Rabbis rule on shape of borekas

Triangular pastries must be dairy, kashrut division demands.

HAGGAI BAR-GIORA (left) and Yaakov Sebag 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Devora Ginzburg)
HAGGAI BAR-GIORA (left) and Yaakov Sebag 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Devora Ginzburg)
The Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut division sat down this week with the heads of Israel’s burekas industry to discuss the shapes of burekas and their impact on the general populace.
Although seemingly innocuous, the shape of these fried pastry delicacies can have a significant impact on one’s spiritual well-being, owing to a set of unwritten principles regarding the shape of these Middle Eastern snacks that has traditionally indicated to the discerning customer the contents of the filling that lie therein.
Burekas, a staple of the Israeli diet, come in many different varieties. Some are filled with mashed potato, some with spinach, cheese, mushrooms or combinations thereof.
Other types of burekas can also be filled with ground meat, such as “Sigarim,” which themselves also come in several varieties, including non-meaty versions.
A widely accepted convention within the burekas industry has been to form into triangular shapes any of these tempting pastries containing cheese or other dairy products.
Burekas free of any dairy content, the potato bureka being the classic example, are shaped into more angular rectangles or cubist squares.
In this way, people who adhere to Jewish dietary laws, which stipulate that one must not consume dairy products for a certain number of hours after eating meat, would be less likely to mistakenly eat a cheese and spinach bureka, for example, shortly after having eaten anything of a meaty nature.
Unfortunately, adherence to the burekas shape convention has become somewhat flaky in recent years, and this has led to concern that people may inadvertently be eating right-angled pastries which nevertheless contain dairy products.
As first reported by Radio Kol Hai, it was for this reason that rabbis from the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut division, including Rabbi Haggai Bar- Giora – responsible for kashrut in industry – convened on Tuesday with heads of the pastry sector, to reinforce the time-honored and shapely traditions of old.
It was agreed that the triangular and rectangular convention of the past would be more strictly adhered to. Other proposals were examined, such as making sigarim with ground meat noticeably longer than those without; finger-shaped burekas containing no dairy to be closed at the ends, with their dairy cousins to be open at the extremities.
The pastry chiefs were generally receptive to the proposals, although they expressed certain caveats, and at the end of the lengthy meeting a series of guidelines were drawn up which will in short order be published by the rabbinate.
A spokesman for the rabbinate was keen to stress that the underlying principles for the initiative are well-founded in the Shulchan Aruch, a seminal and comprehensive work on Jewish law, and that the entire process has been conducted in an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation which it is hoped will prevent unwitting errors in the consumption of burekas in the future.