Practical reasons not to keep kosher

A pig sits on a sleeping man and says, "Why did you eat pork?"

Sorry about the picture. I admit it's a little creepy. :)

Earlier, I posted about the theological and religious reasons people give for not keeping kosher. But when the rubber hits the road, our real reason for not keeping kosher is probably not theological or religious. A kosher eater faces a glut of practical and economic challenges:

Keeping kosher is too hard. I can’t find any kosher food around here—there are no kosher stores or restaurants for about 300 miles. Plus, my lifestyle requires me to eat in restaurants all the time, so there’s no way I could keep kosher. We don’t have room for all the kosher stuff in our kitchen anyway.

Kosher food is way too expensive. Why should I pay five times as much for an identical chicken? I’m already pushing my budget to the limit trying to get organic eco-friendly fair-trade gourmet food. Where I live I would have to order kosher meat and cheese by mail order and that shipping is a killer!

It’s true—there are a lot of tactical challenges to keeping kosher. Unless I am blessed to live in a community with a substantial Jewish population, I may find myself far away from sources of kosher food.

The Torah is meant to be lived out in community. The farther away I am from community, the harder it will be to live a Jewish life.

I will have to prioritize. Where does living near the Jewish community fall in my list of priorities? This is not just about convenient access to restaurants. Living near and being involved in the larger Jewish community and in my local Messianic synagogue is an essential requirement of continuity. We somehow get this impression that our children will be able to learn Jewish values and gain basic literacy while we are living out in the boondocks on our own. But it won’t happen.

So in a way, the lack of availability of kosher food is a blessing in disguise. It is a sign that I am possibly living in the wrong place if I want my children to have both a Messianic and a Jewish identity. Granted, picking up and moving is not easy. But when we factor it into our to-do list, we should try to remember that it is not just about what is convenient for us right now, but how it is going to affect future generations.

Nonetheless, it’s possible to eat kosher anywhere—it just may mean not eating the things I want all the time.

It’s also true kosher food is expensive. Well, not all kosher food; mostly meat, cheese, and convenience foods. Many other products are already kosher, you just have to know which things actually need a hechsher and look for the brands that have them. But taking steps in keeping kosher might mean changing the way I eat. It might mean not eating meat for dinner every night.

Perhaps Shabbos will be that much more significant. When I ask my kids, “What is your favorite day,” they of course say, “Shabbos.” When I ask them what they like about Shabbos, their answer is almost always, “Chicken.” That might sound like a shallow answer, but my kids are young. As they grow, that love for Shabbos chicken will be replaced by the love of kedushah, the love of learning, the love of rest and peace and fellowship. But right now, the fact that we don’t eat much meat on other days of the week instills in them a love for Shabbos that they will cherish forever. That is what will result in continuity.

Not eating so much meat, not eating ready-prepared foods, and not going out to restaurants so often might turn out to be a healthier lifestyle anyway. 

So bottom line, our practical and economic difficulties in regards to keeping kosher ultimately serve to make us dependent on one another and on our larger community. In an indirect way, those challenges if we have the fortitude to tackle them, serve to make our communities stronger and tighter and will help to preserve us.

Image via Mostly Forbidden Zone