The Great Kosher Krisis of 2015

So, in my last post, which constitutes my ignominious return to conversion-blogging after months, I mentioned that we’ve been studying kashrut.  This presents me with a bit of a problem, logistically speaking.  Let me break it down (it’s already pretty broken) for you.

One:  I live in a small house — a very small house — which I share with a friend.  We’re friends, but we’re not what you would call cozy.

Two:  The kitchen in my small house is a retrofit; I’m not sure exactly what renovations were done when, but whoever put the existing (I hesitate to call it “new,” because it’s so totally not) kitchen in sort of knew what all the parts of a kitchen should be, but had obviously never actually cooked in one before.  So that means the fridge is stuck in a tiny alcove between my office door and the bathroom door, there is about a grand total of three square feet of usable countertop space, there is only one sink (crammed between the window and the door down to the basement), and storage space otherwise is at a serious premium.  Sinks are also a particular kosher issue, because if the sink is treif, as mine would necessarily be, I can’t soak dishes in it, nor wash them in a sinkful of water without a plastic sink liner (which I would store where?).  And I don’t — obviously — have the counter space to leave soaking pots all over.  I’m a walking disaster area; I do burn food on the regular.

Three:  Snce I share a house with an unrelated person, and we don’t really share food, we each need separate food storage as it is.

Four:  I still haven’t moved closer to the shul, which means I still live quite a ways away from any of the stores in town that sell kosher meat products.  (Just eating dairy or fish is not an option for me, especially since I don’t like fish that much.)

Five:  I don’t drive.

Six:  I’m mildly physically handicapped and deal with fatigue issues, which means I don’t necessarily have the energy/ability to cook from scratch every day.  There is no kosher restaurant in town.

Seven:  I do not own a chest freezer, not even a small one.

Eight:  While I’m once again gainfully employed, I’m on a three-month contract which ends at the end of July.  I therefore have no guaranteed income past the end of July, and no guarantee I’ll easily be able to find another job after this one.

Nine:  Even if I did find another job right after this one, there’s no guarantee it would be in this city.  Many of the jobs in my field are either in the Waterloo region or the Greater Toronto Area.

Ten:  Rental agreements in my town tend to be twelve-month leases.

Conclusion:  From the way it looks right now, I’d be really stupid to try to move right now, particularly since I’ll find out whether or not $Current_Employer will extend/re-up my contract within about six weeks.

Unfortunately, my rabbi, whom I like very much and want to please, thinks I should start keeping much closer to “real kosher” like now, including using separate stove burners, plates, glasses, and utensils to my housemate, and buying kosher-slaughtered meat.  While I genuinely do want to do this mitzvah, and intend to do it to my utmost once I can, I honestly don’t see how I can pull it off without moving house.  I simply don’t have the room or the energy to try to maintain essentially a whole separate second kitchen in the already-overcrowded space allotted to the first one, and I don’t have the storage space to store frozen cooked meals for those days when I can’t cook/am not safe with a knife, etc.

And while I do actually want to move eventually, and was actually beginning the process of looking for a house to buy in the neighbourhood sort of equidistant between my grandma’s house and the shul (two! two! two mitzvot in one!) before I got restructured out of my last job…

…six weeks before my yea-or-nay date on a three-month (to start?) contract is not precisely the time, I think, to be contemplating committing to a year lease, especially since I’ve been here so long I rent month to month.

I know the rabbi would say that I should just organise my life around doing the mitzvot and HaShem will take care of the rest, but I’m much more of a “trust in G-d but tie your camel” kind of person (if I may borrow from the Islamic world for a sec), to be honest.  And I’m sure this is going to delay my first meeting with the Beit Din, which was supposed to happen right after Pesach, but I don’t mind.  One thing I am sure of is that these things will happen on HaShem’s time, not mine.

Shabbat Recap — SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

I really wanted to go to shul this morning, but apparently my alarm was turned too low, because I slept right through it. This isn’t surprising, since I went to bed at 7PM last night (although I was up in the middle of the night for a couple of hours because I was burning up — homeostasis, ur doin it rong!) and generally slept like a rock. (I did finally give in and turn on the light so I could read while I was waiting for my temperature to come back down. *sigh*)

Other than that, it was a good Shabbat. I did a lot of sleeping, a lot of reading, and studied some more of my book on the halacha of kashrut, which I must say is absolutely bone-dry, and details a tonne of the minutiae of the procedures surrounding scenarios where meat and milk come into contact. This is probably not something I’ll likely ever need to know in any detail, because I don’t consume dairy products, other than the occasional thing that has a dairy hechsher on it for “CYA” reasons but otherwise contains no actual discernable dairy products. I suppose if I wind up marrying someone who eats dairy, I might have to do meat/dairy kosher, but at this point, it’s a total non-issue. (Anybody know any eligible lactose-intolerant bachelors? *g*)

Izzy’s eye seems to be improving vastly, so I’m very, very happy about that. He’s also stopped sneezing every five minutes. It’s a good thing.

The job thing is also heating up for me; I have three very promising-looking leads right now, one of which started the phone interview with the woman on the other end saying, “You know, I really love your resume!” (Bite me, career transition counsellor guy who said that I needed to redo my resume. Was that my outside voice lashon hara? Yeah, I’m still working on that part. Perfect, I ain’t. Yet.) That one is going to turn into a face-to-face interview sooner or later, and is in my hometown, albeit way out in the back of beyond near the airport, and I don’t drive (harrumph). The most recent one is for a job in a city about an hour east of here, where I went to graduate school, and when I read the job description (forwarded to me by my wonderfully devious evil-minded recruiter), I thought, “Wow, they’re looking for their very own Sara-Elisheva! Fortunately for them, one happens to be on the market.”

While moving an hour away would complicate things with my conversion, they have a very nice kehila in that town — big enough to have its own kosher supervisor and scribe! No kosher restaurant, but far more availability of kosher foods than here, at least. Having reasonable access to kosher prepared foods (available there) would make my life much easier Jewishly, particularly if I’m working full-time again, as sometimes I just don’t feel like, or feel up to cooking. I have a mobility impairment that comes with a handful of syndromic impairments, and something which may or may not be fibromyalgia, so fatigue, proneness to certain kinds of infections, and other illness are issues for me. Anything I can do to save spoons is a good thing.

I feel like I might be able to do this thing, folks…

Sunday

Last Sunday, I was having a pretty good day.  I got up and got out in time to do a whole bunch of errands before Hebrew class, and I was looking forward to having an energetic day to start my week.  After resting most of Shabbat, I felt pretty good, too.

i went shopping and quite accidentally found the (nearly) perfect dress to wear to shul.  The neckline’s a little low for total shul-compliance, but a camisole will fix that, it’s wicked flattering (I am a woman who looks like she has ancestors from Ukraine, the part that used to elect Miss Soviet Tractor every year and had women who pulled plows without tractors), and it meets my immediate needs by also having pockets (holy moly!).  (This means I can surreptitiously put my keys, wallet, and chapstick in my pocket and not be visibly looking like I’m carrying anything.)

I also went to the nearby-to-there grocery store and found, much to my surprise, that that Loblaws has started carrying kosher meat (which means I don’t have to order it in at the Sobeys, which is inconvenient for someone who doesn’t drive to get to), and that they also carry kosher balsamic vinegar!  Scooooore.

Then I actually made it home in time for Hebrew class, and then afterward, still felt energetic enough to go out and try to tackle weeding the weed patch I currently have passing as my front garden. 

I got one tiny corner about done when my neighbour came over to tell me they’d found my cat in their hostas…

 

A Few Too Few Thoughts on Kashrut

If you asked me right now if I keep kosher, I’d have to say “sort of.”  By Orthodox standards, not at all, as I don’t yet buy properly shechted (slaughtered) and prepared meat (it’s hard to come by in this town, so I leave it for those of them who are obligated to buy it), and none of my cooking and eating utensils have been tovelled or kashered (made kosher).

I do, on the other hand, maintain separate cutting boards and knives for meat and vegetables/everything else (I actually started doing this years ago for hygiene reasons — I’ve read Fast Food Nation and therefore basically consider meat toxic waste until cooked), enforce temporal separation (I usually wait a minimum of three hours, because that’s what various of my friends said, and I don’t have my own tradition/custom to follow) between eating meat and any halavi (dairy kosher) food I do eat (which is not much), and I no longer buy pork or shrimp to cook in the house, although I still occasionally eat pork.  I haven’t yet managed to wean myself completely off  the delicious barbecue pork from my favourite Chinese place, which is really my only weakness when it comes to pork.  I’m going to miss it.  (And the owners of said Chinese place are going to miss me.)

I don’t have separate dishes because I am still using my housemate’s dishes (this falls under “moving house”), and in any case, I’m not going to need to keep separate sets of basari and halavi dishes because I don’t eat dairy products.  I am both lactose intolerant and have a milk allergy, so I get the fun gastrointestinal symptoms, plus an itchy rash on my hands, feet, and face, wheezing, and extra snottiness.  It’s great fun.

Anything I do eat that’s dairy kosher is basically what I think of as “CYA halavi,” because while it contains no discernable actual milk products, it’s probably made in a facility with halavi certification, or something.  My friend RH tells me that years ago, some products carried hechshers that said things like “Pareve made on dairy equipment,” which basically meant that if you didn’t want to be super-strict about it (presumably under the rule about batel b’shishim, or the principle that 1 part in 60 of a non-kosher substance makes something otherwise kosher non-kosher), you could eat those products as pareve foods and not worry about it.  I’m given to understand that things trend much stricter now, so those hechshers are passe.

Usually my CYA halavi foods are things like protein bars or cookies, so no point in having plates for them.

Funny thing is, even at this point, I keep better kosher than my other Jewish ex’s Conservative-affiliated (as in went to a Conservative synagogue nearly every week) parents did.  I’m not obligated yet, and I’m not really set up to do everything yet, so this is a work in progress.

Other things I’m going to miss include eating out on a regular basis, pizza (because what’s the point of a vegetarian cheeseless pizza anyway?), balsamic vinegar, and who knows what else that I won’t be able to get.  Oh, also probably not having to plan my meals with the precision of a military drill, although I’m already moving in that direction just to get used to it.

See?  I told you.  Crazy.

Shalom!

I’m marginally insane.  I went from being completely irreligious to wanting to convert to Orthodox Judaism, and I’m trying to do it in a medium-sized city in southern Canada with a tiny Orthodox community, no kosher butcher, no kosher restaurant (at all), and a very busy Chabadnik rabbi.  Converting to Judaism isn’t easy to begin with, which is why I’m sort of extra-crazy.

Even the people at the shul think so.

Along the way, you’ll get to “meet” them, and I’ll write about some of my (mis)adventures as I continue along the process.

Be’tavyon!