A Middos Lesson in the Worcestershire Sauce 

Is Worcestershire sauce kosher when served in a meat recipe? What are the kosher laws of eating fish and meat together?

Worcestershire Sauce is a condiment containing molasses, vinegar, tamarind, cloves and anchovies. It is often used to enhance the depth of meat sauces and marinades. Because one of its main ingredients is anchovy, its use poses a problem for the kosher cook. The Shulchan Aruch warns us to be careful and avoid consuming fish and meat together. The source is found in the Gemara (Pesachim 76b) on which Rashi comments that there is danger of contracting tzaraas (a spiritual skin disease) when fish which comes in contact with meat is eaten*.  Rabbi Asher Meir, author of Meaning in Mitzvos, offers intriguing explanation. He says that the middos, character traits, of fish are corrupted by exposure to meat.

What Exactly are Fish Middos?

Fish are motivated. They efficiently pursue their mission, and are often ruthless in their quest. Fish are known to swim against the current and fight for their lives when they find themselves at the end of a hook.  Conversely, the species of land animals which can be deemed kosher, are docile herbivores. Theirs is not a life of challenge. Survival at all costs does not exist in their reality. To eat and mate are their primary instinct, and it is their nature to indulge in these pursuits only as necessary.

Our admonition to separately consume meat and fish acknowledges the danger of mixing the concentrated energy of the fish with the languid nature of the kosher beast. When we eat meat and fish separately, the middos of each are relegated to the proper segment of our lives.

Separate and Necessary

A gentle countenance and easy-going attitude are conducive to happy relationships. As long as we eat and find physical enjoyment in moderation, are can live successful lives.

In our spiritual pursuits the alacrity of the fish is vital. Learning Torah often means swimming against a raging current. Chevrusas , study partners, seem to be fighting for their lives when trying to understand a difficult question. Jewish values are often conflict with modern culture. This is where “fish middos” must be employed in life.  Such determination is misused if directed strictly toward pursuit of our physical needs. When our efforts—whether they be material or heavenly—are absorbed with mitzvos, that is the perfect recipe .

*There is no medical evidence that eating meat and fish together causes physical harm. This ruling is universally accepted by observant Jews as we acknowledge that the opinion of the rabbis of the Gemara is sacred and inviolable

Many meat recipes calls for Worcestershire Sauce, which contains fish. There are now fish free Worcestershire Sauces available. Look for it in your local health food store or in any well stocked supermarket. Because the ratio of fish in Worcestershire sauce is minimal, many authorities allow its use with meat. Check with your rabbi or see the opinion of these kosher supervisory agencies: Star-K  and CRC