With Purim having been celebrated this week, I wonder how many of your readers noticed that the Hebrew word for “kosher” can be found in the Book of Esther.
The exact sentence can be found in chapter 8, verse 5: “If it pleases the king, and I have won his favor, and the proposal seems right before the king .... ” The word “vechasher” (kosher) – meaning, “seems right” or “seems proper” – is the only time the word “kosher” appears in the Bible!
Queen Esther was pleading and serving on behalf of all the Jewish people. She never required a permit or needed to seek approval from the local rabbinate at that time, for use of the word “kosher.” I have been given to understand that it is illegal to block all other people from any use of any one word. Such an attempt to copyright the word failed many years ago in the US.
We understand that the rabbinate is referring exclusively to the word “kosher” as being used to designate a food being permitted to be consumed as sanctioned under the Halacha. It may, however, be possible to use a synonym such as “lawful,” or, better still, a certificate that states, “The food served on these premises has been authenticated as being proper and right (the word ‘kosher’ of Queen Esther’s plea) by our religious supervisor.”
That it is now possible for the rabbinate to indict restaurateurs and caterers who claim to serve kosher food without the rabbinate’s approval is not so much because of the Israeli restaurateurs and caterers personally, but because, as has been quoted in the press, of a system that is claimed to be “riddled with corruption.” The question remains, will religious oppression cure the Koranabbinatevirus? Queen Esther succeeded in what is today Tehran, without shackles!
LEONARD E. BOOK Ashkelon