Saturday, April 15, 2006

The modern-day Talmudists

An email conversation among my friends on Thursday, all of whom were supposedly working at their jobs at the time:

-----Original Message-----
On 4/13/06, John wrote:

Can oatmeal be consumed during Passover? I ask Craig and Melina, two wizened Jewish friends. Pete, I'm cc'ing you not because I expect you to observe the Jewish holiday, but because you enforce the strictures of the daily oatmeal breakfast.

-----Original Message-----
From: Melina
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:04 PM
To: John
Cc: Craig; Peter
Subject: Re: Oatmeal

I had to look this up but sorry, no oats: In addition to bread products containing leaven, there are a few other foods that are not eaten on Pesach. The basic rule is that any product that is fermented or can cause fermentation may not be eaten, including five grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, and spelt. Any food or drink that is made from one of these grains or that contains one of these grains, even in very small quantity, is considered hametz.

Ashkenazic Jews follow the custom of not eating rice, corn, peanuts, or other vegetables in the pea family, treating them as hametz because these products swell when cooked and so resemble a leavening process. [These are called 'kitniyot' (beans). Traditionally, Ashkenazic authorities consider kitniyot to be part of the forbidden foods on Passsover, but technically these items are not hametz.] Neither the grains nor any of the flours or oils made from them may be used. Sephardic tradition allows these products to be eaten. [In Israel, the Conservative movement has also allowed these products to be eaten even by Ashkenazim on Passover.]

-----Original Message-----
On 4/13/06, John wrote:

This is an outrage! I'm running on empty!

As soon as Pesach ends I'm eating me a big plate of spelt.

I don't think you should be able to eat anything they couldn't eat back then. So, while sashimi grade yellowtail is clearly not leavened, they didn't have it in the desert so neither can we eat of it, the fruit of the tuna, which swims upon its scaly fins.

-----Original Message-----
Melina wrote:

however if sashimi grade yellowtail was forbidden there would be massive starvation deaths across the upper east side, and saving a life is more important than keeping kosher

-----Original Message-----
On 4/13/06, Pete wrote:

I realize I don't know the sort of grain Matzoh is made from. Is it millet?

According to Wikipedia, which is, of course, entirely authoritative on matters of theology, it is debatable whether Oats are properly considered one of the five grains, and that, regardless, the five grains can still be considered unleavened if they are kept dry, protected from fermentation, and put in the oven within 18 minutes of exposure to water.

Within this context, it would be conceivable to have Shmura oatmeal, but potentially difficult. First and foremost, you'd need a rabbi monitoring the entire process and use special machines for the oats, but I suppose the Quakers are generally tolerant and cooperative with other religions, so they wouldn't mind.

Here, I can speak as an oat enthusiast more than as somebody knowledgeable about Judaica -- the kind of oat most likely to be kosher for passover (if we get around the five grains thing) would be steel-cut -- rolled oats have usually been blasted with steam to soften them before they were processed, and probably leaven somewhat before they have the yeast and other enzymes burned out of them. Unfortunately, steel-cut oatmeal takes the better part of half an hour to cook and tends to retain its heat longer after cooking -- it's often over an hour from when the stuff hits water to when you eat it, and since it generally sits around for a while all wet after its temperature has dropped, and since steel-cut oats already have a higher level of those nasty natural things in them that cause fermentation and rancidity, it
would probably not be kosher.

Rolled oats have been sort of "breadified" already, and the quicker they cook, the more "breadified" they've become (already washed, softened, and baked before you buy them).

HOWEVER, I'd like to point out that Instant Oatmeal should DEFINITELY be forbidden, as it has High Fructose Corn Syrup in it, and I'm pretty sure corn isn't kosher for passover.

I've read up a little on the subject, and have found that some Jewish food-producing companies bring in rabbis to specially supervise how they use HFCS, so that they can continue to add non-kosher-for-passover ingredients to foods marketed as kosher to passover, which I find highly sketchy, both as someone generally very suspicious of the food industry's ravenous hunger for cost-cutting at the expense of the public good and of people bending the laws of a religion I respect without telling anybody about it.


-----Original Message-----
From: John
Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2006 12:45 PM
To: Peter
Cc: Melina; Craig
Subject: Re: Oatmeal

you are an oustanding Talmudist. or at least just some guy who really really likes oatmeal.

-----Original Message-----
On 4/13/06, Peter wrote:

I think oat-based cereals are generally those most inline with the ethical principles that spring from Talmudic scholarship.

You don't see oats in Cookie Crisp, which shows a broad disrespect for authority on behalf of the community at large as well as a lack of a sense of responsibility on behalf of those placed into positions of power for those under their charge.

You don't see oats in Trix, where the community eschews its own native foodstuffs and culture and instead siezes upon the pagan frenzy of neighboring rabbit-idols and adopts their exotic diets by force.

They are in neither Fruity nor Cocoa Pebbles, for which the foolish and wicked neighbors Fred and Barney commit innumerable crimes against each other and break every commandment in the book, including "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife, nor thy neighbor's goods, and especially not thy neighbor's pterodactyl."

Oats are given to you by the benevolent Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, who, much like Maimonides, asks for nothing in return. Cheerios across the board are associated with the sort of idyllic community life and virtue that emerges from respect for the Law and the aspiration to perfection that follows from a properly lived life.

On 4/13/06, John wrote:
Nor are oats the kind of thing that would drive one to a sybaritic life of being "cuckoo" for Cocoa Puffs, which would divert one from a life of study and acts of loving kindness.

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At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


in refernce to:
"HOWEVER, I'd like to point out that Instant Oatmeal should DEFINITELY be forbidden, as it has High Fructose Corn Syrup in it"

actually, it doesn't.

and thank you for the help on whether or not oatmeal is kosher. :)

At 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: high fructose corn syrup

This ingredient is listed on my Dr. Brown's Creme Soda which carries the kosher for Passover symbol.


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