Elana Trombka, Rockville, MD: Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, Grade 10

Dear Sarah,

Thanks for visiting me last week. It was really great to see you and discuss your thoughts and questions about becoming more religious. I have been thinking about your questions and would like to share with you some more of my thoughts about why it is so important to me to keep kosher and why we, as Jews, benefit from being restricted in what we eat.

In Sefer Vayikra (the Book of Leviticus), Hashem commanded the Jewish people “kedoshim tehiyu,” you should be holy. The renowned Jewish commentator, the Ramban, explains that we become holy by being separate and distinct from all the other nations. We make ourselves different in many ways. One of the ways we are different is by only eating kosher foods. In that same verse, the Torah states that the reason we should be holy is because Hashem is holy. By keeping kosher we make ourselves holy and as a result, we emulate the ways of Hashem. Even though this commandment is considered a chok, a commandment for which we do not know the reason, we are still able to elevate ourselves spiritually and sanctify Hashem (Kiddush Hashem).

I thought about our conversation today while I was shopping at the grocery store. I was looking for my favorite brand of English muffins that I normally buy. I was disappointed when I saw the store was sold out of that brand. I noticed that there was another brand available. I picked up the package and searched it front, back, top and bottom – no OU symbol. Resigned to the fact that I could not eat this product, I placed it back on the shelf. A store clerk approached me and asked if I needed any help. “Is this the only brand you have today?” I asked, hoping that maybe there was a kosher brand somewhere else. “Only this brand, is that a problem” I told him that I can only buy certain products, products that have a specific symbol on them signifying that they are kosher. He nodded to show me that he understood. I finished my shopping and picked up a box of kosher cereal on my way out. I realized it would not be such a big deal to have my second favorite food for breakfast, but it would be a big sacrifice to abandon my holiness just for an English muffin. As I left the store I felt a sense of pride knowing that I had done the right thing. Not only did I keep my commitment to Kashurt, I also made a Kiddush Hashem by showing the store clerk my devotion to my religion.

You mentioned that you were thinking about becoming more religious because you were seeking greater appreciation and knowledge about your Jewish identity. When you choose to keep kosher, you build a bond between yourself and Jews throughout history. Jews have been keeping kosher since we all gathered at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah and Kashrut has continued to link Jewish people together ever since.

I know that it may be hard to give up foods that you are accustomed to. Many rewarding things in life are challenging at the start. Keeping kosher is no different. I do not deny that it may be tempting to eat non-kosher foods and that changing your eating habits will be difficult. I can assure you, though, that once you get used to keeping kosher it will not seem like a burden at all. You have plenty of kosher food in your supermarket and in stores throughout the country. Because there are so many more people keeping kosher than before, there is a multitude of kosher food choices available where ever you live and wherever you go.

At night, before I fall asleep I often reflect on my day. I think to myself if there was anything special that occurred that day or anything good that I did and what I can improve on. Since keeping kosher comes so naturally to me I sometimes forget just how important it is. Even when doing a simple thing such as eating breakfast or a snack, I know that I am doing the right thing and keeping my connection with Hashem.

I hope that this letter has provided you food for thought. Maybe sometime soon, we can continue our conversation. Why don’t you come over Sunday morning for breakfast? By then, I hope to have kosher English muffins!

Sincerely,
Elana