Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hilchot Ugiot

The perfect post-Pesach post. A return to the spirituality of the chol.

from: Owain F. Carter, "The Year That Oreos Became Kosher", 2000, adapted from an earlier version of unknown origin.

Although many significant events have shaped 5758 [1997/1998 c.e.] so far (U.S. troops in Bosnia, an erratic stock market, septuplets in Iowa, increasing tension the Middle East) certainly none can compare to the really big story this year, a genuine blockbuster that will change the lives of American Jews dramatically and cataclysmically. Unless we merit the coming of Mashiach, 5758 will go down in history as The Year That Oreos Became Kosher. Now that Nabisco has made the commitment to providing Jews (and the world at large) with kosher Oreos, we Jews have a responsibility to consider the halachic implications of this remarkable coup. I am not referring to the reliability of rabbinical hashgacha within Nabisco's factories, chas v'shalom.

Rather, my concern is income-based (how it's ingested) and outcome-based (digested). Halacha covers even the most picayune details of a Jew's everyday life. The reliance on seder, a certain order as part of the process, is integral to implementation. For example, the way we put on our shoes and tie them: we first put on the right shoe, then the left shoe, then we tie the left shoe and finally tie the right shoe. The reasons behind these halachos are beyond the ken of the average Jew. It may be best left to kabbalists to divine their significance. Nevertheless, we take this shoe-fitting decree seriously, a case of na'al v'nishma.

This concept of seder is no different for kabbalistic Oreo-eating. Which should come first? A straightforward bite into the whole cookie? Should one first break apart the two sandwich halves and concentrate on the creme? One can postulate that if white represents purity and goodness, and black evil and darkness, then perhaps one should eat the white first, as an example of the yetzer hatov triumphing over the yetzer hora? Or should one save the best for last, so to speak, by first destroying, via consumptive powers, the Darkness (the cookie part) and be left only with Light (the creme)? Or perhaps, this sort of binary weltanschauung is not healthy at all it may be preferable to take the centrist position and bite into the intact cookie, representing the real-world mix of good and bad, light and dark, moderation versus extremism.

A fresh insight and hint may be garnered when analyzing the Hebrew form of Oreos, Ori-oz (aleph-vav-resh-yud-ayin-zayin), translated as "my light is the source of strength." Assuming that the "s" in Oreos takes on the Ashkenazic pronounciation, it may also be interpreted Ori-os, or my light shall be a sign. Thus the Hebrew appears to favor the creme-first eating process, although it's advisable to check with your local rabbi for a p'sak. And then, of course, comes the question of which blessings to say. 'Borei minay mezonos' seems the obvious choice, unless one first chooses to excise and consume the white creme center (in which case, a shehakol would be the way to go, followed by a 'mezonos' when the cookie part is tasted.)

Or, since the creme is subjectively the mehudar, perhaps a 'shehakol' is sufficient for both creme and cookie, provided that the creme is eaten first? And if one has a glass of milk with one's Oreo, does the 'shehakol' that one first said over the Oreo's creme center suffice? Clearly the introduction of Oreos and all the shaylos it presents allows us the opportunity to triumph over lust, by exercising control over the Oreo, versus the Oreo having control over us. Cooperation between Nabisco and the Orthodox Union has given Jews the opportunity to take the everyday act of noshing on kosher Oreos, and raise it to a whole new level of holiness.

We see that Oreos enrich our bodies with a perfect blend of ruchniyus and gashmiyus, the transitory (a taste of Heaven) and the permanent (a waistline that holds no secrets).

Hattip to D. Glenn Arthur

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