Q & A - WITH RABBI RISKIN
I have just completed my military service, and I would like to "take a break" for a while. As a religious person who wishes to adhere strictly to the requirements of halakha, I would like to know whether I am permitted to visit India, and whether Hindu food can be considered kosher.
The question of food is actually a simpler one to answer. One may eat fruits and vegetables overseas (after checking for insects, obviously) and Hindu vegetarian food is permitted. One should make certain, though, that one is eating only vegetarian Hindu food.
It should be emphasized here that one should not deduce from this that any vegetarian food anywhere in the world may be eaten. Foods generally considered as falling under this category are often questionable, or contain questionable ingredients - including bread and rolls - and therefore one should be extremely careful in this regard and check carefully. But vegetarian Hindu food is not problematic and may be eaten.
The question concerning the actual trip to India is more problematic, for two reasons:
1) If there is no special and important reason for a trip overseas - such as searching for lost tribes of Israel, like the tribe of Menashe etc., or a trip for work purposes or in order to make a living, then one is not permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael, even for a short time. This is disucssed in the Gemara at the end of Massekhet Ketubot, and the Rambam codifies the halakha in his Laws of Kings: "Anyone who leaves the land of Israel is like one who has no God."
2) Concerning India there is also an additional mitzvah that needs to be considered: that of "You shall take great care to guard your souls". To our great sorrow, we in Efrat suffered a terrible tragedy that resulted from such a trip. The danger applies even to those who prepare themselves properly and receive all the necessary shots.
In summary, it would seem to me that if no special reason exists for such a trip, as explained above, one should not travel to India.
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