You Keep Kosher and Your Parents Don’t, Now what?
What is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you first become religious? Telling your mother that you can longer eat her cooking. This is guaranteed to start the fireworks.
I spent most of my life in France, growing up in Marseilles and then later living in Paris. Until a few years ago, I was not a religious Jew, leaving me free to enjoy all the delicacies of fine French dining.
After my wife and I made the decision to become religious, one of the first mitzvahs our Rabbi suggested we take on was to go kosher. This meant totally redoing our kitchen, an experience I will share with in a separate post, and limiting our diet to only what is allowed by the kosher laws. The most difficult part of the journey to keeping kosher was telling our parents that we could no longer eat their cooking. How do we balance our new lifestyle with the Jewish mitzvah of kibud av v’am—honoring your father and mother?
Patience, love and consideration
First of all, most of us baalei teshuva are very fired up with our newfound religious lifestyle. When dealing with our parents, who are not observant, we have to tone down that fire. Suddenly announcing that you can’t share in the family meals, or eat your mom’s cooking is not a very loving and considerate way to start.
First step is to explain to them why it is so important for you to be religious and to keep the laws of kashrut. Build respect and understanding for the importance of the mitzvah and the place it holds in your life. Usually, parents will understand and maybe they will even appreciate what you are doing. Try not to make it a confrontation, go gentle and always be respectful.
Second, deal with the food situation. One option is to suggest that you cater the meal. If mom insists on cooking, then ask if you can bring separate food, it can even be similar to what she is cooking so it blends in with everything else on the table. Bring your own plates, glasses and silverware. The best option, if you can swing it, is to ask if you can have a special corner in the kitchen where you keep kosher dishes, pots, utensils, etc. and when it is family meal time, cook for everyone.
Bottom line: remember your parents raised you. As a religious Jew it is most important to maintain peace and to honor your parents.
By Oren Laurent