Kashrus Wrestling

Home of the Kosher style Burrito by hsivonen - Used by Creative Commons Attribution

Home of the Kosher style Burrito by hsivonen – Used by Creative Commons Attribution

This was one issue I thought I had some personal closure on.  I first wrote my own statement on eco-kosher to follow around four or five years ago.  I was sure that traditional kashrus held no pull for me and that honoring the spirit of it was enough.  Considering I have an interfaith marriage and a husband who cures his own bacon and makes bacon vodka, it was really for the best that traditional kosher held no allure.

Right.  So.  The voices in my head just mean I’m crazy right?

Nope.  See, when you talk to G!(d)dess(s)(es) and take the time to listen — G!(d)dess(s)(es) talks back.  And my friend and mentor Angela Raincatcher has always taught me that you never bargain with G!(d)dess(s)(es) because s/t/he/y only bargain up.

So what’s a girl to do when she’s getting clear messages that explore a more traditional kosher path is important for spiritual growth and she’s got hams curing in her fridge that aren’t hers?

No, really, I’m asking!

I started thinking about the people who keep a kosher home, but will get their noms on some lobster anywhere else.  I always thought it was kind of hypocritical, but my recent explorations have given me a new perspective.  I think it’s about where you feel like you have control over your food.  I still think it’s kind of hypocritical because you do have some control over the food you eat when you are out and about.

In my case, I realized that I don’t have total control over the food in my home — but there were options.  I can not cook treif or buy treif.  If my husband does, well, he does.  If he serves it to me, I’ll eat it and enjoy it, but I won’t ask for it or suggest it.  When I’m out and about, I can just not eat treif. I do have control over that.  This sounded so simple and was working quite well until we went to the Eastern Shore this weekend and I was confronted with the so yummy crab cakes, steamed crabs, and crab dripping with butter…

Sorry — lost my train of thought there for a second.  See, I grew up in Massachusetts and my people ate shellfish.  No, we elevated it to an art — we didn’t just eat it.  What my sister and I can do to a lobster, well it deserves to be an Olympic sport at least. I grew up digging for clams and picking up mussels off the beach.  My uncle even used to set a few of his own lobster traps.  Seafood, especially yummy, yummy shellfish kind of defines my family.

Now back to the crab restaurant.  I realized that this was a defining moment for me in this exploration.  Would I eat it or not.  There really wasn’t much else on the menu, but there was another option – and I chose it. I opted for the broiled rockfish, without the optional crab stuffing.  It was fine, but not as yummy as steamed crab.

I don’t know where this experiment with more traditional kashrut is going.  I know that for now I feel called to not eat pork, shellfish, other traditionally non-kosher animals or mix meat with milk from the same animal whenever I have control over my food.  I also know there will be exceptions and I will not feel guilty about them.  There will be moments when it is wholly appropriate to eat these foods and enjoy them, and I’m the only one who knows when those moments are right for me.  I also know that this new layer will not remove my long-standing commitment to eco-kosher, it will just enhance it.



  1. Husband cures own bacon. You suddenly think that you have to keep a kosher home. I predict divorce.

  2. wow. I was going to just delete your insanely asshole-like comment, but decided to leave it and respond. You don't know me. You don't know my husband. You've never spoken to me before, and yet you deem to pass judgment on my marriage.

    I never said I need to keep a kosher home. If you read the post, you'd see that I said I feel called to follow more traditional kosher and am NOT keeping a kosher home – by my own choice.

  3. This reminds me of a quote from Maimonides where he says that when you are with non-Jews and you are put in a position where you have to deny a non-kosher food that you are offered, you shouldn't cover up your religious observance by saying that you are allergic or that you don't like the food. You should say instead that the food is quite delicious but G-d doesn't want you to eat it.

    Every time this quote has come up in study someone in the group has asked, "And how would HE know that pork is delicious?!" 🙂

  4. Phil Stanhope /

    I stand corrected about the "kosher home" comment, but this comment — "more traditional kosher path" — certainly suggests that you are headed that way.

    True, I don't know you. But you put intimate details (and food *is* intimate) on the Web for all the world, so what do you expect?

    And on the theme of intimacy and food-sharing, if one partner begins to feel that his/her dietary choices are viewed as less moral by the other partner, then I predict a loss of intimacy in the relationship.

    Kosher laws, after all, were first and foremost about drawing a bright line between Us and Them, even before there was such an abstraction as "Judaism." Check Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman's archaeological book, THE BIBLE UNEARTHED, to see just how far back the avoidance of pork goes in the archaeological record.

    Phil "insane asshole" Stanhope

  5. I have similar problems in my practice, Carly. I deal with them in similar ways, too.

    Keisha (my wife) practices a Norse path and sometimes eats pork to honor Frey — which is about as often as I touch pork except for that occasional pizza. I try to eat mindfully and seek to eat as close to an eco-kosher ideal as I can, trying to reach closer to the mark.

    Personally, I wish people would worry about what go into their own mouths before they start judging what goes into others. I'm concerned with the intimacy between the divinity, myself and my ancestors. I really can't say I'm that concerned with drawing a line between myself and non-Jews, even if some of my ancestors might have.

  6. Lisha – that's too funny. I had forgotten about that Maimonides quote! I wonder if bacon smells yummy to people who have never eaten it?

    Phil — I expect people to have some basic manners. Clearly I know about the history or Kosher laws. I'm just saying that you've never left a comment on this site before and you kick it off my predicting doom for my marriage.

    The post details the many ways the ways I am balancing my own spiritual needs with an interfaith marriage. Once again, you're need for "predictions" is silly and thoroughly out of place with people you don't know.

    I didn't call you an asshole — I don't know you. I called your comment asshole-like. 😉

  7. Yeilah Leah /

    Ketzirah– thanks for sharing on what's going on for you in the kosher department. As someone who misses crab a lot (I became kosher when I was 18) I relate to your struggle. I do find my inner dialogue about kashrut is a source of spiritual growth and reflection.

    I know lots of couples who differ in religious food practice, and while it can be a bit challenging, it certainly doesn't predict divorce as long as folks respect one another. Such couples don't need to define different food practices as "moral" or "immoral."

    Further, although we can theorize that kashrut was instituted to divide "us" and "them" (and indeed it serves that function for some) the Torah doesn't say that is its purpose. Kashrut was probably instituted for multiple reasons, not all of which may be meaningful today. Religious practice tends to survive if it has multiple purposes that appeal across time, not one xenophobic purpose.

    Phil's comment was not appropriate, not to mention non-halakhic according to the Talmudic principle that one doesn't deliberately embarrass someone (not even on-line on a public blog).

  8. Hi Carly,

    What a wonderful opportunity to wrestle! Just curious, what is leading you to want to keep (more traditionally) Kosher? and how does that weigh against the "I like it, its scrum-dili-icious?" For me, it's pretty easy to acknowledge my craving and then make a different choice, but much more challenging to fly in the face of beloved family traditions.

    Another thought, perhaps pork is traif for you, but it is not traif for your hubby, because he hasn't made the covenent. One of the things I love about Judaism is the ingenuity of surmounting certain technical issues, such as erecting an eruv. Could you translate the eruv concept to your fridge/table, either literally or metaphorically (e.g. have a non-kosher shelf, or get a tiny fridge for non kosher items, or have a special placemat which would be the only non-kosher part of your table?) ….just some thoughts.


  9. Another thought–

    This has been working for me lately. I am being rather successful at not eating sugar, wheat or dairy, which I AM allergic to. When I am at someone' home and they offer me a forbidden homemade delight, I truthfully and enthusiastically join them in spirit and in their and other guests enjoyment of the delicacy. I might refuse, but say something like, "I don't do sugar (or whatever), but I'm really enjoying your enjoyment of it", and really mean it. I feast and share it visually or olfactorilly (sp?). This seems to work for me, primarily b/c I am wanting to honor my needs/choices but not set myself apart from the other person, or by default, cast judgement on their food choices. With regard to Kashrus, perhaps you can join your hubby in spirit for a bacon-vodka martini!

    Good luck!


  1. Southernmost Shabbat | Peeling a Pomegranate - [...] today.  This was his idea, which is really awesome. I’ve talked before about some of the challenges  of being…