Sabrina Cohen, Beverly Hills, CA - Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, Grade 8
Last summer less observant acquaintances from my shul asked me whether or not eating kosher makes a difference in my life. I answered, “Oh, I don’t know. I am Jewish, and this is what I have to do.” I really do take pride in my Judaism, and that answer just sounds like I am dragging myself through life, forcing myself to do unwanted actions, showing no interest. Obviously, the correct reply to these people should be, “Eating kosher is key to being a proper Jew, and being a proper Jew leads you to a great and holy lifestyle.”
One may ask why I chose to say what I did to those people, and although this is a peculiar thought, I assumed they, in asking the question, would become more curious about keeping kosher, and hopefully confide that they were choosing to be more observant. Personally, I don’t know what was going through my head at the moment, but it turns out that somehow my plans worked out. My friends later asked me other, more heartfelt, questions relating to religion and kashrus, but this time, I went with my intuition and said what I really felt. I told them, “Being a Jew is the best feeling you can get in life. It gives you the feeling of wholeness, holiness, and the connection of being part of a society that cares for you and helps you through difficult times. Jews are the people of Am Yisroel, the Chosen People.” I then said, “If you want to be apart of this nation with all you heart, then I suggest you start by doing the basics: doing midot tovot and keeping kosher.”
Midot tovot are one of the attributes I look for in a friend, and eventually will in a husband. It plays a daily role in my life, and I believe that I have acquired this from being a Jew. I am Jewish girl going to a private Jewish school, being educated throughout my years that what Hashem says can only bring benefits. Doing these goods deeds can only make you a more unique and likeable person. My mother, quoting the Torah, always says being a good and nice person is the one thing you need to succeed in life; so far that advice has worked very well. If I don’t eat kosher, Hashem will not keep me from the afterlife, but I know it is the right thing to do. When one keeps kosher, a matter very close to Hashem's heart, it does not only make him a loyal Jew to Hashem, but it makes him begin to get a feel of true Judaism.
Have you even written a ten-page essay all by yourself and received an award for it? I haven’t had the opportunity of this experience, yet I can assure you that you will feel as if you have accomplished something tremendous; you will want to push yourself further in every aspect of your life. So to, eating kosher will give you the same feeling of satisfaction and excitement as this ten-page essay. This excitement will lead to pushing yourself to doing more good deeds and moving yourself higher on your climb up to becoming a tzadik or tzadeket. If one asks my opinion on the matter, my answer will be that eating kosher is key to becoming not only a holy Jew, but also a better person inside and out.
One may ask, “If Hashem does everything in His power to bring us to a certain level of holiness, then why does He make it so difficult with so many rules to uphold?” People can answer that question and say that their interpretation is correct, but I believe there is no true answer and we are not meant to know. Perhaps we were meant to think of this thought and figure out ways to better ourselves. My interpretation of Hashem’s guidelines that has been set out for us to follow is that He wants us to hold ourselves to a certain standard. With high expectations come good self esteem and the knowledge of how to obtain many things, process the thoughts, and put them into action. I also believe that when one pushes himself through the difficult temptations to break Shabbat or eat non-kosher, it teaches the self control which is needed for everyday life.
One might think that keeping kosher is solely part of being religious and having boundaries. If you go to a grocery store and pick out everything in the store that is kosher and read the ingredients, you will notice that all kosher things are at least 50 to 70% healthier. This is not just some coincidence; this is Hashem guiding us through life, keeping us strong and healthy. Hashem does not set rules for us just for the fun of it; the Torah helps you throughout life. Although it might be difficult at times, keeping kosher is part of being Jewish, a way of life for your own well-being.