I recently offered to help at the house of a close relative that was sitting shiva for her mother. Both non-kosher food trays and kosher food trays were being brought into the house. The people sitting shiva were not shomer kashrut. I felt uncomfortable with the situation as I didn’t want to serve the people sitting shiva from the non-kosher food trays, and I also didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable or embarrass them during their shiva period. Would it be permissible for me to serve them food if they requested food from the non-kosher food tray? Are there less stringencies if the food tray was dairy versus meat?
I recently offered to help at the house of a close relative that was sitting shiva for her mother. Both non-kosher food trays and kosher food trays were being brought into the house. The people sitting shiva were not shomer kashrut. I felt uncomfortable with the situation where I didn’t want to serve the people sitting shiva from the non-kosher food trays, and I also didn’t want to make them feel uncomfortable or embarrass them during their shiva period. Would it be permissible for me to serve them food if they requested food from the non-kosher food tray? Are there less stringencies if the food tray was dairy versus meat?
I guess in an ideal universe one might set the parameters before volunteering. Let's deal with it as it is. The 2nd question about dairy to me is tangential and so I will treat it separately.
The first query is a "toughie!”. "No good deed goes unpunished". Here is a well-meaning kosher person on the horns of a dilemma, to
A. help out the bereaved and to serve "treif" [Non-kosher]?
B. NOT help out and to avoid serving treif?
The simple answer would be to do both - that is to help out all one can and yet to serve no treif to fellow Jews. Note that serving treif to Gentiles should not [typically] pose a halachic problem.
This principle here is of course easier to describe than it is to manifest.
I'm guessing as a rabbi I would not be expected to handle treief. Were I not a rabbi - I might simply demur and say "let me just serve coffee and not handle the other food". Alternatively, I might try to avoid handling food entirely by claiming "I have a cold"
There is no Halachic way I know to serve treif to a fellow Jew - absent an acute health crisis. Serving a Non-Jew seems fine as far as I can tell
Regarding Dairy- there are many parameters and variables here. If we can reasonable presume that the food is Kosher, then we can probably assist fellow Jews in eating it. Nevertheless, I would avoid representing unsupervised food as being certified as Kosher. This came up in office in which bagels were bought from an unsupervised Bagel Shop. While several Observant Jews would eat the bagels, no one would represent them as having been Kosher Supervised. Rather they were considered what they were, possibly Kosher depending upon the nature of the baker and one's own personal standards.
You raise a question in which on the surface there appears to be competing mitzvot. On the one hand, you want to fulfill the mitzvah of nichum aveilim - comforting the mourners. On the other hand, you are hesitant to violate the mitzvah of benefiting from non-kosher food.
I contend that there are existing prohibitions forbidding any benefit being derived from the mixture of dairy and meat together (and you derive benefit from serving this non-kosher food to the mourners because you benefit from fulfilling the mitzvah of comforting the mourners). A potential solution to this problem is to see if there are other "shivah helpers" available to serve the dinner, then you could volunteer to only help serve dessert or clean up after the meal. In doing so, you would still be comforting the mourners but not actually giving them non-kosher food.
It is never appropriate, but I'm sure you would agree that a shivah is most certainlynot the place to embarrass the mourners by explaining you don't want to serve them non-kosher food. They don't keep kosher and they likely aren't going to start during the shiva, so it's really the best solution to not serve the non-kosher food if you're uncomfortable, but to find other ways to help out during the shivah.
In terms of the difference between meat and dairy, I don't think that is a question of Jewish values. Rather, it can be viewed in the context of either halakhah (Jewish Law) or general communal practice. In both cases, the Jewish community is more stringent with kashrut observance when it comes to meat products. So, while it's not a value question, I do think there is a difference between your discomfort serving non-kosher meat and cheese together versus serving the mourners tuna fish, egg salad, or cream cheese on a bagel that comes from a non-kosher establishment.
I hope that is helpful and I salute you for your commitment to helping bring comfort to the mourners while also wanting to feel comfortable when it comes to your kashrut observance.
You indicate that the family in mourning is not shomer kashrut. Therefore , your concerns about kosher food is really your concern and not theirs. There is no problem in serving them food from the non kosher food tray. You are not the one eating the food. The additional question about dairy and meat is interesting. Did you mean meat and dairy together? If so, there is no Biblical injunction against having meat and dairy foods together. It is only a later tradition based on a mistaken interpretation of the verse, do not boil the kid in its mothers milk. The dairy tray cannot be trayf as far as Reform is concerned. More traditional respondents would question where the food was prepared,was the establishment kosher, etc. All concerns that are not germane to (most in) Reform Judaism. Meat is a different matter. Again , it all depends on who defines kosher. My chassidic relatives do not eat food from Hebrew National as it is not kosher enough. Reform Jews have to decide what they wish to observe in terms of kashrut.
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