Monday, December 26, 2011

Gone Kosher

As a Jew who doesn't particularly enjoy going to the movies or having hours of unstructured time, I tend to find Christmas Day to be somewhat challenging. It doesn't help that the day falls in the midst of the New England winter, making outdoor activities iffy at best. In the past, Christmas Day has often seemed interminable. This year, however, I had a plan: I kashered my kitchen.

This was not a spontaneous decision; rather, I'd worked my way up to it over a period of many weeks. I did some research; I consulted with my rabbis; I purchased necessary supplies. Being a vegetarian made the process somewhat easier. Also, I have a galley kitchen (fancy term for, "really small kitchen") so the amount of cleaning was less than it could have been. However, I still had to contend with all my pots, utensils, appliances, and countertops, so it took a solid four-and-a-half hours to complete the job. End result: my kitchen looks the same, albeit cleaner. What feels different is internal.

For most of my adult life, I'd tossed around the idea of "keeping kosher" but had never given it serious consideration, for the simple reason that I couldn't handle another set of food rules. I was too busy adhering to the rules dictated by my eating disorder. I made food choices based on nutrition information and my own set of fears, not based on whether or not the product in question had a hekhsher. My eating disorder called all the shots--what G-d wanted me to do was not even on my radar screen.

A lot of work has gone into my journey from that place of eating disordered tunnel vision, to my newly kashered kitchen. I am proud to say that now, when I go food shopping, my chief concern is kashrut--not calorie counting. I am able to see the distinction between the Jewish practice of being mindful of what I eat, and the eating disordered trap of being obsessed by it. Before, when (if) I ate with other people, what set me apart were all the rituals and regulations of anorexia. Now, I am making the choice to be set apart once more--this time, as a Jew who keeps kosher. The difference is that the former separation felt oppressive and driven by fear, while the latter feels like an opportunity to be closer to Hashem. It is up to me to keep my practice of kashrut one of pure intentions, and not let it morph into another way to restrict what I eat. The Jewish tradition is full of evidence that while certain foods are indeed prohibited, this by no means implies that we should deny ourselves any foods that are not--in fact, quite the opposite. For me, the truth is that I like keeping kosher in recovery--I like that I can eat with friends, bring food to share, and try new recipes...while still being mindful of my connection to Hashem and to this world.

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