Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


What Judaism Says About Free Chinese Food

Rabbi Andy Bachman helps solve an office conundrum

Print Email
(Adam Chandler)

Today in the Tablet office, a very strange thing happened. A delivery man appeared and dropped off a bag full of tantalizing Chinese food, which sat unclaimed at the front desk for about 30 minutes.

After some internal e-mails and inquiries, it was finally determined that no one in the office had ordered Chinese and so we investigated the contents: One order of General Tso’s chicken, one order of beef and broccoli, a wonton soup, and a Diet Coke. There was also no receipt and were no containers identifying where the food had come from.

The question then arose: Were we–an office of Chinese-food-loving Jews–free to indulge? To answer this question, I dropped a note to friend of Tablet Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim and told him about the situation. I asked him what our Jewish obligation was to this MSG-laden manna and what the sages would say. Here’s what he said:

Lucky you–well, sort of. I actually like General Tso’s Tofu. The chicken bothers me for whatever reason. I also, like some people insist on Tsar, not Czar, say Tso not Tzo. But we’re splitting hairs.

One, if by Sages you mean *the* Sages then they would say you can’t eat it because it isn’t Kosher. But there being no explicit pork or shellfish, a rabbi such as I would allow. But not until you offered it someone outside, in the cold, around the corner from your offices. I have been in your part of town and have often stumbled across the truly humble among us, offering meager amounts of change to their cold, neglected hands.

So I’d like to think the Sages would command you to go give the food to someone truly in need. And in this godforsaken cold, a warm meal would have been greatly appreciated. The prophet Isaiah is particularly difficult in this regard. In one of his famous rants against “unrighteousness” he rails against Israel’s greedy ways by charging, “Yea all tables are covered with vomit and filth, so that no space is left.” I mean, let’s face it–from the perspective of the Prophet, God gave you food and if you didn’t put it to the right use, it’s an abomination. It’s insanely harsh but I actually believe that.

As for the Diet Coke, given what I read in Mark Bittman’s food column this morning (Diet Coke has been proven to cause depression!) that should have been emptied and offered straight up to the gods of recycling.

This is wonderful advice; wholly concomitant with the most enlightened aspects of Judaism.

If only this guidance had arrived before we ate all the Chinese food.

Update: After well over an hour, the mystery delivery man returned and asked us to give back the food or pay for it—which we Jesse Oxfeld did. Perhaps next time we’ll ask the sages whether we are obligated to hold onto cold Chinese food so that it doesn’t get served to someone else.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Delivery guy had chutzpah.

Mandarin from Heaven.

In our house there are always left-overs. I assume he didn’t ask for full payment.

The main thing is that you should eat it while it is still hot. The moralizing thing can wait until that task is finished.

Joseph Kelsall says:

In China I was offered a starter of gelatenous pig blood cubes and chickens feet. I suppose that would be out of the question?

“Godforsaken cold?” Rabbi are you saying God didn’t create the cold? At the very least it allows us to better appreciate the warm.

quietfellow613 says:

Too bad (but typical for the Tablet), nobody inquired or even cared as whether or not the food was kosher. That goes especially for the tablet’s so-called “rabbinic consultant”.

hcirtsafonos says:

“But there being no explicit pork or shellfish, a rabbi such as I would allow.”

What a joke…any fifth grader in a cheder or a bais yaakov is a far more knowledgeable, committed, G-d-fearing, Jew than this clown. “Rabbi”, we Torah-true Jews look forward to the day you and those of your ilk become extinct. Looking at the empty shuls, closed day schools and intermarriage/abortion/divorce rates in your communities, it seems like we won’t have to wait long.

This actually happened to my family one day. We came in from having been out to lunch (irony) and found a bag of Chinese delivery on the kitchen table, still hot. We hadn’t ordered it and no one had been home to let them in. We called everyone we could think of who had a key to the house and they all denied bringing it. My mother wondered if we should call the Police. I wondered what we would tell them “I’d like to report a Catering”?

Chinese food ain’t kosher. But it is more important what comes out of your mouth than what goes in.

Jim Potter says:

Sounds like an elaborate scam…..”can’t sell this dish, deliver it and come back later asking for payment.” Humph – it works!

What an am haaretz this rabbi is. no wonder liberal Jewry is going to hell in a hand basket.

2dogsbarking says:

Wonderful advice.

The pork is chopped in such small pieces, it is as if it’s not there, that is why we Jews eat it


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

What Judaism Says About Free Chinese Food

Rabbi Andy Bachman helps solve an office conundrum

More on Tablet:

A Tale of Three Twitter Feeds: Hamas Tweets in Arabic, English, and Hebrew

By Aaron Magid — Analysis of the social-media messaging of Hamas’ military wing reveals distinct voices for the West, the Arab Middle East, and Israel