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Kosher mamas, come talk to me!

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I'm a "new Jew" (though not so new anymore, my conversion was completed years ago!) and cautiously sticking my toe into the waters of kashrut.

It's hard for me, because I know at the heart of it is this: "Because God says so." I can rationalize it out all I want, but that's at the base, and it is taking me time to get there.

Does anyone have any tips for me on how to get there? We've started not mixing meat and dairy at meals, and I am trying to buy only kosher products (Peapod carries kosher chicken, as does my local Super Fresh! We are about 40 minutes away from the nearest Kosher Mart.)

My husband and I attend a very conservative leaning Reform synagogue, and I find myself being more and more drawn to more observance in the home. Any words of wisdom are appreciate!
post #2 of 15
kol hakovod!

Gd says so, yes. What an amazing opportunity to turn something mundane into something holy.


keeping kosher is an environmentally aware way of eating and preparing food. The mitzvot and laws go deeper than what kind of animal can be eaten; they include when animals and plants can be harvested for eating, how much must be used and what must be returned to Gd, and include a cyclical calendar for allowing our food sources to rest.

As an environmentalist, I found this utterly convincing. I didn't grow up in a kosher home and I honestly thought the only kosher issue was related to pig. When I began my kosher journey this aspect of Kashrut is what appealed to me.

One of the first things I did was looking for kosher certification (a hekesher: OU, Star K, etc) on all the packaged or meat products I brought into the house...

The biggest step for me was finally buying another set of dishes, and kashering our existing pots and pans to be dairy, meat, parve, while I kashered our kitchen. It took me YEARS to get there. And I can happily say that I've kashered a few kitchens since then
post #3 of 15
I am still in the process of kashering our home and my kitchen, but what has helped me is to set one small goal per month, and concentrate on learning that aspect, making it a habit. Also, I have come to look at eating kosher/preparing our food accordingly is a physical act of worship, one that is a daily chore for me that has become a service to Adonai. Hope that helps - it works for us, anyways...
post #4 of 15
I'm definitely... on a kashrut journey. I stopped eating pork and other non-kosher species, and mixing meat and dairy (and not eating leven) when I was about 13, in a non-kosher family.

My observance of kashrut hasn't changed a GREAT deal since then. I feel very strongly that one (jewish or not) should only eat local grass-fed, small farm, pastured meat that is humanely raised. Unfortunately that is not availible here if it is also kosher. (well, at pesach, a group did arrange a shipment of kosher grassfed meat from NY, but A) shipping it across the country? major enviromental problems, and b) we can BARELY afford any grass-fed meat right now. The kosher grass-fed meat was half again as expensive, and you had to buy a large quantity. So I eat that meat. I would love to have access to kosher, grass-fed meat, but it's just not availible here. I can't bulk buy for the whole year, and that was a one time thing, not yearly. And shipping meat from ny is appaling to me. My meat comes from a 1/2 hour drive away.

Also, my DP is not Jewish, nor has plans to convert. We keep my level of kashrut in our home at the moment, though he might put cheese on his bowl of chili, for example. He already makes a LOT of compromises about kashrut. At the moment, I feel like I have so many other areas of mitzvah growth to work on, that I don't feel a need to become more observant in kashrut, but I've been looking ahead to whether I will feel a need in the future.

We're getting married soonish (not officially engaged yet) and I've been thinking about dishes for a wedding registry BECAUSE of the kosher issue. If I think I will want to become more kosher in the future, I need to either: register for a meat and a dairy set and more pans to have dairy and meat pans, register for cheapo dishes that I may throw out/sell and buy new ones if I become more observant, or reserve our nice dishes for only meat or dairy. All of these have problems. I can't register for two sets of dishes, I would not receive them, as no one would understand, no one is jewish, also then, we'd have to change our current kashrut standards at home (at least DP wouldn't be able to combine meat and dairy on the plates). I really don't want to not register for nice plates cause... I LOVE plates and flatware, and really want a nice set, and I find it unlikely I would be able to afford a full nice set or (TWO) in the next decade or so. And the last wouldn't work great either for the same reasons as the first. Besides, is it likely I would be "able" to become more observant? Maybe. Maybe not. I realize how much compromise DP has done for me, and to an extent, I think my kosher compromise line may be here. (maybe kosher slaughter meat as well as kosher species, we'll see, but for meat and dairy, I think the buck stops here. with seperate courses/meals, same plates) DP always jokes if he made a religion, the only rule would be you can ONLY eat pigs. That's how much he loves pork, so it's a huge sacrifice.

Sorry, that was a little tangential, I have just been thinking about this a lot. And goes to show, sometimes, keeping kosher is even more complicated than the rules. That said, for me, keeping kosher has been somewhat of a do and hear/understand. Not that I really started because G-d said so, but because my mom wouldn't let me have a bat mitzvah, and I could control my food, and exert my jewish interest in that way. However, overtime, I started to find spiritual meaning in it. (sometimes. Sometimes, like when I can't find good beef fat, but good lard is a dime a dozen. or when ingrediants for kosher charcoutrie are a hundred million times more expensive than pork, I just do, and wish I could eat pork.) I started to "understand" the littlest bit, by doing.

It sounds like you are doing a great job getting started. My primary advice would be to keep at it for a while, and to realize that you can still keep kosher, even if you aren't as strict as someone else, you are still keeping kosher more than you were. (I realize feelings on that as a convert, vs someone born jewish and unobservant (or... sort of jewish? my dad is jewish so I'm not really jewish yet but I feel jewish) many be different. As a born unobservant jew (which I realize technically I'm not), you are doing better than you were, but as a convert, you chose to become jewish and that includes mitzvah. for some.)

right, sorry it's... meandery.
post #5 of 15
Okay, so maybe the root of kashrut is "Because G-d says so," but I think you have to allow yourself to rationalize the practice. IMHO, that's one of the neat things about Judaism- you're not asked to merely believe, but also to think. That's why the Talmud exists, to explore and even rationalize the Law.

I think there are a lot of different ways to make sense of kashrut. For me, kashrut is about making conscious choices when I eat and when I feed my family. For example, eating out becomes something I can't just do. When I scan the menu I have to think "Is there a vegetarian option here that makes sense with who I am striving to be as a Jew?" Eating at a friend's house is similarly complicated by thoughtfulness. So the practice of kashrut becomes a way for me to maintain my identity.

Like the PPs, one thing that really helped me close in on a more perfect kashrut was to invest in a second set of dishes and silverware that I really liked and didn't want to make tref/unkosher.
post #6 of 15
Kashrut is indeed a 'chok' (i.e. a halacha we do because "G-d said so.")

But that said, taking a closer look at the spiritual implications behind kashrut is inspiring and enlightening.

There are several different levels of kashrut (which means, literally, 'fit').

The first is, kashrut separates us as a people. It requires us to be ever-conscious of our choices, about the most basic of human needs. It removes eating -- an animal instinct -- from the mundane, and attaches to it a holy obligation. Like most of the mitzvot, this aspect compels us to bring Hashem (the Holy) into the realm of our life here on Earth (the profane). That really is the essence of Torah -- light into the darkness, our mission (chosen for what? for showing how Hashem is present in every aspect of our lives).

The Torah gives us a list of animals, and characteristics of animals, that we may eat. They are 'fit' for us. All of these animals have characteristics that make them domesticated, gentle (more or less), and non-scavenging. "We are what we eat" implies a spiritual consequence from the physical. Ingesting the meat of animals which behave in violent or base ways creates a spiritual barrier that blocks us from reaching our full potential as servants of Hashem.

The way we kill (shecht) our meat is also an important message. Shechting is a holy process, and one intended to guard against as much animal suffering as possible. A shochet is trained to do this, and must inspect his knife every time to ensure that it is fit to use. The process is also a very graphic and concrete reminder that Hashem gave us the privilege of dominion over the animals and the privilege of consuming them -- but there is a cost to it. The cost is that the lifeblood that flows from the animal's jugular after shechting shows just how big a gift this is from Hashem, and that we should never be cavalier about that privilege.

We make sure the animal was not ill, did not have remnants of a disease, or was otherwise compromised. We cannot eat these animals, even if they are kosher animals and were shechted appropriately.

We remove any traces of blood from the animal, and we limit ourselves to certain parts of the animal. Blood is a life-giving force, and we are prohibited absolutely from consuming it. Salting and soaking the meat repeatedly ensures we don't transgress that, and also reminds us that it is cruel to consume another being's life force.

That is followed by the prohibition of consuming milk and meat together. IT had/has nothing to do with cleanliness or sanitary procedures, parasites, or refridgeration. Milk (mother's milk) and blood are the essence of life. We therefore do not combine them out of respect for the animals we are consuming.

When we pay close attention to the products we are purchasing, how we cook and prepare them, etc. we are reminding ourselves more than daily of the blessings Hashem has provided for us. We are creating boundaries (as in many other mitzvot as well) between what is holy and what is profane, and we are bringing holiness into a mundane and basic animal act.

So "G-d says so" is definitely a compelling argument for kashrut, and certainly reason enough. But you don't have to stop there! The spiritual tapestry of our Torah and our mitzvos is beautiful and meaningful, and very, very deep.

So delve in! Take one step at a time...each mitzvah brings light into the world, no matter a small or big step. Chazak v'amatz!
post #7 of 15
Kashrut, like so many other things we do, is also about community. You can't (...or, you'd have a really hard time) being a "kosher keeping Jew alone". If there is anything Jews "hate", it is the idea of a solitary Jew, so many of our laws, customs and traditions are about community and require other Jews (minyan) to witness and participate. Kashrut has a very real component of this.

My husband and I spent a summer in a rural part of the New York Adk. mtns. and we had a horrible time finding any real kosher food (and other comfort/cultural Jewish food) that it really, drastically limited our diet. It had an emotional impact. We felt... out there. Our food was... bland and simple. Our meals felt... empty. It literally lacked the complexity and richness that comes when you are near other kosher keeping Jews and have access to all kinds of food. Kashrut is something that binds us as a community. It is a way we share. Keeping kosher alone (either as a Jew among non-Jews or as entirely without others) diminishes in concrete and abstract ways, our day to day sustenance and nourishment.

So, when I think about keeping kosher (which we do to a limited degree... We do what people call "kosher style"- not doing all the labels, but following the rules. And we have seperate dishes, but not two whole kitchens) I tend to think about tradition and community. That food is part of our internal community base. In keeping kosher and thinking about food, it is a way to connect and communicate.

Also, my husband grew up in a very Jewish area in a kosher home, so he really can't imagine anything else! So, for us personally, it is just a part of our tradition and comfort and just part of who we are.
post #8 of 15
No words of wisdom, but I think you might really enjoy the memoir Miriam's Kitchen. The author's story about living with her mother-in-law and her gradual embracing of a traditional life, especially kashrut, may resonate with where you are right now. She does an excellent job at conveying how all of this comes to be meaningful to her. Plus, it's a great read. With recipes!

post #9 of 15
I haven't posted here in a long time but wanted to join this thread because we also keep kosher. I am in the process of conversion and have been for over two years. We have been keeping kosher for just as long. Once you get the hang of it, it really becomes very natural.

(ok apparently I joined and never posted...this is Post 1 for me...lol)
post #10 of 15
this is a great thread!

I had a question regarding this (not to high-jack the thread, but it's kinda related)..
I know there are people who keep vegetarian to keep out meat from the home and simplify kosher eating... but does anyone keep dairy out of the home and just use one set of cooking stuff?

we are almost completely dairy-free as I have two kids that are allergic and I am intolerant of most dairy. SO it's rare... we often have some cheese in the house that my husband will eat now and again (uncooked)... so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to do this.

As if I never heated the dairy, but just ate it cold, would I need separate cooking stuff? this might be a better question for a Rabbi, but I figured someone here might have this same scenario.
post #11 of 15
Some sharp cheeses have the halachic status of "hot" foods (even though they are cold). So if you have limited dairy use, I would just have a couple of dairy knives and a cutting board, and then just use disposables whenever dairy is used (which I understand is infrequent).

Everything else could be meat.
post #12 of 15
Originally Posted by Chavelamomela View Post
Some sharp cheeses have the halachic status of "hot" foods (even though they are cold). So if you have limited dairy use, I would just have a couple of dairy knives and a cutting board, and then just use disposables whenever dairy is used (which I understand is infrequent).

Everything else could be meat.
hmmm ok... good thoughts. thanks! that would work.
post #13 of 15
Originally Posted by Chavelamomela View Post
Some sharp cheeses have the halachic status of "hot" foods (even though they are cold). So if you have limited dairy use, I would just have a couple of dairy knives and a cutting board, and then just use disposables whenever dairy is used (which I understand is infrequent).

Everything else could be meat.
I read recently that the Jews of Tunisia only had cups for milk. They only drank milk in the mornings and for the rest of the day ate either meat or parve dishes (so they had no need for a whole dairy set of dishes). In Eastern Europe, meat was expensive and non-dairy options limited for most of the year, so there was more of an emphasis on dairy cooked foods.
post #14 of 15
Originally Posted by Mama Shifra View Post
I read recently that the Jews of Tunisia only had cups for milk. They only drank milk in the mornings and for the rest of the day ate either meat or parve dishes (so they had no need for a whole dairy set of dishes).
I have always wondered about this because I knew that it couldn't have been as complicated as now with multiple sets of everything. Back then, things were very different. I want to research this more for my own interest.
post #15 of 15
we typically eat dairy or pareve meals during the week and only have meat meals on shabbos. it's really not so difficult imo just costly.
and i am happy that we are not tunisian jews because milk in the morning makes me siiiiick! blech!
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