A few nights ago, I visited the local Whole Foods grocery store with my 9 year old son. The store is new in our neighborhood, it’s pretty, well organized, mostly oriented around organic products, a high percentage of which are kosher. The employees also make a point of being friendly. We browsed through the produce, amazed at the variety of fresh hot peppers and mushrooms. I’d love to say that we were picking out great organic produce, but actually we were there because I’d found they have the widest selection of soy ice cream (brands and flavors) and fruit pops I’d ever seen, most of which are kosher.
We’re passing by the well lit well layed out fish department and I’m pointing out to my son what the various creatures are. See, here’s this fish and that fish, and here’s shimp, treif, crab, treif, squid, treif and yuck, tentacles, scallops, treif. We stopped at the clams, oysters, mussles, and cockles, because they were open access and some of the clams were busy trying to crawl away (and I thought that would be really interesting for a 9 year old boy, and it was.) The friendly fish guy comes over and demonstrates how the clams will close if you touch them, picks out a dead one and opens it up so my son can see the inside, and is discussing his product.
So my son tells him, in a loud voice of course, “well, we don’t eat these because they’re not kosher, not because they don’t taste good, because my father ate them before he became religious and told us that some of them do, but because Hashem says we don’t in the Torah.” Well, I was so proud of him while I was simultaneously trying to crawl away inside myself. Hey, see this guy here with the beard, big black yamulka and long white strings, HE ATE CLAMS.
Proud, because a message that apparently only a BT can testify to had reached my children. They’d come home from yeshiva and were discussing the various kosher versus non-kosher sea creatures, discussing the signs of kosher. As they were discussing non-kosher commonly eaten sea creatures, they were busy saying yuck, disgusting, and so forth. I’d stopped them and said, “You know it says in the Gemora that we don’t eat non-kosher because Hashem said so, not because it doesn’t taste good. Because let me tell you, it does.” And I’d gone on to tell them that many of the non-kosher foods they were yucking were very tasty, some wonderful, and indeed some not-so-wonderful (at least to my taste). So if they go off believing that every non-kosher food is yuck and, G-d forbid, one day get a taste otherwise, they might believe that kosher doesn’t apply. So I told them, loud and clear, “We don’t eat non-kosher because G-d said so, not because it’s not healthy or not tasty, only because Hashem said it’s not kosher.”
My past, at least this one little facet of it, has become a positive message for my children. But OMG, how embarrassing!