My father stood in front of the counter perplexed why he could not order a corned beef sandwich at the bagel shop for lunch. Other “Jewish” delicatessens that he had gone to offered bagels, cream cheese, and lox and corned beef sandwiches. The bagel shop in his area even has corned beef sandwiches on a bagel. I explained to him that while there was nothing wrong with putting corned beef on a pareve bagel, this establishment could not offer such a sandwich because it was a strictly dairy restaurant.
Although my mother has slowly come to understand what keeping kosher entails, it seems to be much harder for my father. Many times he asks questions about the halachos of kashrus as if trying to find a loophole in the whole system that would permit a Jew to eat a Philly cheese steak.
Our conversation at the bagel shop helped me better understand the gulf in perspective between those who keep kosher and those who do not. I sometimes forget that those who do not keep kosher do not first determine whether the food they are about to eat is milchig, fleishig, or pareve. I also forget that I am the minority and that many people think nothing of combining meat and dairy products. If one does not keep kosher 365 days a year, it is extremely difficult to have kashrus in one’s consciousness for a few scattered days throughout the year.
This conversation helped me better understand my father and other relatives who do not keep kosher. It illustrated the point that I cannot assume that others look at the world in the way I do.