Eating a BLT, Once the Ultimate Taboo Sandwich, Became My Jewish Ritual
I’ve developed an odd relationship with kashrut—one that allows the occasional bit of bacon as a pressure-valve in hard times
I ration my BLTs. I eat one maybe once a year, sometimes only once every two years. What’s more, I calibrate my position on the BLT scale with grim glee. I will text my friend Tova: ice dam w roof leak, kids home sick, am at BLT DEFCON 2. The BLT scale has become a way to register protest and at the same time soldier on. It’s for those moments when I’ve had it with suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and would dearly love to take up some goddamn arms for once against a sea of troubles—but am forced to acknowledge that it’s a lot less messy and a lot less damaging to just take myself out for a sandwich.
My own children attend Jewish day school now. I send them there so they can learn Hebrew and Jewish text and literature—and so that, should they choose to do so, they’ll have the tools to sing their own songs in a Jewish key. And if it happens to be my personal preference that they go on to use this knowledge to lead somewhat heretical lives, then what of it? That choice isn’t up to me, and I know it, and that’s fine. Religious faith offers a comfort I’ve often wished I had—and just because I’ve never found a navigable path to belief doesn’t mean my kids shouldn’t be able to. Some of my favorite people are religious, and if my kids end up religious, I’ll still love them just as much. Even if it means one day I need to buy a new set of dishes.
It may be that in sending my children to a Jewish day school while practicing my own form of sometimes-attitudinal Judaism, I’m teaching hypocrisy. But I don’t think so—that is, not unless you count every single picker-and-chooser in the tribe as a hypocrite. I think I’m encouraging my kids to recognize both the riches and the freedom available to them in ritual, to size up the principle of a thing, and chart their own course within the system—or outside of it. Whether that course leads to pork sausages or observance of kashrut will be up to them.
For now, my kids know I sometimes eat treyf—but not, I think, that I davka eat treyf. Nor that the BLT has somehow evolved, without my intending it, into a ritual food.
But when the day inevitably comes when they overhear me discussing my DEFCON status, I hope to pass along a family legacy: Choose your own devotions, whatever they are. Break the rules consciously, break the rules because you believe in breaking them, break the rules and hold your head high. And then sing your heart out.
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Every night, I took part in a prayer group to help a sick child and her family. But I’m the one who ended up transformed.