Keeping kosher and looking like you are
February 27, 2011 2:26 PM   Subscribe

Judaism Filter: Is there a principle or law that Jewish people who keep kosher must also avoid appearing not to keep it? What is it called?

For example, you shouldn't sit in the window of a famous pork restaurant to eat your dinner, even if all you're having is green salad.

I'm sure I read about this before, with that very example, but now I can't remember the name of the principle and it's difficult to Google for.
posted by daisyk to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Marit ayin.
posted by Melismata at 2:28 PM on February 27, 2011

Thank you! An answer in two minutes: MetaFilter is brilliant.

For any other clueless non-Jews reading this question, I'll post this link I found on searching for Marit Ayin, which distinguishes between that and the somewhat similar case of Chillul Hashem.

A follow-up question: the capitalisation of both these terms on the internet seems to be inconsistent. Does it make a difference? Are they supposed to be capitalised?
posted by daisyk at 2:36 PM on February 27, 2011

It's Ma'arit (or often pronounced ma'aris) ayin. It's not just in reference to kashrut but all the commandments.
posted by Mchelly at 2:37 PM on February 27, 2011

Hebrew doesn't have capital letters. So there's no need to capitalize, or unless you are trying to add significance in some way.
posted by Mchelly at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2011

daisyk, this article on marit ayin is also pretty interesting.

The spelling and capitalization in most of these terms is unimportant -- except that Hashem is often capitalized out of respect. It's a transliteration, so you will find that there are most of these terms have a variety of spelling and capitalization styles.
posted by brina at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is no reason to capitalize them that I can think of. It's just a term/phrase.

I'm not sure how anyone would easily confuse chillul Hashem and ma'arat ayin, and the linked example seems poor to me. Going into the bathroom at a McDonald's was held up as THE classic example of potential ma'arat ayin when I was in school--someone might see you going in and think that you were eating there. Chillul Hashem would be more like being rude to the non-Jewish waiter at your kosher restaurant, or generally behaving poorly in a way that would actually matter even to someone who knows nothing else about Jews and the rules of Judaism.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:47 PM on February 27, 2011

Yeah, that's a poor example. You're supposed to drive to the hospital on Shabbat if it's a matter of saving a life.
posted by Melismata at 3:17 PM on February 27, 2011

Yes, brina's article was much better than the one I found. I also read this one and thought it was quite helpful.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by daisyk at 3:21 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

this article on marit ayin is also pretty interesting.
posted by brina

"Keep aloof ... from the abominable and everything equal to it."
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:43 PM on February 27, 2011

There's a certain amount of overlap. "Chillul hashem" literally means "profaning the Name" - that is, making Judaism look bad. It's used colloquially to mean acts that reflect badly on Jews and Judaism. What Madoff did? Such a chillul hashem!

Marit ayin literally means something like "creating a bad impression".(*) It really should be restricted to incidents where people will misunderstand the nature of the act - like a kosher burger you brought to eat inside your friend's non-kosher burger bar. Everyone will naturally assume that the burger isn't kosher. This is distinct from, e.g., driving someone to an emergency room on Shabbat - something that is permitted (**) in this situation. People who see you will recognise the nature of the act (you're driving a car on Shabbat) even if they are mistaken about your justification. It's a subtle difference but an important one.

(*) Yes, I know that "ayin" can literally mean "eye", but here it literally means "gaze".
(**) Or even mandatory.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:49 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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