My family’s kosher commitment – Hi Alma

I grew up in a kosher home, sort of. We had separate plates and cutlery for meat and dairy, bought only kosher meat, and never brought pork or seafood home.

But then there were also the house rules. We actually had three sets of dishes: the meat dishes, the milk dishes and the two dishes. It was okay to eat meat with dairy in both dishes, as long as the meat itself was kosher. We were allowed to eat non-kosher food outside the house. And our back porch was designated “out,” so if one of us came home from a restaurant with non-kosher leftovers, we were allowed to eat them on the back porch with plates and utensils from a single use In the winter, every now and then my dad would bundle up in his ski jacket and wool hat and go out to dinner on the back porch in twenty degree weather.

All this seemed very normal to me when I was a child. As an adult, it’s something I laugh at. I realize that for many people, this complicated series of exceptions means that I didn’t grow up keeping kosher at all, or that I missed the point of keeping kosher entirely. But what really interests me as an adult about my family’s system is the way it came about.

Over the years, I figured it was all the result of a series of compromises between my parents. Both my parents were born and raised Jewish, but my mother was raised more observant. Keeping kosher was important to her. If it was just their decision, we probably would have stayed strictly kosher. My dad loves to eat and likes to tuck into a good plate of mussels every now and then. If it were just for him, we probably wouldn’t have kept kosher at all. I imagined that the kosher commitment evolved in stages, until they found a set of rules that met in the middle: Mom still had to keep the traditions that connected her to her ancestors, and Dad still had to cook lasagna of beef and cheese, as long as he ate it on both courses. My brother and I still grew up understanding what it means to keep kosher and what it means to make personal decisions about both your relationship with religious ritual and your relationship with food. Although my family never strictly adhered to Jewish law, it feels very Jewish to me that we looked at our customs and found the best way to fit them into our lives.

Recently, however, my happy imaginings about engagement were challenged by an actual conversation with my parents about all of this. Or an attempt at conversation. I asked my parents how our system of rules and exceptions had come to be, hoping for a funny story. My mother rolled her eyes. โ€œI was complacent he,she huffed, nodding across the table to my father. Her tone wasn’t playful; she seemed genuinely annoyed.

“In my defense,” replied the father, “me he was accommodating she

“I don’t want to talk about it any more,” said the mother.

I dropped the subject.

His negative reaction surprised me. I had always thought of our family arrangement as a happy medium, a solution we could all feel good about. Because it was what I was used to and because my parents have a strong relationship, I had chosen to believe that our house rules made everyone happy. But in reality there was, and still is, a degree of tension and awkwardness in our engagements.

I felt a similar tension when I began living on my own as an adult and had to make decisions, consciously or unconsciously, about Jewish customs in my own life. Today I no longer have separate meat and dairy dishes at home, although I still try to avoid eating pork or seafood. Sometimes I feel conflicted about bending, or even ignoring, Jewish tradition. Sometimes I feel like I’ve drifted, that the stricture of kosher laws is really their goal. My feelings about my habits are constantly changing. There is discomfort there, and the fact that there is discomfort reassures me that my Jewish identity is still in my heart: having to actively make these decisions, as an adult, forces me to think about it.

I am getting married this year and my fiancรฉ is not Jewish. We have agreed to raise our children Jewish one day, but the details are still to be decided. I’m sure there will be compromise and awkwardness. There will be decisions about which rituals feel most resonant and inclusive, and which modifications might be necessary. It will take conversation and reflection. The idea is daunting. But I’m excited about it. I feel grateful to have grown up with a role model for this kind of commitment, to have seen both the possibilities and some of the pitfalls. I hope that when the time comes, I will feel at home within the commitments that my family and I have made, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else. The important thing is that they make sense to us, and that we do them together. And maybe along the way, they’ll even give us something to laugh about.

#familys #kosher #commitment #Alma
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