First let me tell you a little background on my family before I get to my question. I have been married for 7 years to a wonderful man who grew up as a conservative Jew. His family did not keep kosher, and even eats pork and shellfish regularly. He went to Hebrew school and was bar mitzvahed. His family mainly went to temple on high holidays, but did regularly have Shabbat dinner with prayers. We have 4 beautiful children, 2 older girls ages 7 & 4 and 1 year old boy/girl twins. Because we live in a town that doesn’t have a family friendly synagogue, we don’t regularly go to temple. Our closest synagogue is about an hour away, and is just too far to go every week, what with gas prices and our really young children. And because of how far away the synagogue is my 7 year old doesn’t go to Hebrew school. I homeschool her using Rosetta Stone Hebrew (foreign language program) and we also use the torah, Jewish children’s bible, and lots of material I have gotten from Jewish learning sites.

I have started to try to keep kosher. My children and I are fully on board with this decision, but my husband says that he won’t do it. He says that it is just someone from the bible telling him what to do. I told him that it is G-d who is telling him what to do, but he insists that it is just someone, a person, who wrote the bible that was telling people what to do. And that even if it was G-d that said to keep kosher, that keeping kosher is not needed anymore. My husband just keeps saying that he won’t be told what to do by someone that lived hundreds of years ago. I asked him to speak to a Rabbi, but he still insists that keeping kosher isn’t needed in this day and time. My husband also says why should we follow this law and not all the other laws in the bible too. Like not doing anything on Shabbat, not cooking or driving, etc.

My question is how I get my husband to understand that keeping kosher is a good idea, and that it is a great way for our family to be closer to G-d. And what do we say to people who say why bother to keep kosher if we aren’t following all the other laws in the bible too (such as not doing anything on Shabbat).

Answer:

This is a delicate question. Concerning the question of who wrote the Torah, the greatest proof of its Divine origin is the tradition, from father to son, whereby the entire nation was present at the giving of the Torah. We are not being asked to believe in the personal prophecy of one person or a group of people, but in something that the entire nation experienced. This is far harder to fraud than a personal prophecy or experience (which form the basis for many other religions and sects).

However, I don’t think that this is the main point. The question is, rather, how to explain the need for religious observance in a modern (secular) world.

One approach to this is in showing how the Torah laws bring a dimension of spiritual elevation into our lives. Humankind is blessed with a spiritual elevation, and all his deeds should be human, elevated from those of the animal. By means of keeping kosher, a person distinguishes his eating from that of animals, raising it to a level of specifically human eating. Of course, one might argue that this is possible even without keeping kosher, by keeping a code of manners, by contemplating the meaning of food, or by thanking G-d for it. This might be true, but by the laws of kashrut, the Torah provides a universal framework by which we achieve this ends.

Some even explain, based on this idea, why specifically carnivorous animals are not kosher, and herbivores are (generally) kosher. We will not be able to understand all the laws of kashrut, yet, we can say without doubt that the Divinely given law has a purpose laden with deep meaning, and it provides a route for achieving spiritual elevation that cannot be otherwise reached.

Another reason is Jewish identity. As Rav Saadya Gaon famously noted, if not by the Torah, what sets us aside as Jews? As history has shown, only the practice of Jewish tradition will be able to ensure that we survive as a Jewish nation, and a people unique unto history, and special unto G-d. Those who did away with the Law, effectively did away with their Jewish identity, and, for example, of the original German reformers, there were virtually no grandchildren left to continue the tradition. Keeping kosher is very meaningful in this respect, because it is constantly with you. Whenever you eat, you remember that you are Jewish, that you have a special relationship with G-d.

True, you do not currently keep all the laws of the Torah, but the Torah is divided into many different laws and practices, and the practice or otherwise of one should not affect others. One has to start from somewhere, and the laws of kashrut, which are not so difficult to keep (kosher food is easy to obtain; the slightly hard part is the meaty/milky dishes, but one gets used to it quickly!), provide a very important family framework for Jewish identity.

Good Luck!!

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