Jewish tradition encompasses many values and practices relating to food. Once the sacrificial system ended, each home became known as a mikdash me’at, a small temple, a place where holiness happens. Israelites in the Biblical Period expressed their highest ideals and beliefs through sacrifices and sharing of the gifts they brought to the Temple in celebration of holidays and personal life cycle events. The tradition of “keeping kosher” can be traced from biblical prohibitions against eating certain foods (pig and other non-ruminants, shellfish, creepie-crawlers and bottom feeders), through the development of separation of milk and meat foods and utensils in the rabbinic period, to today’s concern with ethical standards and fair labor practices in food production, and conservation of the planet through “eco-kashrut”. Over the course of time, kashrut observance served many purposes: education in Jewish values; separation from non-Jews; enhancement of Jewish collectivity; support of health; support of Jewish identity. Today we approach the creation of our communal Jewish table with particular attention to 1) the mitzvah of hosting guests, 2) the mitzvah of kindness in speech at the table where it is customary for words of Torah and caring to be shared, and 3) the mitzvah of attention to which foods we consume and methods of preparation. Meat, given to us with the pain of life taken away, albeit with a blessing, is not mixed with milk, which is life-giving, a spiritual practice reminding us to always respect life’s preciousness.
Synagogue Shabbat meals
Synagogue Shabbat meals (Friday night dinners, Oneg lunches, holidays) are dairy-vegetarian-kosher fish. Members may prepare foods in their own kitchens or buy them from commercial purveyors, and bring them to the synagogue in their own containers. Everyone should carefully read labels on all products used in preparation of synagogue food. Please check for meat products or non-kosher ingredients (chicken broth, clam juice, beef or chicken flavoring, etc.). Quantities should be commensurate with the expected attendance so that we do not waste food. (Bal tashchit- Do not waste!-is a specific commandment in the Torah.) We appreciate the effort that goes into the preparation of food for congregational meals, and encourage everyone to participate in the mitzvah of building our community through good food and good conversation. It is our practice to begin every meal with the Hamotzi and conclude with one of the versions of Birkat HaMazon.
If a meat meal is to be served, only kosher certified caterers or strictly kosher home kitchens (separated milk and meat dishes, pots, and utensils and only kosher meat) may provide the meal.
The only meat meal that the congregation will sponsor is the Rosh HaShanah dinner. Meat meals may be provided for Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations, etc., but must be planned in consultation with the Religious Practices Committee.
Home events sponsored by the congregation should be conducted under the same principles listed above.
- Dairy-vegetarian-kosher fish (with fins and scales) meals should be planned using kosher ingredients, and may be prepared in any kitchen.
- Meat or poultry must be kosher and prepared in a kosher kitchen and served on kosher or disposable tableware.
- The hosts may determine additional standards for food brought to their home based on their individual preferences and practices.
Every meal should include items that will meet the special requirements of gluten free, lactose free, vegan and sugar free diets.
Because we do not own our own kitchen, and the kitchen we use at services does not have adequate dishwashing facilities, we use disposable tableware. We recycle whatever we can, and we take some utensils, equipment and table covers home for washing.
We keep separate dishes, utensils and serving wares for Pesach and observe stricter standards for that week, serving only packaged Passover foods or foods prepared in home kitchens that are “Kosher for Passover” (separate dishes, pots, utensils, only “KP” certified foods).
Translation – Kol HaNeshama
The phrase “Kol HaNeshama” comes from the last verse of Psalm 150, the Psalm that many of us know simply as “Hallelu”, perhaps the most joyous of all the Psalms. We chose it for the name of our synagogue both because of the text itself and the way it opens itself to English translations and interpertations.
The Hebrew spelling of “Kol” is K-L, Kaf-Lamed, meaning “all”.
The root of Neshama, N-SH-M, Nun-Shin-Mem, means “breath” or “breathing”, thus a “living thing”.
The simple meaning is: “Every living thing” (will praise God). Some have expanded this to “The breath of every living thing praises God.”
The translation in our prayer book, which just happens to be named Kol HaNeshama, is “Let every living thing Yah’s praises sing”.
Another translation would be “all that breathes” or “all of humanity”, signaling a universality in Judaism that includes all of humankind as one entity.
If you change the first Hebrew letter, Kaf, to a Kuf, the pronunciation is identical, but the meaning changes to “the voice of” the living being. Many Jewish musicians play on this double entendre, since the rest of the Psalm is a description of the use of many musical instruments in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, culminating with the human voice (breath) in song and prayer.
In Christian usage, the phrase is usually translated as All Souls, but the Hebrew source predates the theology of the soul as separate from the body. When one considers that voice is created by breath, This might be the basis for the translation “Voice of the souls” or “Voices of the souls”.
Sometimes to get to the meaning one has to read not the lines, but between the lines. The language throughout the centuries has “morphed”, and what a word or phrase meant then can be entirely different now. To put this into a modern prospective think about how the meaning of the sentence, “My credit card was swiped.” has changed just over the last fifteen years.
Somehow, as someone once said, “It ain’t simple being Jewish.”
We hope that this explanation helps, and leaves you smiling.
Our synagogue worship is designed to reflect the joy of music and expression described in Psalm 150. We praise God and express our gratitude for life, love, family and community through singing together, learning together, eating and celebrating together in the spirit of “Kol HaNeshama”. We invite you to join us.