OzTorah: Ask the Rabbi.



Question.  Is all vegetarian food kosher?

Answer.  Unfortunately, supposed vegetarian food is sometimes not even vegetarian. Restaurants, pizza shops and fast food outlets which focus on meat (obviously t’refah) often purport to offer vegetarian options but there is no guarantee that the ingredients really are vegetarian and it is almost impossible for them to be prepared and served in vegetarian utensils. To claim these foods are vegetarian is nothing short of a confidence trick.

Even so-called vegetarian restaurants are not necessarily without major problems; for instance, many brands of bread, oil, cheese, margarine, fat, mayonnaise and even chocolates or other sweets contain meat derivatives. So-called health food shops frequently sell non-kosher meat items.

When vegetarians go shopping it is unwise to rely on product labels; innocent-sounding ingredients can be highly suspect, they can contain admixtures of unacceptable items, and products are often processed on the same machinery used for meat-based foods.

If all this means that the term “vegetarian” can be a misnomer for vegetarians, it can also make life difficult for the kosher consumer. To be kosher and vegetarian one needs to use the official kosher food directories but judiciously recognise and not utilise fleishig items.

A question often asked is whether a kosher-observant Jew can patronise a reliably vegan restaurant, but since this involves issues such as Shabbat, festivals, a proper checking of fruit and vegetables for insects, and the halachic consideration of “bishul akum” (non-Jewish cooking), a rabbi should be consulted directly.



Question.  Why is a chapter from the Mishnah included in the Friday evening service?

Answer.  The second chapter of the Mishnah Shabbat, “BaMeh Madlikin”, deals with the Shabbat lights. Some say it is read before the actual onset of Shabbat to remind anyone who has not yet kindled the lights to go and do so.

Shabbat Embrace Jewish original paintings by artist Martina Shapiro, fine art, abstract, contemporary
‘Shabbat Embrace’ Jewish original paintings by artist Martina Shapiro.

Another view sees it as an implicit attack on the Karaites who said that not kindling a fire on the Sabbath day meant not having a fire burning. Rabbinic Judaism believes that if a fire is lit or lights are kindled before Shabbat we may enjoy them during Shabbat.



Question. If the first of the Ten Commandments commands us to believe in God how is this possible? Can belief be imposed?

Answer.  Maimonides says that the First Commandment does not tell us to believe but to know there is a God, to accept the evidence of God’s existence.

Where do we find the evidence? In our own experience, since He

“brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”.

The so-called Ten Commandments are called by the Torah the “Ten Words” or “Ten Statements”, which means that Number 1 is not necessarily a command but a basic principle, the foundation of all that is to follow.



Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem.

Blog: http://www.oztorah.com

Paintings by Martina Shapiro are posted with her permission. Website:

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