We spent the weekend in Vancouver, B.C. celebrating Chanukkah with the in-laws. My Mother-In-Law made the most delicious latkes I've had in years. She also served a wonderful brisket on the side, which sparked an interesting question for me. If she served tofu, dairy-free sour cream with it, would it be considered kosher? I struggle with the ruling against mixing chicken and dairy, because the explanations I've received seem solely based on perceptions of what you are eating.
This question brought some interesting, varying answers. They were:
1. A Chabad Rabbi told me that it would be kosher to serve dairy-free sour cream with the latkes and brisket, as long as *everyone* knows that there was no dairy.
2. My good friend Yonah (a Chassidic Rabbi) said that the meal itself is kosher, but that the mixture would be forbidden under the law of Maris Ayin, the law against misleading people. He seemed open to the idea that, if everyone was informed of the dairy-free content, then it would be permissable.
3. My husband said the prohibition comes more from how it affects the community. Most Americans would believe, "If I am eating something kosher, what does it matter what someone else thinks?" The laws were developed in a different society, however. It was (is) a Jew's responsibility to help keep his community members in touch with the mitzvot. So, if a community member sees you eating a cheeseburger (even if it is soy cheese), you are putting them in an uncomfortable position to feel like they have to correct you. If they did correct you, and they realize they were wrong, you just set them up for an embarrassing situation. Since it is forbidden to embarrass someone, you avoid even the perception of eating non-kosher food.
These varying answers are so interesting, and point to the diversity of opinions on this topic. What do you think?