Where’s the Line? Making Compromises.

It’s tricky, isn’t it, when we’re asked, “What do Jews believe about . . . . ?”  In so many cases, the answer is “it depends.”

The pudding dilemma

When I was 12, I was invited to my best friend Ingrid’s house for dinner.  Her mother had planned to serve pork chops, then remembered that I didn’t eat pork, so she made hamburgers.  How sweet is that? So when she served chocolate pudding, made with milk, I didn’t say a word.  I just lapped it up and said “thank you.”

I still remember the kick-in-the-gut feeling when I came home from a movie with junior high buddies and my mom asked if I’d had popcorn . . . during Passover.  Oh.

Are you fasting?

And in high school, Sharon came over to my table in the cafeteria – where I was clearly eating lunch – and asked if I was fasting.  Um, no, I answered, as I bit into my sandwich.  It was Ta’anit Esther (the day before Purim), she told me.

Hmm.  Sharon ate cheeseburgers during the year, but abstained from eating on a minor fast day.

Another good friend brought no shellfish into her home, but she ate it in the garage.

Generally, when we’re children, we follow the choices of our families.  I grew up American-style kosher: no pork, no shellfish, no mixing milk and meat.  That lasted until my husband-to-be introduced me to ribs at a fraternity party.

Decisions.  Decisions.

As we raised our children, we had to make decisions about which Jewish holidays to keep the kids out of school.  How about Friday night football games for our marching band daughter?

Renewing a commitment to honoring Shabbat is my current focus.  On the few Shabbatot where I’ve spent the day reading or going to Torah study, I feel  refreshed and ready for the week.

Shabbat is the way Jews arrange their lives to stay in touch with what is perfect in the world on a regular basis.”

“Today, when the hum of the machine never stops, when everyone has too much to do and not enough time in which to finish, Shabbat continues to pose fundamental questions about values and the value of life.”

                        — Anita Diamant, Living a Jewish Life

In the past month, circumstances have teased me with this commitment.

A month ago, when I had planned to work on Shabbat (because I was so far behind on deadlines), we lost power.  No work.

Then last weekend, because I had devoted the Thursday and Friday before to long-planned outings with friends, I had to pay bills (something I never ever do . . . except last weekend) on Shabbat.  So I listened to Israeli music while I did it.  Silly, I know.  (And, I was drinking coffee from my Shabbat-only Chagall mug.  Also silly.)

As Anita Diamant says, “For most American Jews, Shabbat is a work-in-progress, a goal.”

It certainly is for me.  How about you?

Please “share” with friends who’d like to join the conversation.

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