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Food named after idols. Tzohar kashrut.


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 20, 5779
Shalom Rav, There is small Indian Restaurant in tel -Aviv namely Dosa-Bar. It has a kashruth certification from a institute called Tzohar. I saw the menu items online and found something. Few names are on the menu list which reminded me of something from my place.( I made Aliya from India) One of the dishes they named are Ganesh and Lakshmi . I read that the chef travelled and learned the dishes from southern part of India. In my place the name Ganesh or Lakshmi are actually the names of idols they serve in the temple. People also name their children with these names but the actual essence is that they are idol names. Ganesh ( elephant idol) and lakshmi ( idol which is served by some people in India as the one which gives money).I don’t know the intention of the person or the chef who named it like this. My questions are 1) If someone names the dishes like this (eg: Jesus bread, ) can I eat that dish certified by kashruth organaizations like tzohar ? 2) Can I rely on these kind of certifications to eat ? Thank you so Rav for your valuable time and concern.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is an interesting one. Obviously if the food is made with any idol worshiping intent – as part of an offering to the idols – then there are serious issues with partaking of such food. In this case though, it would seem that even if the foods were called after the names of the idols, it would still be permitted to order and eat the foods (as long as they were not cooked or used in for actual idol worship, as we mentioned above). The reason for this is that although we are forbidden to use things involved in idol worship – things that were named after idols may be mentioned by a Jew. For example, someone who lives in a city named after an idol is allowed to both live there and use the name of the city. The city itself is not idol worship, but was only called by the name of the idol – this secondary name is not forbidden. So here also, even though the elephant idol is forbidden, one is allowed to mention and use things called by its name (as long as those things are not part of any worship themselves). (This argument can be found in the responsa of Rav Y.H. Henkin shlitah – B'nie Banim volume 3, 35. Rav Henkin has told me that this would be true in the case of foods named after idols, as in our question). So, if the food is not made as part of any idol worship, and is kosher, one may eat it. Perhaps you would want to speak to the kashrut supervisor (from Tzohar) and ask them to check that the food is not being made as part of any idol worship – although my assumption is that here in Israel, in a kosher restaurant, there is little chance that this is a problem. As to the acceptability of the Tzohar kashrut organization – it is not my intention to get involved with any communal arguments as to the acceptability of a particular supervision. There is an argument as to how the national kashrut system in Israel should be run, and the place of organizations outside the local Rabbanut in the certification of restaurants. Tzohar has one approach, and many supporters of the Rabbanut a different idea. As to who you want to support in this ideological question is not up to me to say. However I will say, that from a purely technical halachic question as to whether one can halachically rely on the kashrut under the supervision of Tzohar – the answer is that it is permitted. The Rabbis running Tzohar are both very learned Jews, and G-d fearing, and as such their kashrut supervision is to be considered as halachically kosher. (As with every kashrut supervision there is an additional question as to whether a particular supervision follows the particular strictures that a person holds by. But such a question depends on what each person holds by, and cannot be answered with an across the board general answer). Blessings.
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