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The United States federal government, American Red Cross, and surely countless other governments and NGOs recommend that families have Emergency Survival Kits in their homes in case of a natural or manmade disaster, equipped with many different kinds of supplies, including a two-week to one-month (in some cases longer) supply of non-perishable food.

In an emergency, of course, one is permitted to eat whatever is available and can support survival. But what about actively preparing for such an emergency by building a survival kit equipped with non-Kosher food? Does it make a difference if the non-Kosher food one can purchase has a longer shelf-life than what one can purchase or prepare that is Kosher? Is one allowed to disregard a Kosher item that is available that is simply unpleasant and unpalatable? Does it matter if the cost of Kosher food fit for an emergency kit is cost-prohibitive?

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    "Is one allowed to disregard a Kosher item that is available that is simply unpleasant and unpalatable?" I can't imagine why that would be a consideration, unless it's so bad you wouldn't be able to ingest it. – Double AA Sep 10 '14 at 20:50
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    @DoubleAA, Ahem (Photo) – Seth J Sep 10 '14 at 20:56
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    אין מפליגין בספינה (שבת יט:) וע"ע בעל המאור (שם או לקמן פרק ר' אליעזר דמילה) – Shokhet Sep 10 '14 at 21:22
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    Reminds me of the question of entering medical school (or seeking employment as a doctor), knowing one will have to work on Shabas to save a life. I'm not saying the two are halachically similar (I don't know), just that they seem similar to me. – msh210 Sep 10 '14 at 23:53
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    I'm curious if the downvote was because the voter felt this wasn't a quality question or because it was offensive. – Seth J Sep 11 '14 at 15:01
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The Gemara says in Shabbos (19a)

ת"ר אין מפליגין בספינה פחות מג' ימים קודם לשבת
The rabbis taught: one may not travel by boat less than three days before Shabbos.

( translation mine )

The Rishonim discuss why this is not allowed. The Ba'al HaMaor on that Gemara (7a in דפי הרי"ף*) writes that the reason is because he is putting himself into a dangerous position, where he would have to violate Shabbos to preserve his life, and one is not allowed to do that ab initio.

I would suggest that this case (of buying non-kosher food) is analogous to that case (of sailing too close to Shabbos), because in both of them, one is placing himself in a dangerous position where he will have to break הלכה in order to save his life -- something that he is definitely allowed to do, but still should not plan on doing so lechatchila.

CYLOR ( I haven't, but I have the feeling that he would ask me exactly how much more expensive it is to do it kosher, and I would end up buying kosher :P )


*link appreciated!

  • This is from memory, as I do not currently have access to my notes on Shabbos. I decided to post anyway, because I was able to find the Gemara and the Ba'al HaMaor. However, it should be noted that this is not as simple as I laid it out, because other Rishonim disagree with the Ba'al HaMaor on the reasoning for this Gemara, and because there is another Gemara (ibid. 134b) that discusses a similar situation, and there may or may not be a contradiction in the Ba'al HaMaor that has to be dealt with. [.......] – Shokhet Sep 11 '14 at 5:23
  • [.......] I posted this so others will have something to think about, and when I am able to, I will (God-willing) fill in the rest of the info. – Shokhet Sep 11 '14 at 5:23
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    It might make a difference if the only shelf-stable food available wasn't kosher (or at least, didn't have a hechsher). Fortunately, at least in North America and Israel, that is not the case. There is a huge variety of shelf-stable canned and vacuum-packed foods that are certified kosher. These foods can be found in any standard supermarket. If a Jew lives in Estonia, tzarich iyun. – Jake Sep 11 '14 at 7:22
  • @Jake what if the Jew lives in Wyoming? – Seth J Sep 11 '14 at 18:13
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    @SethJ Many U.S. national brands have kosher certification. His emergency kit can include vegetarian baked beans, a wide assortment of canned fruits and vegetables, tuna fish cans, powdered milk and special boxed milk that doesn't spoil (if one holds chalav stam, but I mean c'mon, it's Wyoming). It's quite easy to buy national brands at any grocery store in the USA and only eat kosher certified food. – Jake Sep 11 '14 at 18:22

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