Very soon, long before I started my conversion, I felt that keeping kosher is part of becoming Jewish. Even though non-Jews can't keep 100% kosher, I wanted to integrate it into my life as much as I could. It is very easy to read online, what "keeping kosher" means, but I was not sure how to start keeping it in practice. This article is for everyone who is starting from the very beginning to keep kosher.
Since the 23rd of September of 2017 I have ate kosher. Eating kosher might rationally not make sense, it has to be seen as a spiritual act. Health reasons can definitely be a positive side effect, but the main reason to keep kosher is simply "because God said so".
Whenever we eat something with mindfulness of our Creator and Divine purpose, our act of eating acts as a connection to the above. The energy we receive from that food itself becomes elevated into that higher purpose. You are what you eat!
There are many different levels of Kashrut. Eventually, we want to follow all the rules to the best of our ability. But for now I want to give you a soft introduction of how anyone who has never even been in contact with the practice of Kashrut rules can integrate the kosher lifestyle into their lives.
Note that this is not a full article of how to keep all the kosher rules and their extended explanations! This is my report on the experiences I gained with helpful tips and tricks for you.
"Keeping kosher for beginners" consists mainly of the following aspects:
1. Separation of meat and dairy 2. Avoiding forbidden products 3. Making the kitchen kosher 4. Learning how to shop kosher food
Separation of Meat and Dairy
When I started to keep kosher, I was a vegan. As most of the kosher rules center around meat, keeping kosher was far more easy for me. If you eat meat and consume dairy products, starting to keep kosher becomes a little bit more complex and you should focus on separating it.
What exactly does it mean to "separate" meat and dairy in practice?
There are various traditions accepted by an orthodox community. The strictest rule I have heard of, and probably the most common one, is to wait 6 hours after eating meat before you consume dairy. After eating diary you clean your mouth with some water or bread before you eat meat.
One of my Jewish friends from Denmark follows the tradition to wait only 1 hour after eating meat.
I know that waiting 6 hours can be challenging in the beginning. Try out, see what resonates the most with you until you find the final tradition that you want to keep for your life.
Avoid Forbidden Food
One of my favorite foods used to be seafood. I loved it, until I found out, that seafood is forbidden in the Torah. There are various forbidden animals, and for many of us, this means to change our diet plan and learn to resist. I know how hard it is...
Be aware to avoid products made from seafood and pork from now on.
One procedure I really appreciated when I began eating kosher, was checking my food for uneatable things. I feel like it makes me prepare and eat my food much more consciously, because I pay attention on the detail . The Torah mentions numerous times to not eat any insects. We are not even aware of how many bugs we eat without noticing it. That's why it is required to check food like rice, lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli intensely for little hidden animals. And I promise you, you will find them for sure!
How to check these foods?
My adoptive mother showed me how to prepare food in a kosher way. You open the little heads of cauliflower and broccoli to check carefully inside. To check the rice, you put a hand full of rice on a white plate and check for little black dots, as worms have black heads. Check every leaf of lettuce carefully or let it soak in soap water for three minutes, letting the bugs come out by themselves.
As it is not allowed to eat blood, we also want to check our eggs for blood. Open the egg into a glass and check from all sides. I have never found blood. My 40 year old friend told me that she has found blood about 2-3 times in her life. You will probably not immediately find eggs with blood, but it is still good to pay attention!
Making the Kitchen Kosher
Some Jewish households have two separate kitchens or separate sinks for milk and meat and some households have one kitchen but different plates and cutlery. I will show you some tricks from my experience how to avoid buying a second kitchen ;)
I got myself some glass plates and cups. Glass is an amazing solution, as you can use it for milk and meat after each other. Get a red and blue nail polish and mark "meaty" cutlery and pots with a red dot and "milky" things with a blue dot.
To kosher your dishes and utensils, they must acquire an additional measure of holiness which is conferred through the ritual immersion in natural water. Jews immerse their newly bought kitchen utensils into a mikveh to make them "Jewish" before they use them. The mikveh can be a pool of pure rain water or natural waters such as the ocean. Since I was not Jewish yet, but still wanted to experience this special process, I went with my utensils to the sea and immersed them. It was a very special moment for me. A moment of starting a “Jewish” kitchen.
Shopping for Kosher Food
When I first started keeping kosher, I had no idea what I could buy and eat. I googled a bit and found the kosher list of Spain. Every kosher product in a person’s country is listed. It is a great ressource to find kosher brands in your local supermarket. Furthermore you can eat every vegetable and fruit outside of Israel; and noodles, rice, and fish are always a good option.
I managed to cook only kosher food, only suffering from the lack of cheese on the Spanish kosher list. This just meant no cheese for three months until I would arrive in Israel.
It got quite hard to go to restaurants with friends or eat at their houses. In the beginning I avoided all these occasions and I began to suffer. Then I decided to eat vegetarian dishes in restaurants and at friends houses. I felt, that this is a good compromise for the beginning. Beginning to eat kosher shouldn't mean to make gaps between you and your friends.
One last tip: eat your favorite non kosher food for the last time. I really enjoyed my last Paella with shrimps and mussels.
Keeping kosher is a spectrum based on your own relationship with your faith. You don’t need to follow each strict law of kashrut to start keeping kosher. Don't try to integrate anything with pressure. Becoming Jewish is a long process. Only accept the rules that you feel comfortable with!
I love what you said here about Kosher eating. I never thought about it that way, per say, we just do it. I mean there's always the "I'm doing this because G-d said so" but your words make it more personal. You have given me a beautiful mitzvah today with these words.
ILANA NOVEMBER 01, 2018
Thank you so much. That is my mission. Your comment makes me so happy. For me it is so important to find spiritual meaning behind everything we do.
Welcome to "Jewishbychoice"! I am Ilana! German, 28 years old, converted to Orthodox Judaism, currently living in Israel. Fascinated by Torah, Spirituality and Jewish values. Today I share my experiences on my blog and assist people in their conversion process. I teach weekly Judaism classes and offer professional conversion coaching.
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