Before making fun of keeping kosher, I want to assure any observant Jew who comes across this blog post that I'm an equal opportunity religion-basher.
So you're not being singled out because you're Jewish. It's your religious fundamentalism, which comes in many denominational varieties, that's deserving of some ridicule today.
Which happens to be July 10. The temperature has hit an unusual 100 degrees here in Oregon. So there's good reason to keep the oven off today.
However, not turning our Frigidaire electric wall oven on during the Jewish Sabbath (basically, Friday night to Saturday night) – that's kosher nonsense.
When we bought the oven in the course of kitchen remodeling, I noted that the manual referred to a Sabbath Feature "for use on the Jewish Sabbath & Holidays." Intrigued, I headed over to a URL mentioned in the manual, http://www.star-k.org/. There I entered the weird and wacky world of keeping kosher, something I knew very little about.
I still don't. Not surprising, since a few minutes of browsing around this web site doesn't begin to unravel the intricate details of one of the most bizarre forms of religious ritualism.
Jewish law prohibits all sorts of activities on the Sabbath. Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia article that pertains to our oven's Sabbath Feature:
Another example is the prohibition (according to Orthodox and some Conservative rabbinic authorities) against turning electric devices on or off, which is derived from one of the "39 categories of work (melachot)". However, the authorities are not in agreement about exactly which category (or categories) this would fall under.
One view is that tiny sparks are created in a switch when the circuit is closed, and this would constitute "lighting a fire" (category 37). If the appliance is one whose purpose is for light or heat (such as an incandescent lightbulb or electric oven) then the lighting or heating elements may be considered as a type of fire; if so, then turning them on constitutes both "lighting a fire" (category 37) and "cooking" (a form of baking, category 11), and turning them off would be "extinguishing a fire" (category 36).
Another view is that a device which is plugged into an electrical outlet of a wall becomes part of the building, but is nonfunctional while the switch is off; turning it on would then constitute "building" and turning it off would be "demolishing" (categories 35 and 34).
Some schools of thought consider the use of electricity to be forbidden only by rabbinic injunction, rather than because it violates of one of the original categories. A common solution to the problem of electricity involves pre-set timers for electric appliances, to turn them on and off automatically, with no human intervention on Shabbat itself.
Good god! I've believed in some strange spiritual stuff, but not this strange.
A fellow blogger, John, has pretty much the same attitude toward not turning an oven on during the Sabbath as I do. And he offers some insights into the rationale for keeping kosher.
Which basically is that there isn't any reasonable reason for the injunctions. It's a matter of fundamentalist obedience to religious doctrines that make no sense.
You probably have to be a rabbi to fully understand an oven's Sabbath Mode. I did my best to warm up to the Star-K Online discussion on this subject, but my brain got fried pretty quickly.
Apparently it's OK to start cooking before the Sabbath, and it's also OK to open the oven door and take food out on the Sabbath, but it's not OK if an oven light goes on when the door is opened, so make sure it's unscrewed (on our oven, the light stays on the whole time the Sabbath feature is active; that keeps kosher, but also contributes a mite to global warming, so you're going to incur the wrath of Al Gore).
Reading some other pages on the web site, including Kosher 101, I kept having to remind myself that this wasn't a satire. I mean, who comes up with this stuff?
1. Equipment used to manufacture products containing non-kosher ingredients may acquire non-kosher status. Thus, production that takes place after non-kosher production is completed can be rendered non-kosher by virtue of the equipment used, even if the ingredients are kosher.
2. Non-kosher equipment can be restored to a kosher mode by a variety of ways, usually depending upon the way in which the non-kosher product was produced. This process is referred to as Kosherization. Usage of a non-kosher product in conjunction with liquid, e.g. a non-kosher soup, requires treating the kettle with boiling water to restore its kosher status. Non-kosher products that were produced where there is no liquid cooking medium, i.e. an oven band, require a different technique. This equipment must be treated by high heat in order to restore its kosher status.
Kosherization seems to be a way of dealing with Jewish cooties. Like "real" cooties, they're unseen but highly contagious. I remember getting them all the time in elementary school, mostly when a girl touched me (ugh!).
But come on, observant Jews of the world. There comes a time to grow up and lose the fear of cooties. Live dangerously. Try using your oven on Saturday without the aid of its Sabbath Feature.
There are, though, a few fundamentalist Jewish rules that I could get behind. Like the encouragement to have sex on Shabbat, particularly on Friday night.
Now we're making sense.