Friday, May 13, 2011

I Scream, You Scream: Keeping Kosher

There is ice cream in my freezer that I could not eat yesterday. That is probably the worst part about keeping kosher.

I started keeping kosher-style around the beginning of April. My fiance and I started out just eating kosher Shabbat dinners and worked our way up from there. No more turkey and cheddar sandwiches for lunch, no more chicken parmesan. I rarely ate pork (except bacon) or shellfish to begin with, so I haven't missed it much, but I never realized how often we mix meat and dairy in the same meal before last month. Go to Chili's or someplace with similarly-limited vegetarian options (even the salads all have chicken) and try to find a meat entree that doesn't have cheese on it. It is difficult.

But that is manageable. At home, we have all-meat or all-dairy meals that don't seem limited at all by the absence of the other. The difficulty is in the definition of "in the same meal."

If I have mac and cheese for dinner, I can wait 30 minutes to an hour, and then eat meat. If I have a steak salad for dinner at 6:00 PM, like I did last night, I have to wait 6 hours to eat that ice cream in my freezer. As I sat there at 8:30 wanting nothing but a small bowl of ice cream, I thought, "How ridiculous, this is clearly not the same meal anymore." As a Reform Jew, I could very easily have chucked kashrut out the window and had my ice cream anyway. The Reform Movement encourages individuals to make informed choices about which laws they follow and find relevant, because that leads to innovation instead of stagnation. While I agree that personal choice and informed decision-making are important, I think this view will always have the potential to become "prove to me why I should do this." But I don't think that's the point. That is an easy way to say, "Keeping kosher doesn't make sense today, so I won't do it" and many Reform Jews do not keep kosher. I tend to view the laws through the question, "Why shouldn't I do it?" If there's no good reason not to, then I say why not give it a try? So I keep kosher, even when the six hour waiting period doesn't make sense to me and deprives me of ice cream.

In the end, I settled for a bowl of pineapple last night instead.

Shabbat Shalom!

Click these links for more information about the waiting period between meals and other kosher laws.