By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
We’re getting married soon and are debating whether to have a kosher home or not. It’s a huge commitment, and we’re not so sure if we’re up to it at this point. On the other hand, there are definitely health and spiritual benefits to it; we’re just not sure if they outweigh the difficulties of the commitment involved. Maybe you can help us with our decision.
Gabe & Megan
Dear Gabe and Megan,
Mazal tov on your upcoming wedding!
Keeping a kosher home certainly is a large commitment, as is your getting married to each other. The two commitments actually complement each other in a very profound way:
The commitment you are soon to make to each other is called “kiddushin,” the Hebrew term for betrothal or matrimony. The word kiddushin has two seemingly unrelated meanings, sanctity and separateness:
Sanctity is the holiness of the Jewish marriage between a man and a woman. When the ring is passed from the groom to his bride, he recites, “Behold, you are sanctified to me with this ring in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel.” At that point, the Shechinah, or Divine Presence, rests between the bride and groom and remains there throughout their lifetime together.
Kiddushin also means separateness. At the point of the marriage, the couple separate themselves and their unique love for each other from the rest of the world and become a unique, new unit of one. This entails a lifelong commitment to each other, one which enables and invites the Shechinah to be the “glue” which holds them together.
Both of these concepts of kedusha, holiness and separateness, are infused into a home in which the laws of kosher are observed. Firstly, the Torah refers to foods which are kosher as “tahor” and those which are unkosher as “tameh.”
The word tahor, usually translated as “pure,” actually means “transparent.” The Kabbalists explain that this is referring to a spiritual transparency, one which allows the Shechinah to flow into it and into the one who consumes this kind of food. A home in which the food is kosher is a home that the Shechinah is able to flow into and fill with light and joy.
The word tameh, normally translated as “unclean,” really means “sealed.” This means that the food, and one who consumes it, has “sealed up” their heart from the flow of the Shechinah and from the spiritual light which should illuminate the heart.
Just as a married couple has a separation of love from others, also the kosher home becomes separate to the Al-mighty and creates a special bond of love to Him through that separateness. It’s not a home like the rest of the homes on the block, but one that is built upon a commitment of love to the Creator. Every snack or meal becomes a service to God and brings Him great pleasure.
The commitment a couple work on together to keep a kosher home helps them cement the commitment they have to each other. In addition, every time one abstains from consuming or bringing home some “forbidden fruit,” they exercise and strengthen their “spiritual muscles” which help them stay away from “forbidden fruit” in other areas of life as well.
Lastly, it’s hard to put into words the powerful positive impact that a kosher home has upon children, in so many ways. It teaches them discipline, connects them to a timeless tradition, builds within them pride for their Judaism and of their home and so much more!
A parting word: Before you’ve actually tried it, to take on kosher seems to be something so difficult, almost unattainable. The truth is, however, with study, step-by-step observance and time, it becomes a routine. And a pleasurable one at that! We all have it in us to do it; it’s part of our Jewish DNA; we just need to take the dive!
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of DATA–Dallas Area Torah Association.