This is not a real plan. It is an ironic essay. While the Divrei Torah are valid, the tone and purpose of the post is to raise an important question, to highlight issues, to pique interest, and to stimulate intelligent conversation.
On Pesach, we discussed the marvelous products of food science offered now- items that have no grain or kitnios flour that look and taste exactly like bread. With a palette of various root starches and quinoa, and the use of the chemicals and appliances that can make smoke into a brittle foam, making ersatz white bread and bagels is becoming practically quotidian. Kosher for Pesach pizza is old hat. A friend told me that at one of the programs where kosher for Pesach beigels were offered, he saw a guest wash and say hamotzi on his shehakol bagel. I was told that before Pesach, Rabbi Elefant was interviewed on a Jewish radio station in New York, and he said that one factor in the OU allowing quinoa was that quinoa is the only reasonable alternative to rice for making sushi, and if they couldn't make sushi, the caterers that run Pesach programs would lose a lot of money- ergo, hefsed meruba and the decision of the OU to be mattir.
It's easy to self-righteously say that such chametz replacements are inappropriate, and not in keeping with the spirit of the issur chametz. But who among us doesn't have Shick's seven layer cake, or rainbow cookies? They look like chametz too. Our Mexican cleaning lady, who has gone through eighteen Pesachs with us, was shocked when she saw them. But by now, we're all pretty used to them, and to Bacos.
Instead of merely reacting instinctively, let's think about what issues may be relevant, and then decide whether the issues are problematic.
1. Mar'is Ayin- it is assur to behave in a way where a reasonable observer might think you are doing a sin.
2. Things that mimic maachalos ha'asuros are disgusting to the Jewish sensibility, and eating them diminishes our refinement, it makes us callous.
3. If one gets used to eating what looks and tastes like it's assur, it weakens the psychological barrier and increases the likelihood he will eat real issurim.
4. The issurei achila serve to create a vital psychological and social barrier between us and the gentiles, and without that barrier, our sense of separateness, our unique identity, will be attenuated.
Issue 1. Maris Ayin.
The Gemara (Kerisus 21b) says that if you serve a container of fish blood, you must make it evident that it is not from an animal by floating some scales in it. The Maharshal in Kol Habasar says that similarly, when you serve chicken in almond milk, as was the local minhag on Purim, you must have some blanched almonds in or near the milk so that nobody mistakes it for real milk. The Rama in 87 argues with the Maharshal and says that this is only necessary by meat, not chicken, which is at worst an issur derabannan. This is why some caterers put placards next to coffee whitener at a fleishikeh meal.
Even more lekulah, the Pri Chadash (there in YD 87 on the Rama) holds that we don't prohibit based on Maris Ayin beyond what we find explicitly prohibited in Chazal. True, many poskim disagree (such as Reb Moshe in the Igros OC 3:25 and the Maharik 115 and poskim brought in the Shaarei Teshuva OC 460:10,) but in any case, everyone agrees that all that matters is that people not make the mistake of thinking that what you're eating is treif. The fact that it looks and tastes treif doesn't matter. If everyone realizes that it is not really what it looks like, there is no problem of Mar'is Ayin. This is why Pesach beigels and white bread, and soy bacon and pepperoni and cheese are all muttar.
Issue 2. Things that mimic maachalos ha'asuros are disgusting to the Jewish sensibility, and eating them diminishes our refinement, it makes us callous.
Rashi in our Parsha brings from the Torah Kohanim the following:
ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי
אם אתם מובדלים מהם הרי אתם שלי, ואם לאו הרי אתם של נבוכדנצר וחבריו
רבי אלעזר בן עזריה אומר: מנין שלא יאמר אדם נפשי קצה בבשר חזיר, אי אפשי ללבוש כלאים, אבל יאמר אפשי, ומה אעשה ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי תלמוד לומר: ואבדיל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי, שתהא הבדלתכם מהם לשמי. פורש מן העבירה ומקבל עליו עול מלכות שמים
And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine:
If you are separated from them [through your observance of Torah], you will be Mine, but if not, you will belong to Nebuchadnezzar and his kind.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says: How do we know that a person should not say, “I find pork disgusting,” or “It is impossible for me to wear kil'ayim (a mixture of wool and linen,)” but rather, one should say, “I indeed wish to, but what can I do-my Father in heaven has imposed these decrees upon me?” Because Scripture says here, “And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine”-your very distinction from the other peoples must be for My Name, separating yourself from transgression and accepting upon yourself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. — [Torath Kohanim 20:128]
If so, there is nothing wrong with saying you'd like to eat all these things that are assur, and if you can find a way that you can eat them without an issur, it is fine.
True, the Rambam says this only applies to chukim- מצוות שמעיות- and maybe bugs are different. After all, we have Reb Yishmael (BM 62a) that says
דתנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אמר הקב"ה אילמלא העליתי את ישראל ממצרים אלא בשביל דבר זה שאין מטמאין בשרצים דיי א"ל ומי נפיש אגרייהו טפי מרבית ומציצית וממשקלות א"ל אע"ג דלא נפיש אגרייהו טפי מאיסי למכלינהוso maybe שרצים are inherently disgusting. But at least Chazir is clearly in the "assur but desirable" column.
What about blood? The Seforno puts blood in the desirable column, too. From Devarim 12:25-
רק חזק לבלתי אכל הדם - - לא תאכלנו למען ייטב לך ולבניך אחריך כי תעשה הישר בעיני ה׳. - - וכאשר תמנע מלאכול לא יהיה זה כמואס בו, אבל כדי שתעשה הישר בעיני ה׳, כאמרם ז״ל אל יאמר אדם קצה נפשי בבשר אסור אבל יאמר איפשי ואבי שבשמים גזר עלי
Issue 3. If one gets used to eating what looks and tastes like it's assur, it weakens the psychological barrier and increases the likelihood he will eat real issurim.
We have what I call the Shibuta rule. The Gemara in Chulin 109 brings a conversation between Yalta and her husband, Rav Nachman, which teaches that everything that for everything that is assur there is an equivalent that is muttar..
אמרה ליה ילתא לרב נחמן מכדי כל דאסר לן רחמנא שרא לן כוותיה אסר לן דמא שרא לן כבדא נדה דם טוהר חלב בהמה חלב חיה חזיר מוחא דשיבוטא גירותא לישנא דכוורא אשת איש גרושה בחיי בעלה אשת אח יבמה כותית יפת תאר בעינן למיכל בשרא בחלבא אמר להו רב נחמן לטבחי זויקו לה כחליApparently, Rav Nachman wasn't too worried about getting used to eating things that taste assur.
Anyway, that is everyone's complaint about making an Eiruv. Kids will grow up carrying on Shabbos, and they'll never learn to be careful, and they'll end up carrying without an eiruv. This concern never stopped anyone from building an eiruv.
Also, let's remember that the Gemara is mattir a container of fish blood, as brought above from Kerisus, and nowhere does anyone say that one should avoid it for reasons of mussar.
Issue 4. The issurei achila serve to create a vital psychological and social barrier between us and the gentiles, and without that barrier, our sense of separateness, our unique identity, will be attenuated.
I want to point out that precisely in the Rashi that says how important it is to be culturally separated from the Gentiles,
ואבדל אתכם מן העמים להיות לי אם אתם מובדלים מהם הרי אתם שלי, ואם לאו הרי אתם של נבוכדנצר וחבריו.
does Rashi bring the Toras Kohanim about liking Chazir and only not eating it because of Hashem's commandment. It appears that the הבדלה is that we keep Hashem's mitzvos. There is no spirit of the law other than being faithful to Hashem's commandments. Kosher is kosher, and the only barrier that matters is keeping the Mitzvos.
There does not seem to be any problem at all eating things that look and taste like they are assur, so long as what's going on is clear and there is no mar'is ayin issue.
What we need now is a practical and profitable application of this concept. We need a restaurant that is dedicated to providing the Treif experience to Orthodox Jews. Imagine a menu that offers pepperoni pizza, pork chops, cheeseburgers, shrimp or lobster salad, clam soup, bouillabaisse with all different kinds of mieseh shrotzim, bagels and white bread on Pesach... the list is endless.
We could add the half-raw Tartimar Burger, served with Italian wine- Tartimar Tartare with a citrusy Trebbiano Toscano. This would be large enough to satisfy the weight requirement of the portion of meat that makes a person a Ben Sorer U'Moreh. The din of Ben Soreir u"Moreh, of course, only apply if the person who eats it is thirteen years old, and he bought the meat with money he stole from his father. For everyone else, being a zolel v'sovei is not a problem. And the truth is that a Tarteimar of meat is really not that much- not more than nine or ten ounces of meat as served.
If members of the wait staff are married women, we would have them wear Sheitlach that are indistinguishable from natural hair.
A good business plan needs a name. What shall we call this restaurant? (Dr. Nachum calls it a bistro. Maybe he's right- It's more of a tapas thing than a formal sit down.)
Here are some thoughts.
1. Naval, subtitled Birshus HaTorah. If we go with Naval, the accent should be on the Val, to make it sound French. Nah-Val'. Maybe NaValle, in cursive script.
2. Kol Be'Ha'arama Nishma.
3. Triple Treif Kosher.
4. Mar'is Ayin.
5. Abizraihu (אביזרייהו).
6. Reshock. (That's Kosher, backwards.)
7. My favorite: FLAG Kosher. FLAG stands for Fress Like A Goy.
Based on the Ramban's introduction to our parsha, I guess he would not eat at our restaurant. You have to be realistic about your demographic. But even the Ramban would agree that it's kosher. He might even give the hashgacha.
Someone told me that I'm thinking too small. An idea like this shouldn't be limited to a restaurant- it should be a line of food available at your local food store, festooned with hechsheirim. (To add to the kashrus standard, it will not have a sell-by date.) FLAG Kosher- Coming soon!
But we can still have a restaurant. We will call the restaurant The FLAGship.
In brief, let me explain why outside of the irony, there is a serious question here. Many people feel that treif food is repugnant. After all, Chazal say that מאכלות אסורות cause טמטום הלב, and if they cause טמטום הלב, if eating them is so injurious to the soul, then one ought to be repelled by even looking at them or anything that looks like them. Nobody wants to eat imitation poisonous or rotten food. However, as we have discussed long ago, טמטום הלב is not at all simple. Although many say that it comes from the nature of the treif food, many others say that it is a result of the issur, not the nature of the food. If it's muttar, it's not מטמטם את הלב. If it's just the issur and not the nature of the food, food that looks like treifus should not be repulsive.
Furthermore, one might say that the Toras Kohanim brought in Rashi above teaches a tremendous lesson: when the Torah prohibits a food, it is not that the food is horrible. The food is fine, but we won't eat it because we listen to the Ribono shel Olam, we are disciplined, not superstitious. So now, here's an experiment. Two people are faced with some tremendous yeitzer hara, and the yeitzer hara is very attractive and seductive, refined, intelligent, and perfumed- think about what Yosef HaTzadik faced. One person is a kadosh and tahor, whose life long scrupulous avoidance of issurei achila reflected a visceral disgust of issurim. The other person was equally scrupulous, but he always felt that issurim are attractive and enjoyable, but he avoided them because the Ribono shel Olam told him to stay away from them. Now they are both faced with a dvar issur that is a supreme physical and mental pleasure. Which one of them is more likely to overcome his yeitzer hara?
But there is something to be said for לא שינו את שמם/לשונם/מלבושם, even regarding what we eat. Also, there is mussar and there is halacha.
And you have to wonder. I think that the only attraction of these ersatz issurim is the thrill of the illicit. If a person is happy and proud to be a member of the Mamleches Kohanim, why would he have even be interested in tasting things that are assur? If you're happy in your marriage, why are you even thinking about other women? What is the thrill in experiencing what Gentiles experience? Are there not enough kosher foods that we can eat that we need to duplicate things that are assur because of the thrill? Wanting to eat these things may not be a problem, but it may be a symptom of a problem.
So it's not simple at all.