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Near the beginning of our Jewish Journey, the discoveries were grand, complex, and life altering. Looking back now, I can appreciate that we continue to wrestle with issues and traditions, but they are far subtler in nature.

For the record, we are now firmly settled in with 6 hours between meat and milk. While it has caused some in the family to become fleish-a-phobic (notably Pandora and daughter “I” – see “who’s who” on the side for details), overall we are managing well.

For the un-initiated, “fleish-a-phobia”  is the condition where one avoids eating meat now to ensure that they are able to have ice cream in half an hour should the opportunity present itself.

With all of that said, here was the view from our journey, circa 2010. You can find the original post here:

I know this is bothering me way more than it should. But it still is.

In our pre-Kosher days (or perhaps it’s more accurate to label them our “proto-kosher” days) we just focused on separating meat meals and milk meals. We didn’t change the dishes, we didn’t worry about utensils or containers. We simply avoided eating cheeseburgers, muenster-and-baloney sandwiches, or cheesey-beefy noodles.

Oh, and we steered clear of bacon-wrapped shrimp, of course.

Sounds simple, right?

Like most Jewish ideas, a seemingly simple idea can be totally bolloxed up by thinking about it too much.

It starts innocently: does “together” mean “on the same plate” or “on the same table”? If you go from one room with a cheese board to another room in the same house with lunchmeats, is that OK?

No, of course not. Because someone could be still savoring the flavor of a great piece of brie when they pop a delicate slice of brisket in your mouth and BOOM, you’ve mixed meat and milk. In your mouth.

(Side note: I used to do this all the time, but with chocolate milk. First you take a good long pull from the milk jug, leaving just a little room left over. Then you stick the end of the chocolate syrup bottle into your mouth and squeeze. Finally, shake your head vigorously until your vision blurs or you hear your neck snap. Then swallow. Everyone did that when they were kids, right?)

Ahem. Back to our discussion.

The Rabbis of Antiquity thought of that, of course (the cheese and meat thing, not the milk and chocolate syrup thing) and came up with a statement: don’t eat them together, and give your mouth time to clear itself of the previous food item.

For some Rabbis that meant either washing your mouth out or eating something that was neither milk or meat (a piece of bread fits the bill). Thus, they reasoned, you are pretty assured that bits of gouda aren’t still sticking around in your mouth when you start a bite of brisket.

Later on, Rashi was asked about time – like if you had a meat meal and didn’t eat bread, how long before you could start on a dairy dish? “Between meals” was the answer.

The problem was that “between meals” at that time was about 6 hours!

Skipping ahead, today we have the Dutch, who wait 1 hour, some folks from Germany who wait 3 hours, and everyone else, who waits 6. Except for the people who don’t.

Simple, huh?

So my family and I come onto the scene and try to answer the very earnest (and hungry) sounding K, asking if he can have mac-and-cheese for dinner even though he had a bologna sandwich for lunch.

A wrong answer looks like this: “Well, bud, let me look online, then get a book from the library, and then I’ll call the Rabbi and see what he says. I should know sometime next week.”

Originally, what we did was wait 1 hour either way (meat to milk or milk to meat). As we learned more, we waited NO time between milk and meat, but we still waffled about the time between meat and milk.

See, without a family history of waiting 3 hours, we’re TECHNICALLY obligated to wait 6. But lots of people we know only wait 3 hours.

On the one hand, we don’t want to just pick and choose observances to make it easy on ourselves. On the other hand, we don’t want to pick the hardest possible ruling just to prove how tough we are.

Honestly, we’re still on the fence about this. Like I said at the start of this post, I know this is bothering me way more than it should. But it still is.



Is This Food Kosher?

Not long after we enrolled my son in Jewish Day school, he sat at the dinner table and asked “Is this food kosher?”

At the time, we were at the very start of our journey to a more observant lifestyle. We did not think we would end up part of mainstream orthodox. In fact, our decision to enroll him in a Jewish school was based more on his urging (“I want to go to a school where I can be Jewish all day”) than our own need for him to spend part of his day learning Hebrew and Halacha.

So my answer was honest, if a bit simplistic (he was only 8 at the time): “Well, buddy, the box that the food came in was kosher. But the pan I cooked it in was not.”

I thought that would do the trick. I was forgetting that with him, a simple answer NEVER did the trick.

“Well, ” he said, chewing thoughtfully as he spoke, “I get to eat kosher food all day at school. So when am I going to get to eat kosher food at home, too?”

I was out of bullets. Anything more was going to need to wait for my wife. When she got home, I brought her up to speed. What followed was a family discussion about what it would mean (to our family) to keep kosher. What kinds of food we would no longer eat, and in which combinations. My wife and I didn’t know everything (looking back, we knew just a fraction) but it was enough to convey a clear sense of things.

And the most surprising thing happened.

For some reason, as parents, we carry around a belief that if kids know how complicating or difficult something will be, they will automatically shy away from it. This belief causes us to minimize or simplify difficult things that we want our kids to do, and over-explain things which we don’t want them to do.

But the reality is that, if a difficult task is presented truthfully and in an age-appropriate way, kids will often choose something which is difficult for reasons that have nothing to do with how hard it is. Maybe they want the end result. Maybe it’s simply how they want to be seen. Maybe the difficult thing embodies an aspect of who they want to be.

Or maybe kids intuitively sense that the things which are challenging are also the most meaningful.

Whatever the reason, my wife and I discovered that “being kosher” was – despite it’s difficulty – on the menu in my home. The kids were up for the challenge, which means WE had to be up for the challenge.

That isn’t where all this started, but it was one of the major steps along the way