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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Ti-ti-ti-timing


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

Failure to Communicate


I recently started a new job at a new company and once again I am the only Jew (observant or otherwise) on the block. Which means I have to (get to?) educate my manager and team about certain aspects of Judaism when they intersect with work.

Most often, this comes up when responding to the question “we’re running out to lunch. You want to come with us?”.

But sometimes I find myself digging into the details more than I would have predicted when I first started this journey. Like when I was invited to my manager’s house for the annual Christmas party.

He knew I kept kosher, and actually went to great lengths to make sure there was SOMETHING I could eat (he asked me to print out pictures of the kosher symbols, and texted me from the store as he was buying things. It was actually one of the kindest things a manager has done.)

So there we were, sitting around the fireplace playing the obligatory office-party-game complete with prizes for the winners. Which happened to be chocolate candies.

I won a round and was handed my candy, which I began checking for a heksher. As I did the comments from the other people served as a reminder that, if Kashrut is difficult to grasp for Jews, it can be downright incomprehensible to others.

THEM: Is it the nuts? My candy bar doesn’t have nuts so you can have mine if you want.
ME: No, I’m looking for the special symbol that would tell me if it’s kosher. Which would be ironic, since it’s a Santa Claus candy bar
THEM: Oh! Well, mine’s in the shape of a snowman. So it’s probably kosher.
ME: (slight pause) Uh, that might not be true.

In retrospect, I probably should have just told them I was on a diet, and I was going to save the candy for my kids.

VIDEO: Kosher Symbol Blues


While on one level, this is just a cute little ditty, on another it hints at some of the confusing and frustrating moments many of us have when learning to live with the mitzvah of keeping kosher.

Like many human endeavors, our efforts to make things clear have – to the un-initiated – made things even more confusing. does “P” stand for pareve, or for Pesach (Passover)? The answer – like many answers to Jewish questions – begin with the phrase “well, that depends…”

UnKosher: Microsoft Uses Bacon to Poach Employees


Microsoft is trying to steal good programmers away from Amazon and Google.
No surprising news there.

By tempting them with bacon.
Whaaa fuuuh huhhh?!?!

I am not making this up. I couldn’t. I’m not that creative.

But according to this article on Gizmodo, that is exactly what is happening.

Microsoft wanted to double its Kinect for Windows team from 35 to 70. And with good engineers typically already working for other companies, the bacon cart is a great ploy for Microsoft to grab their attention and tell them to “Wake up and Smell the Future”. The food cart is serving free bacon today at Amazon headquarters in South Lake Union, Seattle and has plans to move over to Fremont on Tuesday to be near Adobe and Google.

I wonder if the ADL is going to get involved, because in my mind the implication is either that no observant Jewish programmer is any good; or they’re good, but Microsoft (like a certain cantina at the Mos Eisley Spaceport) doesn’t serve their kind.


[Edit] In my haste to get this posted, I overlooked a point my Rabbi just made: They are saying the same thing about traditional Muslims and Hindus. Not to mention the rock solid programmers who are vegetarian or vegan.

My Girlfriend “Betty”


I tend to play a little fast and loose when it comes to rules. I don’t exactly break them (at least, not usually), but I do tend to see how far they’ll bend.

How that translates to kashrut is that I’m don’t break a sweat when I cut a (cold) cold cut with the wrong knife. Cold is cold, after all. And I’m not always so careful about whether I use the dairy sponge or the pareve sponge to wash a (dairy or pareve) dish.

When it comes to kashrut, part of the reason I’m comfortable doing this is because of how far I am from the original Torah commandment. (And yes, I know that the Rabbinic commandments are (almost) just as important.) But we’re still a few kilometers from that truck stop.

How far is my dishwashing “faux pas” from the original injunction of not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk?

  • First, it’s not goat meat.
  • Second, it’s not meat at all.
  • Third, it’s not directly touching – it’s something (milk) touching something else (a pot or fork) touching something else (a sponge) touching something else (the pareve item).
  • Fourth, it’s not being done to “flavor” the other object.
  • Fifth, IT’S COVERED IN DISGUSTING DISHWASHING LIQUID!!

I might have casually mentioned this to my Rabbi recently. I was expecting a knowing wink and a smile, an indication that yes, young grasshopper, I have learned The Way of The Kashrus.

Instead, his eyes bugged out a bit, and in tones that showed he was attempting to remain calm despite an overwhelming desire to hit me with a kosher clue by four.

“You can’t do that,” he explained. “Even though you are right – all of that is essentially ‘protecting’ you, you can’t work with that in mind as your initial plan.”

Then he started talking about some girl named “Betty”. Her last name is Eved, I think. The upshot is that (according to this girl, I guess) if you do some of the stuff I mentioned above by accident it’s OK. But you can’t expect or plan to do it that way because all that happens is people (ie: me) push the limits just a bit further until you actually do mess up a commandment.

It’s clear that Betty dated guys like me in High School. Or maybe she had brothers.

Anyway, I got the point: no planning to make a mistake. My wife will be so pleased to hear that yet another loophole in my “live fast, kosher as you go” philosophy has been closed. In the meanwhile, I am sure I’m going to make legitimate mistakes, and that Betty and I will have a chance to become better acquainted.

Lunch Meat Diet


My wife recently gifted me with a five-pound bar of chocolate. I expressed my appreciation by enthusiastically consuming it at a frightening rate.

Because, you know, who needs willpower right? Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s all giggles and teasing and fun and games until your pants don’t fit. Just as I was about to throw in the wardrobe, I stumbled upon a fantastic solution. So fantastic, that I’ve dropped 3 pounds this week and managed to avoid all junk food snacking for days. What’s my secret?

Meat.

I’ve written before about how the kosher laws around eating meat – and the time to wait after eating meat before you can eat dairy again – have been a subject of much discussion here at GoingKosher Headquarters. In fact, a great deal of planning goes into what we’re going to eat and when we’re going to eat it, just to avoid chewing ourselves into a corner from whence no ice cream can be scooped.

Why all the planning? For those who are coming to this late, here’s the basic facts about keeping kosher with regard to meat and milk:

  1. You can’t eat something that has meat in it together with something that has milk in it
  2. You can’t have them on the same plate
  3. You have to wait between eating one type of meal and another
  4. from milk to meat, you have to wait a short time (some say seconds, others say 20 minutes)
  5. from meat to milk, you have to wait some number of hours. In our case, we wait. Six. Long. Hours.

Normally, we simple eat meat meals – like turkey sandwiches – on Thursdays, when the boys get a meat meal at school, and after school have to bounce off the bus, across the dinner table, and off to cub scouts in short order. Halfway into my sandwich I realized that no milk chocolate bars would be in my immediate future. And by “immediate” I mean that whole six hours thing. I’d have to stay up well past my bedtime just for a snack I didn’t need. Problem solved. At least on those few days we eat meat for dinner.

Through a series of weird events, we’ve been having meat meals at odd times during the week (and day). That six-hour timer kicked in and like magic, half of the contents of our fridge and pantry became off limits to the wild roaming snack-a-beast dwelling in my mind.

“Off limits?” you may be asking. “Like no cheating? Isn’t snacking the epitome of cheating in the first place? What makes this (ie: being fleishig) so much more adhear-able than being on a diet in the first place?”

God.

God didn’t tell me to diet.

(side note: Most of the commandments point to a full enjoyment of each holiday (including Shabbat). This does not jibe well with a desire to say “Oh, I’m going to skip dessert or I’ll regret it later.” Not that “enjoyment” is the same as “eat yourself into a food coma”. But many interpretations are that you should eat more than you normally do during the week. Which was probably great back in the days when people had one or maybe two meals a day and those were pretty sparse. But in America, in these days of plenty, obesity lies just one more “Oneg Shabbat” away if you don’t have some kind of discipline.)

Getting back to God. God didn’t tell me to diet so I treat dieting like most of the other rules in my life – guidelines meant to be bent as the situation dictates.

But Kashrut is a different story. Kashrut came from The Source of All Things. Kashrut is a mitzvah – an obligatory commandment that, if you buy into the whole “God is real and is all-powerful and really does care what I do” scenario, is part of the deal. So yes, I cheat on my diet and no, I don’t cheat on kashrut. You don’t have to agree with it, but it works for me.

While it would make a lousy commercial (and I’m not – yet – svelte enough to be on the short list of spokesmodels anyway), I’m here to tell you that whenever I get those sudden cravings for junk, I just pop a slice of (kosher, of course) bologna in my mouth and that craving just fades away.