Friday, April 07, 2006

The All-You-Can Eat Buffet, Except....

“Alex, I’d like Kashrut for $100, please.”

“An interesting choice, Linda. All right. You’re looking at a delicious piece of albacore. Side by side on your plate is a small piece of sirloin steak. Can you enjoy your meal as an observant Jew?”

“No, of course not,” I said. “If fish and meat are eaten together as described, there would be a health danger.”

“Correct!” Exclaimed Alex. “You have the board.”

As the other contestants sneered at me, I picked “Kashrut for $200, please.”

“As you know, the higher you go in monetary amount, the more difficult the questions become.

“In order to kasher a steak knife, you rinse it in hot water. True or false?”


“Yes, Linda.”

“No. You have to stick it in the ground 10 times.”

“Hmmm….may we have the judges’ ruling on this? Yes, that would be acceptable. $200 to Linda.”

Kashrut is not an obsession, but it’s definitely an item of interest for me, especially around Pesach. I have learned that Passover is the most sacred of holidays. Things you used to get away with any other day of the year, including the High Holy Days, just won’t cut it during Pesach. For instance, if you’re going to purchase salt (without iodine, of course), it’s best to do it before the week of Passover.

If I thought jumping into Judaism was like landing on Mars, and the words are definitely Martian, the kosher issue puts it into another dimension for me. I can visit, but gosh, forces of nature just pull me back.

I’ve heard a lot of different reasons, rationalizations perhaps, for the reason for kosher. As near as I can figure out, it’s simply because such rules and restrictions set Jews apart from all others. This is our tribe, that’s yours. Some of these rules might have had a basis in health concerns, but not most and certainly not all. They just are.

“Alex, Kashrut for $300, please.”

“All right, let’s see how you do on this one. You’re on vacation in Italy. You’ve got a Slurpee on your right, and Rocky Road Ice Cream on your left. Is this kosher?”


“Yes, Linda, you of the fast fingers. What is your answer?”

“Alex, I eat slurpees and Rocky Road ice cream all the time. Of course they’re all right.”

“I’m sorry,” Alex said with a sad look on his face. “That’s incorrect. If the slurpee is not from the U.S., it’s not kosher. And if the Rocky Road ice cream was made by Walgreen’s, it also is not kosher. That’s $300 from Linda, which gives her a total of Zero.”

Obviously I have a long way to go in understanding this kashrut thing. I thought it was such a simple thing until I went to a three-hour class on the subject, and discovered that three hours doesn’t even begin to cover the permutations. I had hoped to get some clarity on the issues involved: that was my basic goal. I succeeded somewhat.

This week I set about clearing out my kitchen of all hametz (leavened bread) materials. I thought the task would be easy. Crackers? Bread? Gone. But then I discovered that it also includes non-kosher wine. I don’t have any kosher wine. So I boxed up all the possibilities (including two bottles of nice champagne) and will store it in a place that I will not call my own for a week.

But I still have some questions about some of the things that are still in my house. I figure that this, my first year, is a great crucible.

Am I playing at this? I think I am just being Reform. I am trying the practices to see which ones make sense to me, which ones I can absorb and make a part of my identity. I think that’s the definition of Reform.

If there are any rabbis out there, or rabbis-to-be, and I’ve made any errors, please let me know. Oh, and while you’re at it, I have a few more questions for you about food supplements, bags of flour, and PopSecret popcorn, stuff that's still in my cupboard.

I never did get to Kashrut for $500. Too tough. And I doubt if I ever will.

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