Just not kosher

Here’s one for the philosophers: Is New York’s water kosher? You’d imagine so, but recent tests have discovered that codepods — tiny, half-millimeter-long creatures — are surviving through the city’s filtration process. I just had a glass of water with breakfast, and for all I know I drank a couple of these things.

The problem is, codepods are crustaceans, and that means they’re not kosher. (“And they’re ugly,” as one Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn noted.) Ingesting insects, too, is against Talmudic law. The codepods have thus triggered a huge debate amongst those who keep strictly kosher in New York, because as the New York Times points out, the tiny critters raise some weird religious questions:

What defines an insect? Does seeing one through a microscope constitute seeing one for the purposes of kosher law? And, perhaps most confoundedly, can a person legitimately claim not to see a copepod with the naked eye after looking through a microscope and learning what one looks like?

I love it. Religion has always had to grapple with the corporeal world, and it’s not getting any easier, given that modern technology actually changes the nature of reality. Last fall I wrote a piece for the New York Times Magazine pointing out that mobile phones have reshaped our notions of time and space, and, as a result, the geography of religious life:

Muslims in other countries — like Britain — have begun using a service that tells them the prayer times in Mecca, which means they essentially live in two time zones at once: local time for their professional lives and Saudi time for their spiritual lives. ”They’re existing in two countries simultaneously,” Bell notes.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Search This Site


I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

More of Me


Recent Comments

Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson