Monday, May 10, 2010

To Kosher or Not To Kosher?

That is the question. Where it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of judgmental people from either camp…or to quit, to stay, or just to dream (of snappy comebacks). Literary allusions aside, the question is a loaded one. While some keep kosher and always have, some come to it later on their own terms or seem to just grow into it, with plenty of variations in between. In every variation people weight in, I am sure.
My experience when I moved to a new town, where unfortunately kosher kitchens are few and far between, and kosher stores are nonexistent, was one of questioning. People asked not only if I kept a kosher kitchen (a fair enough question if you’re the Rabbi’s wife) but also asked, “why?”
It took me a bit to realize that this was a rhetorical question at best. It was often followed by a litany of negative comments such as: “Why would someone keep kosher in this day and age?” Why indeed. Sometimes a question is not a question. Another, less eloquent comment was: “That’s just stupid.” If this were an isolated incident, I likely would have let it go. So, why all the hostility?
Why I keep kosher is not important. (Okay, it is but that’s another article.) But if you don’t, at least respect my choice and commitment. I have never said that people should do as I do. Maybe this should-ing and some shame was the expectation and my experience was one of a ‘get them before they get me’ mindset. I don’t know. I never asked. I was little bit of a chicken and didn’t want to listen to anymore ranting and rhetoric. Besides last time a rather embarrassed looking spouse had to step in and put an end to it.
After some meditation on this particular phenomenon, I have come up with questions of my own: Why should it be wedge between us?
I haven’t thought about this for sometime. Since moving here I have been occupied by things such as arranging and unpacking, making friends and services, holidays and helping people. In the mean time, I tried to get the local market chain to add a kosher meat section, to no avail. We can get most other items as they tend to be mixed in at the local grocery stores. So far we’ve coped by running out to a near city about an hour and twenty minutes away. I’m glad to say the owner has been really supportive about us phoning in orders-which makes pick up a matter of minutes. We drive over and there is a box, closed with packing tape and out name magic markered on the top waiting for us in the cooler. He also has let’s me put in more than one order at a time and we pick them up for the local people. Soon we might need a larger car, especially around the holidays. Also, one of the women had me over to help kosher her kitchen. Her two year old holds up products in the market now and declares whether they are kosher or not. She has also orchestrated “hechsher hunts” for children to help them identify food that they can eat.
While she did all these things on her own, she tells me that I was influential. (I am flattered.) But I am not sure of what, if anything I did. Maybe the mitzvah has a pull all it’s own. Maybe that’s what everyone is so afraid of.


  1. Having come to "koshering" later in life, and on my own terms, I think the biggest deterrent is fear. Fear of not being successful. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of giving up. And, in my case, fear of disappointing someone. While my kitchen is now kosher, I make mistakes daily and worry constantly that I am disappointing the person who helped me get here. In the end, I tell myself, I am doing the best I can with what I have. Hopefully, I am not a disappointment.

  2. I've always let my friends know that kashrut is not a factor in my kitchen - neither I nor my significant other are Jewish OR vegetarian. Other than that, there have been no problems. None of the shomer mitzvos leite have made it an issue, and I've never brought over food that wasn't still sealed, with an acceptable hechsher.
    I'm afraid that the only way my kitchen could be kashered is if it were fire-bombed.