Lively. That’s the best word to describe the funny, smart, active young men who visited us recently from Israel.

We felt so fortunate to be a short stop on their tour to sing and dance across America as part of a cultural exchange celebrating the 40th anniversary of the city of Ariel, Israel.

Is that kosher?

The arrangements fell into place quickly, but left me pondering a significant question as I prepared to feed young people from a different part of the world.

“Is that kosher?” Down aisle after aisle of our favorite local grocery store, I discovered I’m not as smart as I thought I was. The Brookshire’s manager kindly sent out their head caterer to patiently explain markings on the back of packages. Turns out, there’re countless markings with a variety of meanings. My favorite was a can of sardines certified by a rabbi in New Jersey. I bought two, even though sardines seemed like an unlikely breakfast accompaniment.

Freedom from the Kitchen? Please, Lord!

One website explained that the head cook must be Jewish, but the helpers can be gentile. Ah! A wondrous new way for me to avoid the kitchen. Do I have to be Jewish to be kosher, I wondered? If I become kosher as a gentile, could I forever be demoted to a mere helper in my own kitchen?

Seriously though, I’ve traveled in foreign countries and lost weight. I know what it’s like to look at our plates, wondering what we are fixing to risk in our mouths.

Upon learning that ham and bacon disqualify any utensils they contact, I wondered if even my dishwasher was safe. I stocked up on paper plates. Just in case.

I learned that the most traditional Jewish families take kosher a step further for passover. Fortunately, the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah is the nearest holiday, rather than the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Although, growing up with a dear Jewish friend, I buy Matzo all year long whenever I get a craving.

Steaks are Kosher? Well, Of Course They are in Texas!

I settled on fruit, bagels, cream cheese, salmon, and yes, sardines. Just for the record, the sardines are still in my pantry. Instead, once our company arrived, we settled on the one thing they wanted while in Texas, juicy ribeyes. My husband fired up the grill at dawn and we enjoyed steak with our scrambled eggs. 

Peace the Kosher Way

Our new friends explained that kosher began as a way to keep people healthy and safe in an era of food pathogens and no refrigeration. We enjoyed a lively discussion about how God protects us in creative ways, if we only let Him. His purpose is to protect us, separating us from evil and danger. God often separates us from evil in order to keep us closer to Him. Not to burden or isolate us, He chooses to draw us closer to Him so we understand His deep and abiding love for us. In that understanding, we become better equipped to share His love and peace with others.

“There are as many kosher traditions as there are Tribes of Israel,” one insightful gentleman laughed robustly. I pondered, is it kosher to judge each other or ourselves, for that matter, because of self-imposed disciplines.

Mutual Respect

One young man, a reflective son of a rabbi, shared how his parents encouraged him to be free and innocent of legalisms, instead carefully respecting both his own beliefs and his hosts’ simultaneously throughout the trip.

In that beautiful moment of mutual understanding a new phrase dawned in my heart. Hospitality can be sacred.

Peace at Home This Holiday

Perhaps your family is gathered today, eating left overs and enjoying all the clamor and confusion that happens when extended family gathers for the holidays. Some family members bring habitual drama with them. Bruised feelings may be unavoidable with everyone scurrying to feed a horde or care for multiple generations all at once. If so, may I offer you this bit of encouragement? Even in the chaos called family, hospitality is a sacred gift. In hospitality, peace has a chance.

May I pray with you?

Dear God of Israel, the One who loves and cherishes Your people, we come to You now in deep respect. All humans feel insecure about what we don’t know. We try to offer our best, but what if it’s not good enough? What if our best is rejected as unclean, unkosher, or unworthy? Not food, O God, but what about our own hearts. What if our friends, neighbors, loved ones reject the best our heart has to offer? You alone receive us with perfect joy each and every time we turn to You with repentant hearts. Teach us to love each other the way You choose to love us, offering us a way back to You when we mess up. Forgive us and receive our prayer, O Lord. For myself, I pray in the name of the sacrificial One whom I love, Jesus. To You alone, O God, be the glory. Amen.

I love to hear from you!

How have you handled it when differences that made you feel uncomfortable? What have you learned when others reject you for a firmly held conviction? What advice do you have for life’s fellow-travelers?

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Cathy Krafve, Texas Author, Columnist, Speaker, and Radio Host, focusing on fellowship in Christian Marriage and Family, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at Truth with a Texas Twang.