Can you take a vacation from keeping kosher?

I’m fairly restrictive about what foods can come into our house. It’s not just that we don’t eat unkosher meat or shellfish; I also don’t buy any foods with high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial food coloring, or most ingredients that I can’t pronounce or don’t know what they look like. I buy local milk and eggs, mostly organic produce…..the list goes on. If we didn’t have a Trader Joe’s I’d probably spend about half our income on groceries.

But last week, we were on vacation at the beach. My mother rents the house and does most of the grocery shopping. There’s no Trader Joe’s, no local co-op, no Whole Foods. Suddenly, amidst the fruits and vegetables and whole grain crackers appear foods my kids have never even seen – artificially sweetened beverages, caramel corn, dairy queen cakes, and candy bars. And you know what? It’s all ok. (Well, except maybe the artificial sweeteners.) It’s vacation. They understand that we don’t eat the same way at home as we do on vacation, and so far, it’s really never caused a conflict. Mama has even been known to indulge them in a few sugar blasts.


But some things remain non-negotiable. We bring frozen kosher chickens, and when those are gone, that’s it for meat at the beach. Once-in-a-while foods don’t include treif.

But oh, those hard-shell crabs. I grew up in Baltimore, where hard shell crabs caked in Old Bay seasoning are a source of pride and great joy. I ate them as a kid, and how I long to indulge on vacation. I’ll admit, it’s crossed my mind more than once to give myself the same permission to “ease up” on the food rules while on vacation, just like I do for the junk food that doesn’t tempt me in the slightest.


I’m not a Jew who believes in Torah m’Sinai. In other words, I don’t think God made the rules, and consequently, there are rules I break all the time. But faced with a plate of amazing smelling bacon or a pile of messy crabs, the guilt is stronger than the temptation. And guilt…..well, that’s just not such a compelling reason.

Do you observe kashrut? What keeps you faithful to the rules in the face of great temptation? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this – please share.

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posted August 3, 2011 at 10:55 am

I agree with your thoughts. I’m a reform Jew and try not to mix milk with meat, eat shellfish or pork, etc. But I can say I eat Mexican food, which is almost all cheese and meat and I say it’s okay because we’re Jews living in America, and this is the native food. It’s no different than Sephardic Jews who lived in Spain and can magically eat rice and other “forbidden” foods during Pesach.

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Leah Weiss Caruso

posted August 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. So honest and thoughtful. Can I repost?

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posted August 3, 2011 at 11:25 am

of course!

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Ayala Zonnenschein

posted August 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I didn’t grow up eating Kosher either. We never mixed meat and milk, but my Dad would fry up bacon before taking me to Sunday School. I began eating Kosher when Yuval was studying for his Bar Mitzvah – he was required to eat Kosher for one year prior to the big day, so of course I supported him by joining hi. Today, six years later we both keep Kosher. The truth is I really don’t miss the calamri or shrimp, and I was never big on pork. None of those foods are healthy anyway. But the real reason is that it’s a practice in awareness, making choices – this choice being one that unites us as Jews. Kashrut really can’t be compared to Sephardic Jews eating rice and beans during Passover. Kashrut laws are from Torah, while those laws were made up by rabbis to create fences around fences. I believe that the Conservative movement actually adopted the Sephardic tradition.

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posted August 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

LIke Matt above, I do not eat pork, shellfish, or milk & meat, even in Mexican restaurants :). While I am not, by any means, an orthodox Jew (I belong to a Reform temple), I do follow the basic rules even when I am on vacation. And, while I do not go out of my way to buy Kosher food, I am not aware that the Bible says to follow the rules of Kashrut except when on vacation. Stick to it!

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posted August 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I am an Orthodox Jew, so I am kosher all of the time, and would never think of eating non-treif. But it doesn’t mean I don’t experience the temptation! I grew up in a kosher home, but Cape Cod equalled scallops to me back then, and now I go every summer and make other choices.

I do think that this is one of those issues that has a divide. What I mean is, if you believe in Torah m’Sinai there isn’t much to talk about or consider. If you don’t, then there it is simply a separate conversation.

I am sure you are thinking about the modelling for the kids. There is an argument for relaxing some rules on vacation, but consistency is also a beautiful thing….

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posted June 19, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Hellllll no. Eating non-kosher is a very serious offense!!!!

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