Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Traveling Home

Soon my family and I will be visiting my parents in Sunny So.Cal. It's our first trip as a family (and also the first time I've seen my parents since my wedding and only the third occasion that my wife and daughter are meeting my parents). My daughter is excited. I'm nervous.

You see, I am what you might call a half-assed Baal Teshuva. Well, there isn't even maybe half an assed involved in it. I didn't go from a completely secular to a frum background. Rather my parents are kind of Reform, and I am now a vaguely Sabbath observing, reasonably kosher Jew ... married to a slightly more stringently Sabbath observing, pretty much kosher Jew.

So the question is: how do y'all deal with going home to parents who are simply less religiously strict? When we visit my family, they won't be serving us bacon, but they will be using their traif dishes, etc. Now I am used to this, and I certainly would not want to make my parents feel uncomfortable by insisting they use paper plates or what not. To me, honoring your parents is a bigger mitzvah than koshrus. But to my wife, even though when she visits non-Jewish relatives or even eats at a restaurant, she'll eat ("pescatarian") food cooked/served on traif dishes, she is not really used to the idea of going to a Jewish family and eating off of traif dishes, not really observing the Sabbath, etc.

So how do people who are even as quarter-assed about Baal Teshuvus (if I can coin that phrase) as I (perhaps especially people in my position -- 'cause if you go full frum, then of course you're eating off of paper plates, etc. ... 'cause you wouldn't even go into a non-kosher restaurant or what not) work this out? How do you explain to not-so-religious parents the psychological (and arguably even halachic) dynamics of "well if those goyim serve me on traif plates, who am I to question that" vs. "these people are Jews ... they should be keep kosher ... so why am I eating off of traif plates?"? How do you honor your parents, honor your new family's desires and your religious commitments? More generally -- how does one handle "trips" home when one's lifestyle is somehow fundamentally different than one's parents' way of living? ... especially if your new lifestyle says that your parents ought to live more as you do?

I guess, in this actually all is, in a way, parsha blogging. After all, the 10 commandments are one thing ... but doesn't morality live in the details? Values are in a sense always relative -- you can claim you value good things X, Y and Z, but when it comes down to saying what your real values are, isn't what matters whether you value X > Y or Y > Z? And those details, the real brass tacks following the big show of the big 10, are what Parshas Mishpatim is about, eh?

Hmm, good question. My parents live a few provinces away. When I visit them for more than a few days, usually they don't mind me kashering what I can. If it is only briefly - I know this is kind of stupid and I haven't heard of anybody else do it, but basically if the food is kosher I only eat with espresso spoons out of the nice glasses, since I figure these utensils have the least probability of coming into contact with treifa and are also not put into the dishwasher. If it's been prepared in the unkashered stove and all that, it depends on how much it means to my parents to have made that meal (because, as you say, of honouring them).
BTW -- thought I would update in the comments -- the trip went very well!
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