Janet looked at me expectantly. “So, what’s the scoop?” She took a sip of her iced latte and leaned forward across the small outdoor café table for two.
I smiled and took a sip of my own latte. We had set up this “light lunch meeting” a little while ago, Janet and I, at this local kosher café, because of my request that Janet meet me at this particular time. I had a fascinating story to relate to her. I told her persuasively, hoping to really change her outlook on certain, uh, issues. “Don’t tell me it’s about that observant thing again,” my Jewish, but unobserving colleague and friend said, chuckling. “You know my opinion on that.” Oh yes, I knew it all right. No matter what method anyone tried to persuade Janet- formerly Chava- to change her mind about the Yiddishkeit she had turned away from some 12 years ago, it hadn’t worked. Janet was living rather comfortably in her professional life, as a very efficient business manager in the company where I worked. I had decided to try another method, and was now about to touch Janet’s heart with the incredible story about keeping kosher that had recently happened to me.
“It all started when I was going shopping on a Thursday for Shabbos…”
It was raining that day, as I hurtled through the parking lot with my 14-month-old bound tightly in her stroller. Why, oh why was it today that I had to get the furthest possible parking spot? I walked through the automatic doors (slower than usual, it seemed) sopping wet and in a sour mood. I must have seemed like a blur to the other shoppers, racing through the aisles and grabbing the food I needed as if I were on a shopping spree. I waited with impatience in the checkout lines, making the 3.4-minute wait seem like a 3.4 hour one. And that was when I saw it. The item the cashier was about to scan. She noticed it too, and stopped ringing up my Shabbos paraphernalia. We were both frozen, within our own worlds, gazing open mouthed at the item in her hands. Slowly, as if in a trance, she turned off the “OPEN” light on a pole underneath the register number. She beckoned to me, still holding the item in her hand. My would-be-purchases lay abandoned on the belt, as I began to push my peacefully sleeping baby towards the office that read “MANAGER” in bold letters on the door.
“But how can that be?” the manager thundered. “My supermarket is absolutely Glatt Kosher! To have something as revolting as this in my supermarket- preposterous!” He threw a menacing look at the “revolting” article the cashier had placed on his desk. “Pork? In my Glatt Kosher supermarket? Impossible! Anything that enters this market is carefully checked for a valid Hashgacha!”
The cashier and I sat silently, both kneading our hands in a similar fashion. The manager, seeing that we weren’t about to comment, sighed deeply and pressed a button to call the owner to his office, and the three of us sat silently, waiting.
A few moments later, the owner was in the manager’s office, listening to our tale. He was a kind fellow, grandfather age, who had taken over the business after his father, who had opened in 1923, couldn’t handle it anymore. The business had blossomed from a small corner grocery to a large central supermarket, and the old store owner, Mr. Steiner, was very proud of his establishment. He took the information surprisingly well, simply sighing deeply and began to speak:
“We must find out how this could have occurred without getting the word out to the general public,” he began. “But we must remember how lucky we are that you discovered this mistake, or our dear customer might have, Heaven forbid, cooked the pork! Keeping kosher is the sign of the Jews. It shows that we will listen to Hashem whether we understand why or not. Also, it keeps our souls pure- because eating treif food is like damaging the soul. We are very lucky that we have been given this wonderful mitzvah of Kashrus, to keep our souls clean and help us serve Hashem the proper way.”
I took a sip of my latte and gently rocked Tova in her stroller. Although many others would have listened to the story, and patiently waited for me to finish the mystery, I knew Chavi would be hooked by the point where I completed. The words that Mr. Steiner spoke about Kosher in the manager’s office would be enough for Chavi.
You see, Mr. Steiner is Chavi’s father.