God – It Seems That My Toilet Is Not Kosher!

A further example of the absurdity of Orthodox religious belief

In previous articles I have cited a few examples of the self imposed strictures that ultra- Orthodox Jews have created in their quest for satisfying the ever expanding demands of their rabbis.

Within their communities they have appointed leaders who have been charged with the task of determining Halachic solutions to problems that they encounter in the modern world.

There is no end to the creativity that is applied in crafting answers, and once a solution has been found and accepted, those responsible are praised for the brilliance of their intellect in solving the apparently insoluble. However, generally, there are disagreements on the fine details, so it’s possible to be selective in choosing the solution that best suits you.

Which brings me to the subject of “Kosher” toilets!

As a secular Atheist I cannot claim to have a deep knowledge of all the thousands of limitations contained within the Halacha (Jewish religious law). However, like most Jews, I have a broad idea of some of the main features, but I had never encountered the issue of correct toilet procedures until last week.

So I am indebted to my religious son for the following anecdote – yet another true story!

Firstly, I should point out that he lives in a known religious orthodox environment and is, himself, what is termed “Modern Orthodox” (well, perhaps “Modern Unorthodox” might be more accurate, but that’s another story). He, and his family, live a “Kosher”Jewish life in all senses of the word.

Of course, all Orthodox households take the dietary restrictions very seriously, and his is no exception. Those ultra-Orthodox with the means and the space, not only have separate sections of the kitchen for milk and meat, but separate kitchens completely.

However, I had never heard of the desirability for separate toilets for Shabbat! Well, maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but you need to pay attention if you only have one.

So, let me get to the story itself.

It happened that a couple of weeks ago my son hosted a newly religious young couple on Shabbat. The “new” element is important, since these are the people who tend to extremism in following Halacha.

A few days later the young lady of the couple visited them again, and was quite excited that she was bringing them a special gift. They thought, at first, that this was a nice, if unnecessary, gesture.

Then they opened the gift.

They were amazed to discover that the “special gift” was – a scented toilet rim block!

It appears that the lady had been extremely distressed to discover on the Shabbat that their toilet was fitted with a standard toilet block that dispensed a blue dye when the toilet was flushed. This is absolutely forbidden by the Halacha, and so she was very anxious that they not continue to incur God’s wrath for a moment longer than necessary. Hence she purchased a toilet block that does not dye the water.

This is an extract from the relevant rule:

“The blue color gives the water in the bowl a more “hygienic” look, so the coloring of the water is beneficial and hence forbidden on Shabbos. It is important, therefore, that the disinfectant unit be removed from the tank or bowl before the onset of Shabbos or Yom Tov.”

There are some authorities that take a more practical and pragmatic approach in the circumstance in which the user may not have been aware of the disinfectant hidden in the cistern. In this situation, and in the interests of health and hygiene, it is permitted to flush the toilet in an unusual way:

“and one will be embarrassed to leave the toilet unflushed (kavod ha-beriyos), he may rely on the view of some poskim (experts) who argue that flushing such a toilet is not a violation of Coloring and he should flush the toilet in an unusual way, e.g. by using one’s elbow or foot.”

So now you know. To keep on the right side of God, or rather, his messengers on Earth, check that the toilet is Kosher before you pee.

Otherwise be prepared for some athletic contortions to get rid of the evidence!

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