually mean a "non-Jewish" bakery. If a non-Jewish bakery is known not to use any non-kosher products in its bread (and this would include any relevant issues involving utensils) then the bread is kosher even though it was made exclusively by non-Jews. In other words, the prohibitions of pas akum and bishop akum do not apply to bakery bread. However, all other kashrus concerns remain in full effect. In practice, this means that a modern bakery still requires kosher supervision. –  LazerA Feb 12 '12 at 18:00

Your response is fine, and I agree with LazerA's answer.

The only thing I would add, is that it depends on the person asking the question. If the questioner has a genuine curiosity as to why different Jews do different things, I think it's appropriate to go into a little more detail.

You might say, "For me, there's more to consider than the meat and cheese together. I don't know if the cheese itself is kosher. Even if it were, the people making the pizza put their hands into all of the meat, cheese, and vegetables, and there may be some accidental crossover. Furthermore, even if the cheese was kosher, and there was absolutely no cross-contamination, the oven itself can't be used for kosher food, because it has been used to cook non-kosher meat products, and the heat of the oven transfers the flavor and aroma of the food throughout the entire oven."

At that point, if he says, "That's very interesting, thanks for explaining it to me. So why isn't Josh concerned about all of that?"

Then you are back to, "I don't know, you would have to ask him".

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To respond to this I believe you would to find out the ingredients and show him sources/books that those ingredients aren't Kosher, but wouldn't recommend this at all because then you would be solidifying it (in his eyes): that Josh either doesn't know his own rules or simply doesn't care. Which would be what we call lashon hara.

Halachikally (based on my understanding of the Sifre C"C), believing what he says would be an Isur of Lashon Hara.

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You raise an interesting counterpoint to Will's answer. I think that his caution that dispensing detailed information on how Kashrut works is only appropriate in some conversations. Where it is appropriate, though, I suspect that explaining objective information about your own practices while taking care not to relate specifically to the report of "Josh"'s actions would not constitute problematic Lashon Hara, because the information you're dispensing is public knowledge, Torah, and not actually about Josh. –  Isaac Moses Feb 10 '12 at 16:47
@IsaacMoses but when you prove to that guy is doing is wrong from the Torah, it is approving of his L"H and believing it. –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 10 '12 at 16:52
No, it's not. Like I said, if you take care to not relate to the report of Josh's actions at all other than to say something like "that's Josh's business," then you are neither approving nor believing the report of Josh's action. –  Isaac Moses Feb 10 '12 at 17:01
@IsaacMoses but that must be specified. –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 10 '12 at 17:18
@Vram, in this case it's pretty darn clear Josh is doing an isur, or at the very least, is not trying not to. I'll clarify in the question. –  msh210 Feb 10 '12 at 18:39

I would have said:

"Some Orthodox Jews will eat only kosher at home, but will eat vegetarian food while on the road. My family (or my tradition) is to eat only kosher food both inside and outside the home."

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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/56563 –  msh210 Mar 19 at 6:55
@msh210 So what if it's not allowed? Neither is loshon hara, and besides, it's very much true that "some" Orthodox Jews do that. I don't see it as the answerer's responsibility to educate the entire world about the shades of Orthodox observance and their relative merits in view of our legal code –  SAH Mar 20 at 8:37
Besides, it seems there may be halachic grounds for "milk out" insofar as different kashrus standards exist for traveling. –  SAH Mar 20 at 8:38

All good answers, but I wanted to suggest a different possibility.

Someone who says that Josh does it, so why don't you, is basically making a stereotype about people and assuming that all people from group X must act and behave identically, even though they are individual people. In My mind, the best response to this, is to point out how bad of an assumption this is.

The easiest way to point this out, is to look at the person, and ask them if they do some sort of behavior that a famous person from their race/culture/background, when you know that they don't.

Everyone acts differently in different situations, and someone asking this question is most likely asking out of ignorance, but you should remind them that not everyone who looks alike, acts a like.

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True, but there's a difference between "people in this group tend to do X" and "people in this group profess an adherence to a commandment to do X". If the question were about some non-halachic stereotype, like "why aren't you rich? aren't all Jews rich?" then this approach would be appropriate. –  Monica Cellio Feb 10 '12 at 15:03
@MonicaCellio I don't think you are looking at this objectively. How many people drive faster than the speed limit, and how many people never will? Can you really divide up people that way, and then on every single other issue in life? –  avi Feb 11 '12 at 16:33
-1 this answer sounds like you're punishing the innocent bystander for asking a sincere question. A sharp retort like this is appropriate for, ask @MonicaCellio says "Aren't all Jews rich?". The worst thing to do would be to give off the impression that we don't like outsiders asking questions about our practices; IMHO our attitude should be 100% the opposite. –  user1095 Feb 11 '12 at 19:44
@Will If you feel that people should think that all Jews act exactly the same way in all situations, then so be it. Personally, I think it leads to complete lack of understanding and encourages stereotypes that if they hear one bad thing about a Jew in the news, it means that all Jews act that way. –  avi Feb 11 '12 at 20:34
avi, what I think @MonicaCellio means above (and what I know I mean now) is that my interlocutor wasn't making an assumption about all Jews simply because of what I or Josh does. Rather, he understood from me that an action is forbidden by my religion, understood from Josh and me that he and I follow the same religion, and saw Josh doing that action. This raised a question in his mind: and while there may be a correct response that (as you say) not everyone in a group acts alike (e.g., if we're talking about kitniyos on Pesach), his question is a valid one and needn't be put down. –  msh210 Feb 12 '12 at 4:47

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