Fleishig Bagel Shop?

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.

14 comments on “Fleishig Bagel Shop?

  1. I heard a similar incident when I went to the dentist recently.

    My dentist told me he was out of town and went to a kosher fleishig bagel place. He wanted to have bagels, lox, and cream cheese. But they told him that they didn’t have the cream cheese. He couldn’t believe it! Bagels and Lox without cream cheese? He then told me that is what he had for his meal, anyway.

  2. LC:
    A good analogy for your father might be a serious food allergy like nuts. People whose life is on the line every time they put some food in their mouths are sure going to check everything. It doesn’t matter if the hostess’s mistake was innocent or not, the consequences are just as real.

  3. You know, your dad might just have something there. Maybe that can be the next Jewish fast food craze!! Perhaps the start of a new kosher fast food franchise. What should we call it? How about Burger Bagel? TM


  4. “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 is how the Talmud tractate Ps’achim explains a lot of the stringencies surrounding Chometz=leaven on Pesach. “D’lo bdeelee inish meenay” =”that people have not seperated themselves from it year round”. This makes it harder to lay off of for one particular week/8days of the year. Yom Kippur with it’s blanket ban on all foods and drinks is easier to grasp and observe.

  5. 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.
    Which is exactly why someone who does not keep kosher himself requires a mashgiach to prepare kosher food . . . my dad can not understand this, and takes it very personally – “if [his wife] tries her best and happens to make a mistake, what – G-d’s going to punish you for an innocent mistake?” Argh. It may be an “innocent mistake” on her part that she doesn’t know the halacha, but that doesn’t free me from the obligation to be careful about what I eat – I wouldn’t NOT check for hashgacha on purchased products.

  6. David,
    Maybe Hashem let you see that happen since you took her concern seriously even though you thought she was nuts. If you hadn’t done that, it would have given her the impression that you don’t take your own religious laws seriously which would have been a little bit of a chilllul Hashem. Great story.

  7. Funny story:

    When I was in college, I worked at a kosher vegetarian restaurant. One day, we received our bread order from a Bakery upstate. I went to open the box to take a bag of bread out for the kitchen. My non-Jewish co-worker said to me “You can’t use that, the Rabbi didn’t bless it yet!” I chuckled to myself at this age old misconception and attempted to explain it to my co-worker. She refused to accept my explanation and insisted that she herself had seen the Rabbi bless the bread in the store so that it could be used. I’m thinking to myself “What planet is this lady from?” I left the bread in the box and went off to do some other chore.

    Aproximately half an hour later, the Rav from the local Vaad HaKashrus comes in, opens the box, removes a loaf of bread and audibly says the brocha for Hafroshes Challah (removing a portion of bread which in Temple times was given to the Cohen).

  8. Mark,
    Nice etymological p’shat. As in “He wants Yankel’s blessing to marry his daughter” His agreement, or approval.

  9. Bob – I like your QA analogy. If you think about it, there is some truth to the idea that the Rabbi blesses the food. Depending on how the Rabbinic Authorities for a given supervising agency view a particular halacha will often determine whether the food gets their blessing and hechsher. I doubt that’s what they mean when they say “the Rabbi blesses the food”, but it might not be too far off the mark.

  10. As an engineer, I’ve had a lot of contact with the systems and principles of modern industrial quality assurance (QA), especially as related to the aircraft engine industry. The concepts applied in QA, such as total traceability of materials, total documentation and frequent outside auditing of processes, use of authorized equipment only, absolute conformance with specifications, continual process monitoring and improvement, etc., are very reminiscent of Kashrut. And the penalties for nonconformance are pretty stiff, too—losing one’s approval to produce or repair parts for an engine manufacturer is like losing the “OU” from one’s line of deli products. Some consumables are even marked on their containers as to which customer specifications they meet, sort of like a hechsher or Kosher symbol. So maybe the QA’ish aspects of Kashrut can be used as tools in educating unfamiliar people with practical Kashrut. They can then get beyond strange ideas like “the Rabbi blesses the food”.

  11. Many of my relatives in South Florida (where there are MANY “Jewish” style restaurants) seem to think that any any every bagel place, deli, or Jewish/Eastern European stuffed cabbage type of place is kosher, and get very confused when I tell them that a place they planned to take me isn’t kosher.

  12. I experienced a similar situation when I went out to eat with my parents at a Glatt “Kosher” Chinese restaurant.
    My father couldn’t understand how Chinese food could be “kosher” as they didn’t serve pastrami, corned beef, potato salad or stuffed cabbage.

    He, as many secular Jews (as well as Gentiles) truly think that kosher is a type of food, like Japanese, Chinese, Italian or Spanish.

    If we understand their mind frame, it makes it easier for us to explain exactly what kosher is, that one can have kosher Japanese, Chinese, Italian or Spanish food but only with proper certification. If they want to inquire more, then offer to get them the new book by Simon Apisdorf “Kosher for the Clueless but Curious”.

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