These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

The Adventures of Na’omi9: Kashering our Kitchen

Posted on November 8, 2011 by Lauren Schuchart

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This was originally posted on ‘Life According to Lauren’



My roommates and I decided a few weeks ago that we wanted to make our kitchen kosher. The word kosher literally means “fit,” and it refers to the Jewish dietary laws.

There are different reasons why one might choose to “keep kosher.” Here are a few examples:

  • “Because God commanded me to do so.”
  • “Because it adds intention and mindfulness to my eating.”
  • “Because I’m Jewish and that’s what Jews have done for thousands of years.”
  • “Because it adds holiness to my daily routine.”
  • “Because I live in Jerusalem and none of my friends want to eat at my house because they think I’m a heathen.” (Ok, exaggeration. But some people do choose to keep kosher because of their community).”
These are all legitimate reasons to take on a kosher lifestyle. If you ask me why I want to keep kosher, I believe it would be a mix of all of the above. I’ve never really tried it before, so I it will be quite an adventure.
Anyway, I thought I’d share the process that my roommates and I went through to kasher our kitchen. Enjoy.
Preparation:
  1. Sit down with Zvi, our halaka (Jewish law) teacher (and resident Pardes comedian), to talk about what we need to do/buy/etc. Confusion ensues.
  2. Organize kitchen, separating things that we can save and things that we can’t. Find rotting vegetables and stale pretzels in the cabinets. Eat the pretzels. With hummus.
  3. Go to grocery store to buy new pans, dishes, etc. Get flustered after seeing the price of Israeli home goods.
  4. Buy the expensive home-goods, but continue to complain about the price of them.
  5. Label everything “dairy,” “meat,” or “pareve” (neither dairy nor meat).
Kashering
  1. Start with major appliances. Thoroughly clean out oven, microwave, stove-top, counters, etc. Nearly pass out from the fumes of the cleaning product.
  2. Turn on oven and stove top at full blast, and boil a cup of water in the microwave.
  3. Pour boiling water over all the countertops (and inadvertently, the kitchen floor).
  4. Call Zvi with 15 more questions that just came up.
  5. Completely immerse ceramic dishes in boiling water 3 times each. Burn hands.
  6. Drop hot rock in boiling water so that it spills over onto the sides of the pot.
  7. Call Zvi again (with only 5 questions this time).
Toveling
If a dish or cooking utensil is new, it is customary to tovel it, or immerse it in living water to symbolically sanctify it.
  1. Gather items to be toveled.
  2. Trek to the mikveh (ritual bath) that’s down the street from us.
  3. Get the stare-down from some Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) children. Laugh at how silly, and uniquely Jerusalem, this situation is.
  4. Dip dishes in the water and say the blessing for toveling dishes.
  5. Realize we should have said the blessing first. Do it again.
  6. Return home. Wash dishes. Put everything on labeled shelves. Call grandmother and make her proud.
You might be thinking that this all sounds a little weird. Well, for all of you skeptics out there, I took this “before” and “after” picture of our dishes, to illustrate what a difference kashering makes:

Before

After

 

Ok, enough of my bad jokes.

In all seriousness, I really enjoyed this process, and tried to do it with intention and honor. I think there is something really appealing about adding holiness to the seemingly ordinary things that we do in our every day lives. I do feel differently when I’m preparing my food, even it’s just the reminder to have gratitude for what I’m about to eat and where it comes from. I’m also excited to be able to cook for friends, regardless of the level of kosher that they keep.

While the actual ritual of kashering a kitchen may sound a bit funny or strange, I do believe that there is a lot of value behind it, and I look forward to exploring this as time goes on.

And if you have any questions about kashering your OWN kitchen…. call Zvi.

Laura labels everything.

 

The over-priced haul from the home-goods store.

 

Dropping a rock into boiling water. Just another Friday morning.

 

Laura and Todd kashering the dishes.

 

Getting the stare-down from Haredi children at the mikveh.

 

Todd doing a full-body dip into the mikveh.

 

Laura takes a turn.