My experience of Judaism included Friday night Shabbat dinner, candle lighting and High Holiday services. I attended Sunday school and Hebrew school in order to have a Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation. My wife Bari had a similar Jewish upbringing; however, her family's tradition was Conservative and mine was Reform.
Three years ago Bari and I moved to Baltimore. Initially it wasn't easy meeting people but after joining Beth Israel Congregation we began making new friends. As time passed, we connected with the Orthodox community in Park Heights and began reading books about our Jewish heritage. Our exposure to families observing Jewish traditions coupled with the insights we gained from our readings led to our decision to keep a kosher home.
I spoke at length with Rabbis Jay Goldstein and Shlomo Porter who were happy to help us. Rabbi Porter came to our home to kosher it. What an experience that was! Ten minutes before he arrived, a lamp fell over and hit my mouth, breaking two teeth. While holding a towel to my mouth to contain the bleeding with one hand, with the other I helped Rabbi Porter put dish after dish into the large pot of boiling water. My 3 year old son Max watched us with a curious expression on his face. It seemed to say "What is Daddy doing to my home?" Finally Rabbi Porter and I were finished.
Now we were ready to eat in our newly koshered kitchen. The first two weeks were the hardest. It was a challenge to remember in which pot to cook the hot dogs and which spoon to use with the bowl of cereal. Now keeping kosher seems like second nature. When we go marketing, Max yells at the top of his lungs, "Mommy, is this food Kosher?"
Saturday has become a different day; it is now Shabbat. I no longer go to work. Instead my family and I go to shul, and then come home for a nice Shabbos lunch followed by the important "Shabbos nap." We close Shabbos with the ritual of making Havdalah. Max likes to hold the Havdalah candle and smell the spices. It really is a letdown when our holy day is over. This holy day makes our family different from those who are not Jewish. We have fifty-two holy days each year.
Overnight, our friendships seemed to multiply. People we didn't even know called to introduce themselves to us. It was really nice. Occasionally we spent Shabbos in our new friends' homes and got to experience a "complete" Shabbos. Now I feel more spiritual, closer to G-d, than I have ever been. Bari feels the same way. This makes us both very happy.
Each week I try to attend three minyanim to be there for someone who has lost a loved one. Bari and I attend weekly classes with Rabbi Daniel Freitag at the Torah Center in Owings Mills. While the learning has been a great experience, we realize how much more we have to learn.
Our family and friends who don't keep a kosher home look at us as if we are from another planet. I tell them that they too are Jewish. We are just being more observant. Our new lifestyle works for our family. I don't preach to others because I don't like it when others pressure me. We see the process we've begun as a lifetime endeavor. We know we still have much to learn.
The author attends classes at the Owings Mills Torah Center, Owings Mills, Maryland.
Reprinted by permission of Star-K Kosher Certification. Visit: http://star-k.org.
For more information about how to make a kosher home, visit: http://star-k.org/cons-keep.htm.