~Friday, December 16, 2011

On Being Jewish

We haven't talked about religion, not in a way that matters.

When Abraham and I first got together, I was very sensitive about our differences. I didn't want to sound stupid or, more importantly, offensive. I know the basics about the religion itself—got an A in the class in college—but when it comes to traditions and customs and practices, I am an unwritten slate. I know nothing about being Jewish.

Lawyered predictably was zero help to me. Instead of answering my questions, he taunted my naivete by emphasizing his own Jewish heritage. And then when he saw Abraham with me one night, he called to him across the bar patio and joked to him about their shared upbringing.

I was horrified. Abraham, understandably, was confused. He didn't know who Lawyered was or why this guy was being chummy with him over religion. I stopped going to Lawyered.

After drinking at the bar one night, I finally had the courage to ask Abraham whether he was Kosher. He answered that he was. He was patient and kind in his explanation and went on to qualify to what degree he was Kosher. Only I got hammered so I could even ask the question, and I couldn't remember the answer.

A reader and a fellow blogger took me under her wing. She answered all the questions I had that I was too embarrassed to ask the new boy I liked:

"Can I say 'Jew' or is that offensive?"

"You can say 'Jew' in the context you're using."

I wrote to her the details of how I remembered Abraham was Kosher. She was able to fill in the gaps for me, but with more information comes more questions. And more worries.

A couple of weeks later as we left the bar and crawled into Abraham's bed, I nudged him. "I have a stupid question for you," I meekly whispered.

He saw my embarrassment. I didn't mention it was a question about being Jewish, but he sensed it.

"You can't ask me a stupid question. My roommate in college once asked me when I stopped believing in Santa Claus," he rolled his eyes.

I opened my mouth and closed it. This, addressing our differences, was scary. I was afraid that by asking him questions, all I would be doing was reminding him that I'm not Jewish.

"Do you have two sets of dishes?" I blurted. "One for meat and one for milk?"

He laughed softly. "I don't, but my grandmother does. She's called 'Bubbie.'"

"It's just that you've never eaten or drank at my apartment, and I didn't know if it's because my dishes are tainted," I nervously whined.

"No, that was just me being easy going."

"Because I don't want to offend you."

He saw my earnestness and my sincerity. "You can't offend me," he comforted.


The nights at the bar have long since stopped. So has the alcohol that accompanied it.

"What's your Hebrew name?" I asked one day.

He told it to me. It had the Hebrew "ch" sound in it. In English "ch" is a hard sound with the force of air lying behind the teeth. Cha! In Hebrew "ch" is a soft sound with the force of air in the back of the throat by the uvula. It's punctuated with a bit of guttural grit. It sounds like the beginnings of hocking a loogie. Ach.

I had him repeat his Hebrew name over and over as I tried to mimic the pronunciation. I never could do it correctly. When Abraham said it, the sound was beautiful and consistent; the "ch" had the guttural rumblings in his voice at the exact same spot every time. Me, I sounded like I was garbling spit.

"No," he corrected. "Ach."


I kept asking him to speak his name, but I was no longer trying to replicate it. I was listening to him say the words that I couldn't train my mouth to form. There was a melody in his voice that I have never heard.



This week I appeared on his doorstep for our standing night together. I had a plate wrapped in tinfoil in my hands.

Abraham answered the door and I beamed as I shoved the plate towards him.

"Look!" I announced.

He carried the plate to his kitchen.

"Look at it!" I called as I fluttered around him. "Look what I did!"

He set the plate down and peeled back the tinfoil. There were two tacos with refried beans and Mexican rice.

"It's Kosher!" I clapped. By the scene I made, you would have thought I made latkes. "Kosher!"

I danced. He watched me. My smile was contagious. He grinned.

"You're really proud of yourself, aren't you?" he asked.

"I am!"

He looked at the plate again and wrinkled his nose, "You know I like cheese on my tacos."

I kept dancing but jabbed a finger at him. "You sin up your food on your own time! I'm not doing it for you! Eat it."

"But I'm not hungry," he whined. "I'll save it for later."

I stopped dancing. "I BROUGHT YOU KOSHER FOOD. LET ME SEE YOU EAT IT!" I hollered at him.

He turned his back to me as he picked up a taco off the plate and muttered, but I heard what he said:

"You have the Jewish mother role down."


Anonymous said...

Mazel Tov!!

Breeza said...

That's awesome! Good for you :)

cd0103 said...

That is great and you sound so happy! Very cool.

WingWoman said...

Mazel Tov!

Northern lass said...

You are too cute :)

(you in the plural sense)

heisschic said...


during my second passover with the boy (he's jewish, i am not), he was studying for finals so i made dinner. oh i went all. out. portabella mushrooms with fancy shmancy toppings, blah blah blah. completely kosher for passover.

i also made drinks. he was on a gin kick, so i made a lemonade gin mix, but wouldnt tell him what was in it until he tasted it.

gin is a grain alcohol. can't have anything made of or distilled from grains during passover.

he wasn't upset- explained it to me simply and put the drink aside.

i went into the bathroom and cried.

you are not alone.
((and you're kicking ass!))

Dawn said...

Heisschic, that's hilarious! Don't feel badly. Please don't. I'm Jewish and, honestly, I wouldn't have realized about the grains.

Sarah said...

You just taught me something too!

Annie said...

so cute!

Bathwater said...

So when do you tell us the story about you asking him when he got circumcised?

The Singleship said...

I think it is really nice and cute that you are so interested in his heritage and customs. I would love if a guy I was dating asked me the kinds of questions you are asking. But that is unlikely to happen since I pretty much only date a-holes.

The Singleship said...

I think it is really nice and cute that you are so interested in his heritage and customs. I would love if a guy I was dating asked me the kinds of questions you are asking. But that is unlikely to happen since I pretty much only date a-holes.

Scrumps said...

I really admire you for trying. A lot of people just don't so hats off to you! :)

And it's a very cute story! :P

Dawn said...

Oh, something occurred to me that you may not know about the cheese that you wanted to add onto the taco.

The taco had no meat in it (and of course you know that he wouldn't mix dairy and meat), so that's OK. But most (all?) people who keep Kosher will not eat cheese with rennet in it, which means MOST cheese. You'd have to seek out Kosher cheese. And, by the way, it's icky.

Sarah said...

I never knew that either!

Anonymous said...

Loved the tacos story!


The Mad Inscriber said...

"You have the Jewish mother role down."

I can't help it - I just guffawed. I'm very glad I'm quite alone at the moment.



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