Yes, it’s a little strange to bring Jewish dietary laws into a political discussion, but there’s actually a point to all this. So please bear with me as I take a shallow walk through a deep subject to arrive at a political metaphor.
Most Americans are familiar with the concept of kosher dietary laws, at least in their broadest outlines. Everyone knows that Jews can’t eat pork, and many people know that Jews cannot mix meat and milk.
Keeping kosher is a lot more demanding than that, of course. There are many other dietary laws that only those who keep kosher know, such as the requirement that an animal be killed quickly and drained of blood, the proscription against eating an animal’s sciatic nerve or eating reptiles and amphibians (no French frog legs for the Jews!), or the limitations on eating fresh grain or fruit from young trees.
Most of the dietary laws originated in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but rabbis have interpreted them and added to them over the course of a few thousand years. They’ve also sought to find meaning in them, such as seeing them as pushback against Baalist practices in Biblical times; common sense proscriptions against toxic foods; practical aids to help crops grow; and humanitarian guides, such as sparing animals the horrors of ritual sacrifice, complete with the animals’ guts slowly being removed. One doesn’t need to search for deeper meanings, however, to understand that keeping kosher is a significant lifestyle commitment that demands a great deal from the faithful.
Despite their commitment to the Torah, though, the rabbis were pragmatic men who understood that moral principles must outweigh religious practices. That notion — morality trumps rules — is how we get to the doctrine of “Pikuach Nefesh.”