Ken's Kosher Kitchen: Dunking the Dishes

On the day before Yom Kippur: I went to Prospect Lake near the house, said the requisite blessing, and immersed my dishes, pots and pans, and utensils. I did this several times, once for each group of utensils. This was the final step in making my kitchen kosher-functional. Even though I don't have much in the way of utensils, I didn't have enough boxes to hold everything and so made several trips. I had intended to use a nearby creek as my mikvah, but an online search showed some misgivings about immersing in a creek. This had something to do with the creek not being available for immersing women because of snowmelt. Or something. In any case, I chose the lake and am glad I did. The water, at the time, was relatively warm and adequately deep water was just a few steps from shore. Now it's winter, and I will have to wait until late Spring to add to my collection of useable utensils. Schueller House.


Back to Kashering

A Watched Pot Never Boils: I decided to re-kasher my utensils because I wasn't satisfied that I had kashered my large boiling pot well enough I added some bricks to the pot so that it would boil over and then, on another day, rekashered everything. Other than waiting for the darn thing to boil again, it went well and quickly enough. (I don't have a lot of stuff yet.) Now it's on to the "mikvah." Schueller House.


Netzarim Website Is Back Up.

Get War Updates: We've received many inquiries worried that the Netzarim website was down. Concurrent with the Hezbollah attack on Israel, Israeli ISPs, including the one serving the Netzarim, were hacked by anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish elements. The site is back up, with the Netzarim blog especially worth visiting for updates on the war. Schueller House.


Ken's Kosher Kitchen: Immersing Utensils

Immersion Options: I sent this query to Paqid Yirmeyahu of the Netzarim. "Since geirim Netzârim are not Yehudim (Jews), does the requirement to take their dishes to a miqvëh) apply? In my reading, the purpose of dunking dishes and utensils is to prepare them for use by Jews. So since we aren't…"

His first reponse: "The purpose of complying with kashrut is [a] to comply with Halâkhâh and [b] enable you to host Yehudim (even though they may still not trust your compliance with kashrut, decline to eat with you out of bigotry or may simply not be geographically proximate. It's part of qualifying your practice to meet community standards. Because of its centrality to all functions in the community, kashrut is one of the least flexible mitzwot."

He sent an additional comment later:"In my experience, there are some locations (notoriously, for example, south Florida and Tampa) where chauvinist Orthodox communities intransigently refuse to allow outsiders – even undisputed Orthodox Jews (much less Conservative or Reform) – to use their miqwëh. If that happens to you, realize that you're not the only one. While they should be helping and encouraging learners, don't allow their myopic arrogance to daunt, discourage or dissuade you because there are halakhically-acceptable alternatives: natural bodies of water such as seas, lakes, rivers and streams (but not bathtubs, swimming pools or the like).

"Some useful guidelines are found at:

"You'll need at least a couple of feet of water, since each utensil must be placed in the water individually and allowed to drop free and untouched by anything but the water for several seconds. Then remove the utensil from the water and set it aside. After all of the utensils have been immersed, recite the berâkhâh once for all of them." (Paqid Yirmeyahu, Ra'anana, Israel )

For more information, see the Netzarim website.


Ken's Kosher Kitchen: Herbs and Spices

Insect Patrol: I've been buying herbs and spices for my kitchen. Slowly. Spices tend to be expensive, at least when you buy them from the Supermarket. Added to that, I have to find certified kosher spices. I hadn't thought of this. I mean, what could herbs and spices have wrong with them? The short answer, as far as I know, is "bugs." If you're trying to keep kosher, you're not supposed to eat non-kosher insects. Yep, theoretically at least, there are kosher bugs. And what's the deal with honey, a substance that comes from the inside of bee, which can not only be kosher but is traditionally eaten on yom t'ruah (rosh ha-shanah)? Anyway, bugs are a big deal. When a rabbi is inspecting seemingly innocuous kernels of corn for canning, he is not looking for stray pork rinds so much as infestations of creeping things. If you grew up in the sweet corn belt like I did, you'll have to admit that the good rabbi's job might not be as easy at it sounds. Anyway, I'm reading that there are assorted procedures for inspecting garden veggies and de-infesting the infested. To be honest, this news was most disconcerting to this gardener. For now, while I contemplate changes in my veggie hygiene, I'm buying spice bottles with Circle U on them. Schueller House.


Ken's Kosher Kitchen: A Blue Dishpan

One More Piece to the Puzzle: Yesterday, I bought a blue dishpan. Because I have a new stainless steel sink and have only introduced dairy items to the kitchen, I probably could wash my dishes right in the sink. However, having a separate dishpan for dairy is a must once I add a meat section to my kitchen. I had my eyes peeled for a blue dishpan--blue is the usual kitchen indicator for "dairy"--so when I saw one at Ace Hardware, I jumped on it. When the time comes, I'll get a red dishpan for washing my "meat" dishes and maybe a green one for "parve" things. Schueller House


Ken's Kosher Kitchen: Meat vs. Dairy

The Decision: I decided to focus first on putting together a dairy kitchen. I noticed that advisers often recommend that newcomers begin their march to kosher by keeping their meat and dairy dishes separate and worrying about kashering, immersing their utensils in a mikvah, and other issues later. This was good to read because it implied that the rabbis--or whomever--understand that you have to start from ground zero and raise your level of kosher gradually. You start with practice. Well, I've done that by developing a habit of separating my meat and dairy meals. However, I have a different problem than a unified household. With two kitchens now in use, I need to make sure I don't contaminate the kosher kitchen--or the dishes and utensils from the kosher kitchen--with things from upstairs. This will be easier, I figure, if I don't have to worry about mixing my dairy and meat things--or getting the parve items mixed with either. Keep it simple. This business is filled with practical decisions like that. Schueller House


Ken's Kosher Kitchen: The Utensils

Trying Not to Go to Pot: Once the kitchen was built, I had to get utensils. Okay, I started ahead of time. Or at least tried to. When I first moved to Colorado Springs, in anticipation of setting up a kitchen, I started acquiring utensils, used ones mainly to save money. Did I mention that this effort cost a few dollars? Anyway, I had to toss about half of what I acquired because they can't be kashered. So there went the ceramic plates, the ceramic bowls, the non-stick teflon cooking pans, everything plastic, everything wood. Some of those materials might work when they are new, as long as they never get contaminated. I'm still looking into that. Trying to find decent cookware wasn't easy, still isn't easy, especially used. Aluminum cookware is easy to find, but I don't like it. I've always been suspicious that the aluminum isn't stable and will work its way into my brain, addling me before my time. So far, I've settled for stainless steel with copper bottoms. Kind of okay. I like cast iron, but I believe there are differing opinions on whether it can be kashered. If so, I'll have to buy my skillets new, season them myself, and keep them from becoming contaminated. One good thing: The kitchen is out of the way, unlikely to be used by anyone without my supervision, so keeping items from being contaminated should be reasonably easy. Schueller House.


Building the Kitchen

Ken's Kosher Kitchen: It took me months just to get the basic kitchen together. First, there was the design. The main problem was trying to figure out where to put the basics, especially the sink and the stove. Then there was the technical issue of how to get wastewater out of the basement. I resolved that, eventually, by getting an under-the-sink pump, but I didn't know what steps to take. Did I have the plumber over to do rough-in plumbing before putting the cabinet in? No, but I had to communicate with the plumber to make sure I located the sink in a reasonable place. We had found a charming 20-inch used gas stove, and we were expecting the plumber to install a gas hookup. However, a friendly kitchen designer warned me off of putting a gas stove in the basement. Too much hassle, with venting and safety issues. Did I tell you that none of this is code? Kitchens are not allowed in basements here. Anyway, I got the plumber in to do his piece and searched for an electric stove. We found one and then had to get an electrician in to install a 220 outlet and some other electrical frou-frou. In the meantime, I had added another countertop and set a small refrigerator underneath. None of this had too much to do with kosher, except the stove and the refrigerator were used and so required cleaning. However, I did design the kitchen somewhat symmetrically, so it would be easier to separate meat and dairy (and parve, oh my) utensils from each other. The whole thing probably cost a couple thousand dollars by the time all was said and done. What (or, more accurately, who) pushed me was Carole, somewhat to my surprise. She approached it as a project that needed to get done. Whatever the reason, I was grateful for the push. For a guy who is not exactly Mr. Handyman, getting this far was a miracle. Schueller House


Ken's Kosher Kitchen: The Deal

One Bedroom, Two Kitchens: My wife and I are not on the same page, religion wise. I'm trying to follow Torah, she's trying to follow the Gospel. While I was attending services at Congregation Am Echad in San Jose, California, she was up the road at St. Martin's Parish. Boy, don't try this at home. When we had the opportunity to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where there was no Orthodox minyan that I could pray with, I made a deal. I'll move away from this vibrant Jewish community only if you let me set up a kosher kitchen somewhere in the house. The assumption was that it would in addition to her kitchen. She agreed. And while it has taken a while for me to get underway, I have to say she has lived up to her end of the bargain. Schueller House.


Ken's Kosher Kitchen Adventure

More to Come: I'll use this day, the fifth day of Omer, the day before the seventh day of Khag Ha-Matzot, to disclose that I've been trying to set up a kosher kitchen for some time and that I will be sharing the process with your in this blog. Check back here for regular updates. Schueller House.


BODYWORLDS2 vs. The Circus Freak Show

Is There a Difference? BODYWORLDS2, now exhibiting at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, displays human bodies, preserved through a process called Plastination in various and unusual poses. There is a stunning lack of criticism for an exhibit that is morally disgusting. While the exhibit is touted as educational, the same visual imagery could have been accomplished without resorting to using human bodies. It is probably true that the use of human bodies attracts more visitors and therefore more "education," but education in what? In the sensationalizing of human remains? In turning the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and other exhibitors, into direct descendants of the circus freak show? In Jewish tradition, by the way, bodies are generally not viewed, the practice being considered disrespectful to a person who is best remembered in his or living form. Schueller House.


Do The Seven Laws Permit Civil Unions?

Take the "Sex" Out of It: Rabbi Yirmeyahu Bindman, in The Seven Colors of the Rainbow: Torah Ethics for Non-Jews, notes that the Seven Laws of Noah forbid homosexual behavior as they do incest, adultery, bestiality, and some other sexual practices. Moreover, "no one can legislate any change to permit them." No surprise there. But there is a question of whether one should support anti-sodomy laws, which generally are not going to be enforceable or even desirable as a symbol in a country which doesn't cotton to telling consenting adults how to live their private lives. On the other hand, it seems to us that much of the impetus for protecting "gay rights" verges over into a desire for some societal endorsement of a specific sexual behavior. To be sure, there are some practical issues at work. Why should someone be denied the right to designate another person as their primary visitor to their hospital bed? Why shouldn't they be able to designate the person of their choice as their beneficiary or to share property with that person? Why shouldn't they be able to form a household with that person? Of course, currently they can make such arrangements through various mechanisms. But domestic partnership legislation would make it easier. And we have no objection, as long as such legislation doesn't define the nature of the relationship in sexual terms. Why should my barber, who has pooled his money and credit with his twin so that the two of them can each buy a home, be prohibited from forming a legal domestic partnership with that twin? It seems like the same issues apply--except for the need to have their relationship somehow endorsed by the state. Why is endorsement of particular sexual practice (beyond, possibly, marriage between opposite-sex couples) the job of the state? Think about how weird the extension of such a principle could get. We think that taking the "sex" out of the domestic partnership question is a compromise that solves a number of problems.
Schueller House.


The Shabby Chic of the Shabbos Goy

A Dilemma You Will Face: If you're a non-Jew, self-described "Noahide" or otherwise, you will likely be faced with the prospect of functioning as a "shabbos goy." Basically, this refers to a non-Jew who does for a Jew what he or she can't do on shabbat. For example, the lights might go off in the synagogue. Or the air conditioning. This is a dicey proposition, for the Jew as well as for you. First, Jews are not supposed to ask. What they might want is for you to realize that there is a problem and to get up and turn the light on yourself, which you probably shouldn't do (certainly in some situations, I would argue) but for which you would unlikely to be criticized (because that would be a violation of derekh aretz or politeness). If you are reluctant to get up and turn on the light without being asked, you might find yourself on the listening end of an odd conversation, in which a member of the congregation appears to be hinting without asking directly for you to turn the lights back on (or hinting without hinting, since hinting itself may be forbidden). Depending on where you are with your practice, you may to be happy to get up and flip on the light. Or, as in my case, you will not act as a shabbos goy (both because as a Netzarim geir, I forbidden from doing so, and because I don't think it honors the Jewish house to do something that is forbidden on shabbat). Even if you've decided that you cannot act as shabbos goy, it is not quite so simple (it is never simple). In some situations, it may be in order to do something that a Jew cannot do or would prefer not to do. For example, in San Jose, a young boy injured himself playing during the service and needed to go to the hospital for stitches. Certainly, the father could have taken him, this being a situation of pikuah nephesh (for life), However, I was more than happy to drive the father and the son to the hospital and open the car door for the father (which turned a light on), saving him the necessity of violating those normal shabbat prohibitions. Another time, I volunteered to push an elderly holocaust survivor in a wheelchair to the beit k'nesset, which would also have violated some rabbinic prohibitions. However, this was pikuah nephesh as well, the man needing to be with his community rather than at home alone on shabbat. Despite my silly headline, this is serious matter, worth thinking about before it comes up, and consulting with your rabbi (who will likely honor your decision but help you sort out any complications). I'm not clear on the source of this Shabbos Goy article (a Word file), but it does point to classic sources. Schueller House.


A Middle-East Irony

"2006.01.26 Why Hamas Win is Good for Israel — It should now be starkly clear why Fatah did its best to circumvent elections (and blame it on Israel): Hamas. No one with any sense can be even mildly surprised by the outcome. The Arabs only choice was between eternal impoverishment under a hopelessly corrupt and chaotic bunch of crony terrorists, on the one hand, or "throw the gangsters out" and vote in the non-corrupt terrorists. Is that hard to figure out? It isn't much of a stretch to assert that about the only votes Fatah received were from Fatah cronies on the take. The size of the vote for Fatah shows the depth of the graft and corruption that, until now, has impoverished and doomed Paliban society. There was never any doubt that, given the opportunity and lacking Arafat's cult-leader hypnosis, they'd "throw the gangsters out." The only question was the margin." (from Yirmeyahu Ben-David.) For more, go to the (Note this newsy page changes quickly, so the link will probably only be good for a short time.)