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Put It Aside

I started a new job recently. A new exciting job. One that I openly told everyone was my “dream job”. I get to do all the things that I like to do, working with people who are enthusiastic and talented.

Like any new job, there was a lot to learn. So I found myself printing out some of the juicier bits so I could look things over when I was away from a computer. By which I mean Shabbat.

But as I looked at the pile, and imagined how it would help me get ahead. I also imagined the temptation to take notes, to highlight passages, to flesh out ideas.

Which is when a thought occurred to me: “If you put it aside, your commitment will be repaid.”

There’s a well-traveled idea that any money one spends for Shabbat will come back doubled. I believe the same goes for time. If we “spend” our time on Shabbat, focusing on the day and actively choosing not to focus on items from the week, that time will be repaid to us twice over. Maybe it will come in the form of inspiration, or insight, or efficiency.

Or serendipity. I logged in after Shabbat, and found an email waiting for me:

“You know those worksheets I sent you? Don’t worry about them. We scrapped that idea and we’re moving on to something else. I’ll talk to you more about it Monday.”


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.

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.

Here There Be Dragons

Let me lay this out up front: If you are keeping Kosher and you are sticking to a diet program (WeightWatchers, for example) and you are on the road away from home, you may as well eat your carry-on bag and snack on luggage tags.

I might be exaggerating (it’s been known to happen), but not by much.

For the last year, my job has included travel. Not long distances nor for weeks on end, mind you. But far enough and long enough that I can’t come home each night. Which means I have to work out the whole “food on the road” thing.

My wife and I have been following WeightWatchers for the last 4 years. It’s been very successful for us, mostly because my wife is a genius both in the kitchen and out, and can calculate all those “points” things for both herself and me on the fly. Then we started keeping Kosher a year ago, and that turned up the difficulty a little. Everything was still reasonably do-able though.

Then I got laid off from my previous job, and landed a consulting position for a company 500 miles away. The money was too good to pass up, and they were willing to let me telecommute SOME of the time. For one week a month, however, I travel to the home office, stay in their company-owned housing, and get in the requisite “face time”.

I’m not complaining. Given this economy I know I’ve got a sweet deal. But the food situation is a real thorn in my side.

Where I happen to be, there are (apparently NO Jews). How do I know this? I called the local Chabad (LINK) to ask what time their morning services started. They never called back. You know it has to be sparse if the CHABAD – of whom it is said (only half-jokingly) that we know there isn’t life on Mars because if there were, they (the Chabad) would already have presence there. And when I asked about kosher food, I was told they go out once a week, driving an hour one way, to pick up kosher food and bring it back. They would pick me up some stuff if I gave them a list.

That’s ok. The local supermarket carries kosher-labeled products. That, plus some paper plates, plasticware, and foil pans and I’m all set.

Except for the fact that I don’t cook very well (read: the only people who eat my cooking are me and… well, it’s pretty much just me).

Then there’s the business meetings. Regardless of how open I am about at work about my Judaism, with the absolute absence of kosher restaurants I have limited options when it comes to face to face discussions over food.

I find myself trying to do my best, but eating poorly the entire week. I arrive home with either my scale or my conscience (or both!) shining a light on my faux pas.

So this is an open-ended blog post. If there are any road warriors out there with kosher clues, I’m all ears and empty stomach.

Emotions running hot and cold

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Here’s a list of Fun phrases heard (frequently) in my home since becoming kosher observant:

“That’s a milk dish” (not a dish to HOLD milk, mind you)

“No, use a pareve spoon”

“Switch the sink over so we can wash the meat stuff” Read the rest of this entry

Kashrut for Dummies

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Our friend Noah Budin – a gifted musician and Jewish educator – recently stopped by and, noticing the labels on everything from cabinets to cookware (“milk”, “meat”, “pareve”) asked us how the changeover was going.

Pandora answered that it was good, but we had to constantly think about everything we ate. He smiled and said “Isn’t that the point?”)

He was right of course, but sometimes you have to hear things spoken back to you for them to make sense. But it got me thinking about the parts of kashrut that I found challenging, and if there wasn’t an instruction manual that could help. Sort of a “Kashrut for Dummies” handbook. Read the rest of this entry


“Hagalah” is the word for kashering something by dunking it in boiling water

While I will undoubtedly write more about the actual experience later, I thought I would share some photos from part of our kashering experience.

Read the rest of this entry

Same Time, Next Year

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Kashering your house often involves saying “goodbye” to things. So Long to (pork) sausage. Cheerio to cheeseburgers. sayonara to shrimp. Toodeloo to… well, you get the idea.

But kashrut doesn’t stop at the food itself. It also includes the items you cook food with and serve that food on. The less porous the substance, the more “resistant” (from a kosher perspective) it is. Stainless steel is good. Glass is better. Plastic is only so-so. And at the bottom of the pile, so to speak, are items made from ceramics.

Read the rest of this entry