If you are fortunate enough to have a working knowledge of Yiddish and a mental catalog of country radio circa 1970, you will enjoy singing the title to the tune of "Rocky Top." "Ain't no corn gonna grow in Hotzeplotz / It's too rocky by far..."
Anyhoodle. I had aspirations of writing an eloquent post on the problem of community and Judaism when one moves around the country a lot, especially when one moves away from Land of Reconstructionists to, well, Hotzeplotz, but I cannot for the life of me remember what I was going to say about that. Once upon a time I wrote without Wow Wow Wubbzy shrilling in the background, without the rubber mallet of exhaustion thwacking me about the temples. Although I'm not sure it isn't an improvement. Everything I wrote in college makes me come off as a finger-wagging dipshit, and we all know I'm not like that AT ALL.
So instead I'll just tell you about Kosher: Lazy Convert Style.
Why do it in the first place? Fair question. I could cop out with a rabbi-said-so answer, but that's not really how my rabbi works. (Or Reconstructionist Judaism.) First, it's an experiment -- we're not making a lifelong commitment to kashrut, just a few weeks (maybe six? We haven't decided on the time yet). We want to experience it from the inside, as something that we do instead of they do. Or, more important, we need to be the "they." Some have postulated that the purpose of kashrut originally was to separate the Jews (okay, Israelites) from their pagan neighbors. Prevent people from eating together, as these dietary laws did, and you prevent them from doing a whole host of unsavory activities together: partying, worshiping, intermarrying. An awful lot of mitzvot seem to run along the lines of "Don't do what Donny Don't does," with Donny Don't being the Babylonian pagan fellow with the tattoos and teraphim.
But of more interest to me is what happens when understanding flows from practice. Usually I intellectualize things to death, learn and learn and learn, and once I feel I've got my head straight I start actually doing whatever it was that I spent so much time learning about. Which is why I can compare and contrast every convertible carseat, diaper cover, composting mechanism, or gardening method long before I've actually made a purchase or dug a hole in the yard. Sometimes I never actually get around to digging the hole.
In this week's parsha the Jews accept the Torah, saying "We will do and we will hear." And I am choosing, in this exercise, to do and then hear. What meaning I will find in observing kashrut will follow from the observance itself, and not from anything I plan. Of course I have to be open to the possibility that what I will find is that observing kashrut is not something I find meaningful -- but I also have to be open to the possibility that I might not eat shrimp again. Last time I was at the grocery store I picked up a package of bacon, wheeled it around the store in my cart as I did the shopping -- and then I put it back. We haven't started our experiment yet, but still, I felt weird buying pork. Eh. It is a mystery.
So there's the why. Possibly more fascinating to y'all is the how: am I going to be blowtorching my way through the kitchen? Buying only kosher meat? Getting a second set of dishes?
Well, probably none of the above. This won't be recognizable to anybody who's done rabbinical kosher; it certainly won't be acceptable to the vast majority of Jews who would describe themselves as observant of kashrut. What we're doing will be an amalgam of eco-kosher, a sort of Biblical kosher, and real-world compromise for people (meaning: us) who do not live in a community where a shared conception of what constitutes kashrut matters.
So: No treyf. (Pork, shellfish, bottomfeeders, etc.) Separate milk and meat, and wait at least 45 minutes between. That's pretty basic.
But what meat will we eat? We weight the sustainability/animal-friendliness of meat over rabbinical supervision, and since there aren't many options for meat that's both happy and kosher, we're going with happy. (Although sometimes Trader Joe's gets kosher organic chicken!)
And as for milk, we are in the process of eliminating dairy for a while (or at least seriously reducing it), which will make the issue of separation as well as having only one set of dishes a lot easier to deal with. (It aggravates our collective allergies/asthma/eczema issues. Wheat too, but one thing at a time.) A lot of people seem to go vegetarian in this case, but we're swinging the other way. That's how we roll.
What about the hechsher -- the little K or U on the food in the box? We don't worry about it, is what. We check the ingredients. I don't really care if the factory also processes milk if the bread doesn't actually contain whey; I can still have a roast beef sandwich on it. (Provided it's Applegate Farms, of course...)
We won't worry about eating at other people's homes, of course, or restaurants. So feel free to invite us for dinner. And wine? Well, eh. Gentiles have had their fingers in an awful lot of things in this house.
In all the change we have in mind doesn't represent a huge departure from how we eat regularly -- with the huge exception of separating milk and meat. Because I love a cheeseburger, meat sauce with parmesan, oh man, chicken enchiladas with cheese, those spicy beef tacos from Chipotle drowning in sour cream...yeah. That part is going to be hard, even aside from kashrut as we cut down on dairy.
But. We will do, and then we'll hear. We'll see. What about you? Do you keep kosher, or follow any particular dietary rules for your religion? Or have you abandoned rules you grew up with?