It’s been over 10 days since my last post, what a break! It was turkey and then some. Lots has happened:
- we toured the mikvah where conversions happen after the interview with the panel of rabbis (beit din)
- last night was our last regular class in my Intro to Judaism class cycle, though I have to make up one class in February
- I’ve gotten to know quite a few people in my community (or at least some new names)
- we had our Nefesh Hanukkah party for kin (members), 8 days before the 8 days
- I visited my first Kosher deli in search of gluten-free challah and in solidarity after the New Jersey shooting
But this one’s only about the last item.
I used to make fun of people who couldn’t eat dairy. I know! I was younger and stupid. The universe has a way of correcting for those things. I moved to Seattle in 2006 (no job, no friends, whole different story) and immediately changed my whole lifestyle. I started walking, running, and biking, and pretty soon realized I wasn’t feeling better in one regard. In fact, it got worse. The doc recommended I wean out dairy and see if that was it. Ugh, it was.
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Within a few years though I felt worse again and it took another several years after that for a friend who’d been through similar, then a nutritionist, and then an acupuncturist to get me off gluten.
Quitting that was worse. You can usually spot dairy, literally. It’s such a western thing for it to be the main event if it’s in a dish, often the point of the dish. But gluten is this invisible, genetically modified satan slipped into damn near everything. I felt better. Like, way better in my joints, and if I have gluten now I know it and my body makes sure I know it for 2-3 days.
All of a sudden in my late 20s / early 30s I was the guy checking labels on everything I buy and having to ask servers and friends what’s in everything. The ongoing joke with a waiter, by the way, if you’re worried you’re annoying them: I just shouldn’t leave the house, right? My mom goes through this, too.
I’d already felt bad about eating smart animals for awhile and since there are no whales, dolphins, gorillas, or other primates in my diet, I’d been trying to find the strength to quit bacon for awhile. I mean just bacon. The rest of ham is easy, especially cold, dead, floppy ham. For some reason you cook a certain part of a pig and it’s just incredible. If pigs are so smart, why do they taste so good?
I’d cut back on red meat per the same nutritionist and had switched to turkey instead of beef at home. That was easy! But bacon? Really?
I’ve mostly had success. I started stopping pork over the summer. The first time I goofed was accidental and the most recent, well, my parents cooked. They’re from the south and bacon and dairy are in everything. They got the dairy memo. Now for the bacon talk.
You may be wondering why kosher, as I was. Why do we do this? There are two ways of thinking about it:
I’m finding as I go that the first view of kosher noshing, which I used to have and sometimes still do, is anti-semitic when it comes from non-Jews like myself. It’s a way of judging Jews as different and weird and saying, Hey, look, they do weird shit for no purpose except following an ancient text blindly. People are guilty of this ALL THE TIME about capital-T Torah, pointing out how arbitrary it seems to only follow certain biblical rules while ignoring others, like animal sacrifice. I’ve noticed lately folks thinking they’re pointing out Christian hypocrisy but are actually making fun of Jews for the rules they do follow. There’s a big difference.
I think many Christians are guilty of this, and that’s before even getting into the Christian view that Christ’s presence nullified the o.g. Hebrew contract. If it did, why condemn people like me with Leviticus quotes but ignore kosher restrictions?
So here I am trying to get into the tribe and yet also finding that I’ve been increasingly mindful about what I consume for nearly 15 years already. And I have to do more? For realsies? Life is hard.
And this is coming at a time when bacon and ham are basically hitting me in the face at the holidays? And I’m giving up Christmas trees, too? (Separate post coming on that, which is appropriate as Hanukkah is all about separation)
99% of the time I’m done with bacon. Twice in 6 months I’ve been tempted and ate it. I gave up my foreskin (separate post later, don’t worry it wasn’t recent), beautiful pagan pines, and now crisp, delicious, fragrant bebé pig?
Is it OK to cheat? Is that worse somehow as a Jew-by-choice-to-be? I mean, if Kosh-Life (tattoo idea) is a mindfulness exercise around the thing you do repeatedly daily, should I also care that cows are adorable and bond with you and can be intelligent?
That’s gonna be a hard one, and ongoing. I love what some rabbis say about it, too. The Talmud is 2k years of Rabbi-ing about every topic you can imagine, so eating kosher isn’t just following Leviticus “just because”, or even just mindfulness. It can also be about decision fatigue and simplifying a complex aspect of your life, enabling you to pour that focus onto other moral choices. I think of Steve Jobs wearing the same thing every day so he could focus on work. If I’ve already decided what I can not eat, then doing right in the world for bigger things, like how I treat people, becomes easier.
Turtle necks are awful and so was Steve, but maybe giving up shrimp (!) to bring me closer to Jewish culture, its ancestors, and its teachings is a nice thing to do.