It's a Jew Thing

What's it like growing up an observant Jew in a modern non-Jewish world? Read on...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I am so glad that so many people have begun replying to my blog and I am really happy to answer any questions anyone has. I have pretty much grown up my whole life with people asking questions. I really appreciate it honestly because it shows me that people want to be knowledgeable and care about things that are different from what they are used to. Since it’s one of the most asked questions I think people have about Judaism, I am going to try to explain Kashrut (keeping Kosher) as much as I can. All of the things that tell how and why to keep Kosher were all told to the Jewish people when we got the Torah back in the olden days (i.e. in the dessert thousands and thousands of years ago). To begin with, people who keep Kosher only eat Kosher meat. When it comes to animals like beef and chicken, the meat is considered Kosher because it is killed in a certain way (injected in a vain so the animal dies with no pain and no bloodshed), all blood is drained from the animal, and it is watched over by a special Rabbi (it’s literally this guys’ job to supervise the killing and preparation of animals all day). Food that is Kosher (especially meat) is marked with a Kosher symbol, which you might have noticed before. There are a lot of them- like a U with a 0 around it, or a K in a triangle or circle. So that means that I can’t really go into the grocery store deli and get meat because that meat wouldn’t be Kosher. At home my family gets our meat from a Kosher butcher a few towns away; here I can’t really find that much meat so I don’t eat it that often. So, at a normal restaurant there isn’t Kosher meat (it’s more expensive and it is really hard to keep everything Kosher), so I can’t go out to dinner and have meat. My family (although not all families that keep Kosher) will go out to eat at a non-Kosher restaurant and eat non-meat products, but we won't bring them home into our house.

Additionally, there are certain meats which you can just never eat because the bible says that animals with split hooves are “unclean” as are animal that are scavenges. That’s right folks, that means that pork, bacon, or other pig products; as well as no shellfish like shrimp, lobster, or crabs. Yes, sometimes I wish I could have them and I have always been kind of curious about what lobster tastes like (especially living near the Cape with so many seafood restaurants around). People who keep Kosher also do not mix meat (including chicken) and milk products (meaning no cheeseburger, no chicken with a glass of milk, and no steak with ice cream for dessert). This is the confusing part- if eat meat you must wait before then having a milk product (some people wait 2 hours, some 3, some 4) BUT you don’t have to wait to eat meat after eating dairy. The reason for this practice as a whole is because in the olden days, in the dessert, people didn’t have much water so they boiled their animals in milk, and it was considered the worst sin in the world to boil a kid (a baby cow) in its mother’s milk... and that’s where we get this practice from. Picture my parents’ house now- we have meat dishes, dairy dishes, meat china, dairy china, and 3 sets of dishes for Passover (which I’ll explain at another time). Get’s expensive, huh? At least at your wedding you can pick a lot to register for! At my own house in Delaware I can’t really keep Kosher as much as at home because my roommates are obviously eating non-Kosher foods but I keep it as much as I can. I have two sets of dishes and pots/pans and I use paper plates a lot.

I guess that’s pretty much it. To recap: no meat with milk, buy food that’s marked Kosher, no pig products or shellfish, only eat Kosher meat. Yup you’re a pro. It’s pretty confusing I think and I may have skimmed over some stuff because it’s like second nature to me, so let me know if you have any questions about it all.

11 Comments:

  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger Anu Sivaraman said…

    I am not a devout hindu but some people I know are and we have similar customs even though we are vegetarian. For example, people who follow these customs will do the following:

    a)Once they touch any dish that contains salt they will wash their hands before they touch anything that does not contain salt.

    b) once the dishes are bought to the table they will not be put back on the cooking range because they have now been defiled by people who were eating with one hand and serving themselves with the other...if it is bought back to the cooking range to re-heat the range will have to be wiped down with a with cloth.

    and so on and so forth.

    There used to be some good and healthy reasoning behind this when food was cooked over a open fire etc. But now I do not see any reasaon for following the 2 acts that have mentioned above.

    I like your blog postings becuase you not only lay out the customs but you also mention why certain customs were put in place and why they are followed to this day.

    Keep it up!

     
  • At 12:16 PM, Blogger Kristen said…

    I think the Kosher thing is kind of cool, I definitely like how you related your beliefs back to the bible, it definitely helps with understanding the customs. I know that in the Catholic religion the only real food issue we have is during Lent when you can’t eat meat on Fridays, which I used to think was so tough, until I heard about how hard it is to keep Kosher. When you were younger how hard was all of this to understand? I just have one other question, how hard is it to keep kosher, especially living with roommates who don't worry about it, haven't you ever just wanted to try a Philly Cheesesteak just to see what the big deal was about?

     
  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger carah said…

    Hey! It was very interesting the way you described all the aspects of keeping kosher. When reading you entry, keeping kosher sounds so difficult but from experience it is not that hard at all! You just did not mention that there are different degrees which you can keep kosher, but every little thing you do to practice your religion counts. Growing up my mother always kept a kosher kitchen. We had three sets of dishes: diary, meat and a set for those times that we did bring in pizza or Chinese (haha). And also that is how I differ from your family. We always kept kosher inside the house and always brought in kosher meat but we had no problem eating out or bringing other food. When we did out to eat, we rarely mixed meat and diary. I also cannot resist shellfish – I love shrimp and lobster, but I would never eat from a pig. It is strange how people do keep different rules, but I always taught that every little bit that you do does count.

     
  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger carah said…

    Hey! It was very interesting the way you described all the aspects of keeping kosher. When reading you entry, keeping kosher sounds so difficult but from experience it is not that hard at all! You just did not mention that there are different degrees which you can keep kosher, but every little thing you do to practice your religion counts. Growing up my mother always kept a kosher kitchen. We had three sets of dishes: diary, meat and a set for those times that we did bring in pizza or Chinese (haha). And also that is how I differ from your family. We always kept kosher inside the house and always brought in kosher meat but we had no problem eating out or bringing other food. When we did out to eat, we rarely mixed meat and diary. I also cannot resist shellfish – I love shrimp and lobster, but I would never eat from a pig. It is strange how people do keep different rules, but I always taught that every little bit that you do does count.

     
  • At 5:42 PM, Blogger Shayna said…

    Thank you for the replies.
    Anu- back in the old days when the black plague and everything was around Jewish people (and I believe people with other religious customs like Muslims and Hindus) weren't getting sick the same way that other people were because their religious beliefs led to cleaner food intake. I think that’s very interesting, and although semi- outdated now fits more for tradition and connecting to our ancestors

    Kristen- There have been times I have really wanted to try things... I have ALWAYS wanted to try lobster and I think it would be nice just to try some other things. But since my religion is important to me it’s easy to withstand the temptation. My friends and roommates are always really understanding about my eating habits and my roommates are really understanding about helping me keep Kosher as much as possible.

    Carah- You raise an interesting point because I know people who keep Kosher way ore than I do. Even my dad- I will go to a restaurant and get a grilled cheese, for example, but my dad won’t because it’s made right along side the hamburgers. One really cool thing about Judaism is that there are so many different ways to practice and (to me at least) none of them can be considered wrong. I have never really thought about the 3 sets of dishes thing, but I guess that’s kind of like what I do at school because I have my dishes and then the house dishes that I’ll use for take-out and stuff.

    Keep commenting, I really appreciate everyone’s interest in what I’m writing about!!

     
  • At 2:04 PM, Blogger Meredith said…

    Whoa I could never imagine keeping kosher. So many rules and regulations to follow. When do you decide where to draw the line? What is going to far or not far enough in your opinion. How did you family decide how kosher to keep your house? I was also wondering if you keep kosher at school because I would think that would be extremely difficulty. I really respect that fact that you are explaining this to everyone reading your blog it’s a hard thing for people to understand but I think your doing a great job. As a Jew, not practicing Jew I’m learning more form your blog then I did from Hebrew school ha-ha keep up the good work!

     
  • At 7:59 PM, Blogger edgibson23873393 said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 2:25 PM, Blogger Tara Raphael said…

    I had no idea of the real reason of why there was no mixing of meat and dairy. I knew the rules from growing up Jewish, even though I didn't keep Kosher, but I thought it was very interesting the behind story. I'm also very impressed at how much you keep your relgion and practices with you at school as much as you can. I just use plastic and paper becuase I don't want to do the dishes! The Jewish religion has been around for so many years it's amazing where the traditions first came from and the reasons behind them. Thanks for sharing and teaching!

     
  • At 4:52 PM, Blogger Kara said…

    You did a great job explaining what Kosher means and how you keep it. The way you gave details about how it all originated also helped in understanding the practice. It really helps in understanding Judaism and your customs. I know it’s hard enough planning meals and getting groceries while at school and I can’t imagine how you do it while staying Kosher! I really admire you for being so faithful to your beliefs. I know you have to be careful about what you eat when you go to restaurants, but are you ever able to eat any type of fast food? Do you think you will continue to stay Kosher your entire life? What if you marry someone who does not want to be Kosher or raise children Kosher?

     
  • At 7:51 PM, Blogger Shayna said…

    I can get like french fries and fish sandwiches and salads at fast food restaurants, but that's pretty much it. Trust me, it makes meals on the road during vacations pretty annoying because there aren't usually that many rest stop options. I plan to keep Kosher my whole life. As for if I marry someone who doesn't want to, I'll worry about that when I come to it... actually my mom grew up Reform and she didn't keep Kosher or anything and my dad did. When they got married they decided to keep Kosher, so hopefully something will work out for me too.

     
  • At 7:36 PM, Blogger none said…

    Great Job on explaining the original reason for not mixing cow meat and cow milk (because it would have been kind of sick to do something like that)

    I've found some more info regarding the whole not mixing chicken and dairy:

    http://en.allexperts.com/q/Orthodox-Judaism-952/Kosher-2.htm


    I still do not understand why it is still practiced as I do not see many people ever going into the desert to get meat, and then not having any water to cook the meat?

    Would it not be conceivable that some laws should be re-evaluated and changed based on new situations similar to changes in common law, tax law, marriage law, driving laws (imaging if we all still required someone to walk in front of the car), drinking laws etc.

    I really hoped I would find a logical reason (and possibly health reason) why this age old tradition was still practiced.

     

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