Obviously, in communities where there are many decent kosher restaurants, the question of how to observe the laws of kashrut outside the home is much less complex.
But even in cities with large observant Jewish populations, there will still be vexing questions for kashrut observers to answer.
What should be done if relatives who do not keep kosher invite their more observant relatives to join them for meals at their homes?
What should be the policy of the observant Jew who is invited over to dine at the home of non-Jewish friends or to attend a non-Jewish wedding or celebration? Does it make a difference if the friends in question actually are Jewish, but are indifferent to the laws of kashrut?
And how should the newly observant individual relate to non-kosher parents or siblings?
Does the mitzvah of showing honor to one’s parents override the mitzvah of only eating kosher food? What if the non-kosher home in question belongs to one’s adult children? Is it ever right to decline an invitation to be present in one’s child’s home?
Each situation presents new, different, and complex issues to consider and should be discussed with a competent, sympathetic rabbi before any attempt is made conclusively to resolve it.
Many of the same issues that arise in non-kosher restaurants will apply as well when dining in non-kosher homes. The difference, however, is that most people who have invited guests to their home try to accommodate special needs when those needs are enunciated clearly and politely in advance.
Depending on the occasion, it can be very easy to eat in non-kosher homes without compromising one’s commitment to kashrut.
If there are kosher takeout or frozen meals available, the kosher guest can always suggest that course as among the simplest ways to join together for a meal. The kosher guest can, and should, also offer to help the host plan the menu.
Dairy meals, especially cold ones, are rather easy to assemble. Bagels, lox, cheeses, and bakery sweets can easily be the core of an easy kosher-in-any-home meal. If the host wants to serve hot food, suggest fish made in foil pans and baked potatoes.
For an informal meal, suggest microwaving kosher hot dogs wrapped in paper towels. Generally, the more open communication there is in advance, the smoother the whole experience will be. One should never arrive at a host’s home with an unexpected list of dietary requirements!
If the non-kosher home belongs to one’s parent(s), the question of kashrut observance will almost certainly be colored by personal issues.
Offering to bring a portion of the meal will often go a long way to defusing tension by making the whole meal into more of a joint effort.
In the end, the Jewish adult child must remember that the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents, given pride of place in the Ten Commandments, applies to all children of living parents, not only to young children.
Although the halakhah is entirely clear that one may not break the laws of the Torah merely because a parent wishes or orders one to do so, honoring one’s parents is a mitzvah and accommodation must always be sought.
In the end, it is important to be as accommodating as possible for the sake of sh’lom bayit (shalom bayit)—peace in the home—and, with kindness and a willing, generous spirit, such accommodation can almost always be found.
Adapted with permission from The Observant Life.