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Some Jews have a practice of keeping kosher at home but eating at non-kosher restaurants, where they will be sure to avoid ordering meat or shellfish. Is there any "point" to this from a halachic standpoint? Since their food is cooked in non-kosher pots and ovens, isn't it just as non-kosher as if they would order meat? Or are they committing less transgressions (and/or less severe ones) through this practice?

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    This seems like a very vague question. You've already assumed that the food is non-kosher. I know that people debate kashrut standards (a separate argument) and say that a specific kosher symbol is unreliable so the food is "not kosher". But, if something REALLY is not kosher according to everyone, there is a "standard" of NON kashrut? That doesn't make much sense to me. – DanF Mar 18 '15 at 13:45
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    @DanF Is the OP maybe interested in the distinction between Torah and Rabbinic issurim; I realise of course that all Rabbinic prohibitions come under the Torah prohibition not to go against the Chachomim. – Avrohom Yitzchok Mar 18 '15 at 13:50
  • This appears to be more of an opinion question rather than a halachic question. It seems he is asking is some level of observance (as opposed to a complete level of observance) better than no level of observance? – Dennis Mar 18 '15 at 14:02
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    I think asking about degrees of prohibition is valid, and haven't we had Shabbat questions like that? So given that it's not a kosher restaurant, do you violate fewer prohibitions by ordering the baked fish than you would by ordering the bacon cheeseburger? I don't see the problem with that class of question, though I think it would be better asked that way than in a way that seems critical of others (is there any point, etc). – Monica Cellio Mar 18 '15 at 16:33
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    Note that foods other than those overtly listed as meat or shellfish may still contain some. For one example, if you order a salad, even ignoring the serious problem from bug infestation, the salad may come with pieces of shredded bacon mixed in (this is a real life example I heard from someone who used to follow the approach in the OP when they were not fully observant). That's aside from the matter of non-deliberate contamination of ingredients from other menu items. And other issues. So transference of absorbed taste from clean utensils is not the only issue here - not by a long shot. – Fred Mar 18 '15 at 19:01
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They are committing fewer transgressions though I believe it's controversial whether or not the ones that remain are more/less severe since there are texts that indicate that rabbinic prohibitions are more severe (plus there may well be biblical prohibitions still present since shellfish and non-kosher meat are not the only biblical prohibitions). If we assume that less prohibitions are better, that would be an advantage. (There are some counterpoints as well though. For example, often a stringency in one place leads to leniencies in others - "I was strict on kosher so now I can be lax on..." - so the psychology of the individual case would be relevant.)  

  • "rabbinic prohibitions are more severe"... that conflicts with basically the whole structure of how the Gemara reasons – Desert Star Mar 19 '15 at 19:01
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    @DesertStar How so? (For the record, it's a complex and controversial topic.) – Loewian Mar 20 '15 at 0:15
  • Because the obvious "goes without saying" assumption that rabbinic is less severe than Torah is present on practically every page of Gemara – Desert Star Mar 20 '15 at 1:18
  • @DesertStar hebrewbooks.org/shas.aspx?mesechta=3&daf=3&format=text for one. hebrewbooks.org/… for two. There's plenty more – Shmuel Brin Mar 20 '15 at 18:41
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What to do if you are stuck and there is nowhere other to eat than such a restaurant?

In such a situation should you avoid the non-kosher animals and eat just vegetables?

Well there's a biblical precedent: Daniel found himself in such a predicament in the "palace" of Nebuchadnezzar. He requested to the steward to only serve him from the vegetables and not to serve him the wine but just water to drink

נַס-נָא אֶת-עֲבָדֶיךָ, יָמִים עֲשָׂרָה; וְיִתְּנוּ-לָנוּ מִן-הַזֵּרֹעִים, וְנֹאכְלָה--וּמַיִם וְנִשְׁתֶּה

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3401.htm

So obviously it is better, if you're stuck.

So what if you're not stuck but just choose to eat in such a restaurant? Please note that my answer is not giving any licence to go ahead and do so. It is purely philosophical halachic discussion for the sake of looking at the issues:

Some aveirot are worse than others, and that goes by the seriousness of the punishment.

The normal penalty for eating non-kosher is lashes, unless the food contains forbidden blood or fat in which case it is kares, and then you'd have to eat at least an olive-sized portion of such.

Clearly something cooked simply in a non-kosher pot is not going to contain an olive-sized portion of blood or fat so you're probably safe from that and any absorbed non-kosher food may be less than 1/60th too so biblically at least may be "exempt". (This assumes the non-kosher restaurant does not intentionally put these items in and presumably if they wash their pots well anything that "falls" in is accidental)

(Other 2 eating prohibitions that are kares are time-based. Chametz on Pesach and anything on Yom Kippur. Presumably the person would not be eating in such a restaurant on those days).

With vegetables there may still be an issue with bugs, of course. If you "mash" them it's actually less of an issur as you won't be eating one intact. (The G'mara of Makot, which deals with penalties, actually lists the numbers of prohibitions you commit by eating bugs, and eating a whole one makes it worse).

And at worst it would be "shogeg" (careless, rather than intentional) but still should be avoided. (We don't know how exactly this applied in Daniel's day).

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    Could have been raw vegetables which he checked for bugs. – Shmuel Brin Mar 20 '15 at 18:42
  • @ShmuelBrin (To clarify, you are talking about Daniel). – Fred Mar 20 '15 at 20:19
  • @Fred Yes........... – Shmuel Brin Mar 20 '15 at 20:21
  • Not everything is nullified in a less than 1/60 ratio (e.g. wine or a davar sheyeish lo matirin). – Fred Mar 20 '15 at 20:27
  • And Chatzi Shiur could be Assur Min Hatorah – Shmuel Brin Mar 20 '15 at 20:38

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