I came upon a fascinating article while perusing the archives of Kosherica’s website. It sat there, silently gathering dust for 13 years under the title "Kosher cuisine was just part of it." It was published on February 6, 2005 by the Los Angeles Times, describing the journey of a secular Jew to Orthodox Judaism.
This woman journalist felt a compelling draw to become closer to G-d. Her first step in that pursuit was a decision to change her diet. In a world full of a plethora of diets to lose weight and heal ailments, she chose a diet which might fill a hole in her soul.
Upon moving to New York, she discovered Kashrut and the beauty and humane basis to much of its rules. She learned about the principal of self-discipline, a must for keeping kosher. Making a commitment and sticking with it as one of the spiritual cornerstones of Jewish religion. It may be challenging at times but the joy derived from adhering to it nullifies any difficulty. In fact, as this woman learned, it far surpassed any hope or expectation she had.
As she began her journey she learned the following:
Kosher meat was slaughtered extremely quickly by a pious man, a shochet, ensuring the least possible pain to the animal. No sick animals are considered Kosher nor those who had obvious flaws. Their blood is fully drained by the expert shochet. Aside from adhering to Jewish law, one may likely avoid contracting disease. We do not eat blood as it’s considered the housing of the soul of the animal. Highly spiritual reasons, many of which turn out to be healthy and humane as well. The Torah tells us "not to boil a kid in its mothers’ milk". The halacha explains that this passage refers to refrain from eating milk and meat together. Beautiful and sacred as the core reason. As an aside she learned that kosher slaughtering is so sanitary that kosher butchers and slaughterhouses have been exempt from most USDA regulations. Certain animals, those who don’t chew their cud and don’t have split hooves are forbidden. Sea creatures without fins and scales are also taboo.
Next, she signed up for a Kosher cruise advertised as Jewish Music Festival at Sea.
On a luxury cruise ship, the sleek and stunning Millennium, she embarked in Fort Lauderdale. Among thousands of other passengers, a group of 300 Jewish travelers got on and the totality of experience made it even more exciting. Since not all passengers came for the Festival alone, and most were not even Jewish she got to experience the full world in an intense way. Broadway shows, different cultures and then there was the music. An Israeli religious rock band called ‘Oif Simchas’, great cantors and Jewish singers who stirred her heart deeply, singing in Hebrew and Yiddish. Opera, cantorial, rock and roll klezmer, Chassidic – she felt herself elated and passionately awakened to her Jewish heritage.
The lectures and talks given by scholars and Rabbis on deep and profound topics ranging from "Jews and Islam", "5 centuries of Jews in the Caribbeans", "The Torah" and much more. Women’s issues were discussed by a female therapist and she got herself immersed in Jewish life. Of course, then there was the most exquisite food, fancy, classy and fully Glatt Kosher food. Dinner was five courses with options to choose from and breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and midnight snack were a wonderful time to mingle with Jews who wore the total regalia of traditional orthodoxy and many who dressed like a modern Jew with knitted yarmulke and modest elegance.
By the end of the cruise she declares that she fell in love with kosher food, cantorial music and our ancient heritage.