We did it! And so did I!

Ethan here, and the wedding is over!

We made it through an absolutely amazing weekend of festivities, had a beautiful ceremony and shared in so much love and joy that we are positively bursting.

Now that it is all over I am reflecting on some of the choices we made as a couple and myself as an individual regarding kashrut, Jewish dietary law.

A significant portion of my friends and family keep kosher to one extent or another, so we knew from the start that we had to accommodate that for all meals.  We made the simple choice for the reception to go vegetarian because our venue had non-kosher in-house catering.  This turned out great since they had superb chefs who were able to come up with three unique, creative and tasty entree options for guests to choose from.

I, however, am a meat lover so we managed to get a kosher caterer for both a Shabbat dinner (for the family that doesn’t travel on the Sabbath) and the rehearsal dinner on Saturday night.  It wasn’t easy to find one that was affordable because kosher is such a rare and expensive commodity, but in the end we were very happy with the results and Mia was always willing to accommodate these needs and take on these costs without hesitation or objection.  Did I land a good one or what?

This is all by way of leading into the longer term thought processes about what to do as we move forward sharing a home where one of us was brought up keeping kosher and the other most definitely was not.

I have long internally debated how kosher I want to be.  Many people over the years have been asked by me about their practices and their reasoning behind it.  And in general the most compelling of reasons I’ve received for the practice in the modern era is the tying together of a community.  This is important to me, but my community isn’t just Jewish.  If I keep too strictly to the rules I start excluding people from my community since I won’t be able to eat in their homes and they won’t be able to bring food into mine.  Three quarters of our wedding party would be excluded if I kept to the extremes of kashrut.  That’s way further than I could ever go.  I want to maintain my identity, but also my flexibility.

It has been years since I’ve kept separate dishes for meat and dairy (though I separate for Passover), since that, to me, is just a silly anachronism.  But the other limitations are harder for me to let go, so I’m starting an experiment to see what happens and maybe in a few weeks I’ll have more to say.  I decided that for our honeymoon (in France, conveniently enough) I am taking an official kashrut hiatus.

This adventure has already begun as we marked the start of honeymoon with a pre-mini-moon for a night in Phoenix before returning to Boston for a week before leaving for France.  That night, at dinner, we were given a pair of complimentary seared scallops (with pancetta in the sauce too).  I hadn’t planned on starting yet, but we had declared this night part of the honeymoon so I sat and agonized for a minute or two.  And then, for the first time in my life (barring the accidental ham and cheese once when I was 5), I consciously and deliberately chose to eat the flesh of not one, but two un-kosher animals.

I’m not dead yet, but I’m still figuring out how I feel and how this will affect the life Mia and I are now building together.  WIsh me luck as the experiment continues.

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3 thoughts on “We did it! And so did I!

  1. Ethan, good luck in your decision process!  I’m sure your faith, both in Judaism AND in your new wife, will guide you to the RIGHT decision for you.  One thing I’ve known about Mia over the years is that she has always defined her own spirituality and will certainly support you in your explorations :) !

  2. Nice post. But I wonder if it might be possible to describe religious practices that you have chosen not to adopt in ways that are not judgmental or a put-down of those who have chosen to adopt them – e.g. “the extremes of kashrut,” “just a silly anachronism.” I imagine those who fully keep the laws of kashrut don’t see themselves as “extreme” or think they are engaging in a “silly anachronism” every time they reach for a dairy dish instead of a meat one. In fact, they may even derive a great deal of meaning from it. They may even have non-Jewish friends who don’t feel excluded by their religious practices, but rather respect them even more. It’s important

  3. I’m back and wanted to post a little follow-up. 

    First, let me say to Harold that you are completely right.  I was more glib than I probably should have been, but my statements reflect my own internal feeling about how practices relate to me and not how I feel about others who choose to follow what I do not.  Also, Harold, when I say extremes I mean extremes and not all.  There are many ways/degrees to practice kashrut that aren’t exclusionary (such as the way I practice, and other ways that do include separate dishes), and as with any continuum there are extremes.  I mean people who will not eat anything in another person’s home if they do not keep strictly kosher for instance.  I find taking rules so far that one excludes others to be extreme, segregationist, and not in the spirit of Jewish law.

    Anyway… I regret to report no profound realizations from my experiment.  We had an amazing time. I ate a lot of wonderful food.  And I wouldn’t have done it any other way.  But not everything that is Treif if super tasty, not everything that’s kosher that I ate made me feel like I was missing out.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I ate incredible food I’d never had before including numerous pork/ham products, rabbit, crab.  But there were also those I didn’t care for at all (clams). 

    I think I was hoping for an “aha” moment that would strike me like “there’s no reason to keep kosher any more, go ahead and enjoy all that the culinary world has to offer forever.”  But what I came down with was: “I enjoy eating good food, some non-kosher food is REALLY good, but the meaning of kosher slaughter, the care and treatment of the animals (at least in theory) are really important too.”  So I came back and am about in the same place as when I left.  I separate dairy and meat, I only eat kosher meat and Mia continues to respect my choices. 

    I am favoring getting my meat from sources that don’t feed cows grain every, and completely pasture feed and finish them so that’s my nod towards modernizing kashrut.  I continue to ask myself if just the natural raising is sufficient for me, and though it helps, the slaughter still matters to me too.  I think what I’m saying is that if offered bacon from a naturally raised pig that someone somehow managed to get properly shechted I would eat it… I think.

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