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My Husband Does Not Want a Kosher Kitchen

My Husband Does Not Want a Kosher Kitchen

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Dear Rachel,

I am married to a wonderful, kind and caring man. We have been happy together for the last two decades. Over the past few years I have taken an interest in a more traditional Jewish lifestyle and, among other things, I am committed to keeping a kosher kitchen. My husband, on the other hand, couldn’t be less interested. He doesn’t see the value or importance in keeping a kosher home. I’ve tried to bring him to Torah classes and introduce him to rabbis I think he would connect with – to no avail. He wants to continue eating and living the way he always has. I wish I could get him to see the beauty and meaning that I have found. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

Anna
South Africa

Dear Anna,

The situation you describe is not uncommon. There are many couples out there with one partner growing towards a more active Jewish life, while the other is quite content to ‘stay put.’ A question was once posed to our Sages, “Why was man given two eyes, while we have only one mouth and one nose?” They answer, “The left eye is for looking at yourself and seeing the areas where you need to improve, and the right eye is for you to look at others with kindness.”

In marriage it is so easy to see our spouses as an extension of ourselves. Often, we won’t cut them the same slack that we would allow for ourselves. All too often, we look at them with our “left eye.” But, it is really important to realize that they need just as much independence and lenience as we allow ourselves. G‑d gives us all equal opportunity to make choices. But as tempting as it may be, and as “right” as I may know that I am, I can’t enforce my choices for anyone else.

As the woman of the house, you can however, lay ground rules in your home. The woman is known as the High Priest of the home, setting the tone for the spiritual dimensions of domestic living. You have the ability to call the shots in terms of what is and is not permissible in your home. But that right extends to actions, not thoughts or feelings. These are way out of our realm. Simply put, asking your husband to keep the laws of kosher in your kitchen is within your right, but expecting him to find beauty, inspiration or meaning in the laws is not.

We are still left with a gap here. You are moving towards a certain goal and your husband is not, and that can be really hard on a relationship. In keeping with the right eye/left eye concept, it is important, more than ever, to reacquaint yourself with all the positive things that your husband does do. You mentioned above that he is ‘wonderful, good, and caring.’ Wonderful! Make sure he knows how much you appreciate the ‘everyday’ things he does. When you see him doing a caring act, let him know how that makes you feel; when he is helpful and kind, tell him how much you appreciate him. Kindness, goodness and compassion are all very “Jewish” things to do, so whether he realizes it or not, he is living a Jewish life in many ways already. Keep in mind that he is very likely feeling this gap as much as you are, and although you may not be pleased with the direction he is (not yet) heading, he’s going to need to know that he is still precious to you.

In terms of spiritual growth, we need to remember that everybody has got their own clock. We can’t set the pace for anyone else. What we can do is lead by example. The more you learn and grow and discover the beauty of Jewish life, the more enriched you will be become. When we see a truly peaceful and fulfilled person, that energy radiates from them. You don’t have to convince anyone that you are fulfilled, or that you are happy, you will simply just be. And that is something everybody can learn from. Even a seemingly disinterested husband.

I encourage you to grow in your Jewish learning and observance and accept that your husband is not where you are right now. Give him time to watch you evolve, to see the subtle changes, to feel the sweetness of a Jewish home. If he can experience the beauty that you have found without pressure to ‘be like you,’ perhaps he will begin to explore his own connection with Judaism. In the meantime, I encourage you to love him for the good, Jewish man that he is and continue to be the best Jewish woman you can be.

With many blessings to you both,

Rachel

“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sarah Zadok.

Sarah Zadok is a childbirth educator, doula and freelance writer. She lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, with her husband and four children.

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Phyllis LaVietes Dallas, TX January 20, 2014

Wow! Us too! We are in the same situation. Married over 2 decades but we each have our separate areas of the kitchen. I can't ask anyone observant over because I don't want them to have to either rely on my kashrut or else have to uncomfortably refuse. He also doesn't keep Shabbat, although he does a little bit of it. But I must say he has grown, although there will probably always be that gap. He is a wonderful guy in other ways. I am going to post this under my real name so that the person in Rochester, NH can find me and get in touch with me. I'm in Dallas, TX, now, but I used to live in Rochester, NH, and I am flabbergasted that someone in my same situation lives there! (In fact I'm flabbergasted whenever I hear that anyone else is in my same situation.) Thank you, Sarah, for this article. Reply

Anonymous Rochester, NH June 18, 2012

SO grateful... ...to have read this article, as we have the same situation in our house. It has led to some tension, especially in terms of prayer. But I do find that if I frame food issues in terms of health, my husband is much more amenable to the Orthodox life, and over time, he has stopped mocking me and will now eat *pretty* much what I put in front of him. And I try to keep his own needs in mind, preparing two separate meals, if I have to (of course, that's much easier to do when there are only two in a house. I wouldn't do it if I still had children at home). Reply

Anonymous richmond hill, New York June 17, 2012

my husband does not want to keep Kosher Sadly, this was a main topic that was brought up by my Ex during the marriage counseling we tried with our Rabbi. It turned out to be a deceitful tactic in the Ex's plans to dissolve our marriage of 27 years. He is still in a destructive cult, that does not recognize Judaism as a rational belief. Reply

Luisa Zitzer Buenos Aires , Argentina November 18, 2011

My husband does not want a kosher kitchen Thank you Rachel for your answer to Anna.
I would like to ask you about something that is going on in my house. I want to make my house, my home kosher and my husband is all against it. I buy kosher meat and poultry and never mix meat with milk. He gets angry, very very angry and refuses my meals. So, now, my refrigerator is organized with labeled kosher an non kosher and this is really a whole contradiction that makes us eat in silence and I feel it´s sickening for both of us.
I don´t know where to start o when to start a conversation about this subject. He won´t listen. What can I do ?
Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 17, 2011

I have an idea. What if you were to tell your husband that you want to do things a different way because of health. He doesn't have the same condition, so he doesn't have the same food restrictions. Ask for his HELP in encouraging YOU to do things that are good for your health. Spiritual health is just as important as physical health, no? Anyway, tell him he is not restricted in any way. Perhaps he can bring his non kosher foods into a room other than the kitchen to eat them if he must. That may be a starting point. As far as Go-d goes Go-d knows. He is good and kind and knows your heart is in the right place. Reply

Lsurie Dinerstein-Kurs E.W., NJ November 13, 2011

interfaith marriage and we are both Jewish I keep kosher, I keep Shabbat. My husband does not keep Kosher and he doesn't keep Shabbat. We have been married for 42 years....I do my thing and he does his. I don't ask him to do anything of a religious nature and he doesn't ask me to stop doing what I do.

I light candles, make kiddush and hamotizi and he watches tv...I go to shul every Shabbas morning and he sleeps late.

The only concession that he needed to agree to - is to not bring anything UNkosher into the house. He goes out and gets what he wants...but, never brings it in.

I celebrate all the holidays as I see fit...he can join in or not.....Would it be nice to have a cohort in all this....sure, but I don't. What I do have is a wonderful, caring, warm, endearing, helpful, funny, respectful, decent, intelligent, spectacular mensche of a husband. I could not have found a more wonderful life partner. Everyone has a flaw...I guess it is safe to say that if he has one - is that he doesn't do things as I do. HAHAHA Reply

Anonymous NY, NY January 30, 2011

one person being more observant I was always the more observant one in our family---more interested in going to shul, teaching the children, keeping kosher-style. I always loved my husband dearly, but the only thing I wished was that he would take religion more seriously. Six years ago we moved to The City, and I prevailed in making our kitchen completely kosher, even though my husband was initially very upset and against it. Lo and behold, he went through a transformation in the last few years. I don't know why or how, and I don't think he does either---he just says he started learning more (which he did) and decided there was a reason for observance, after all. He went from eating lobster when I first met him more than 25 years ago, to only eating strictly kosher in the house and vegetarian or authorized kosher out. And that is just the beginning----he goes to shul every Shabbat, blizzards or not, and today we bought him a birthday present---a tallit katan. Now he is more observant than me! Our love lasts. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 9, 2011

Kosher Kitchen Since your husband is not interested in a kosher kitchen, can you compromise?

DON'T kosher the kitchen - just buy kosher foods. Reply

Sarah Masha W Bloomfield, MI USA September 7, 2010

A year late Anon and Anon Toronto You do not need to redo your whole kitchen to make it kosher. Talk with a rabbi, he will guide you on what needs to be bought new, you will be surprised as to how little that will be. The rest is a matter of cleaning and kasheriing, which will be a process not involving money.

Many people have kitchens like the one Margrete in England refers to, but lots of people live with ordinary apartment (flat) kitchens, nothing special, and keep equally kosher. It is nice to have the extras, but not necessary.

Many kosher people eat more vegetariian meals than meat, not affording meat is no jproblem.

Toronto
Don't take everything on at once, it will be too much, and the sudden change will exhaust you. Take one step at a time, your capacity wiill grow in stages.

check Chaya Sarah Silberberg's response to a question similar to this one on the Ask the Rabbi section for more ideas on this topic. Reply

Anonymous toronto, canada July 9, 2010

thank you! this article spoke to my own life. it helped me realize that i am not alone in feeling the way i do. the roles are reversed in my house -- my husband is the one leaning towards becoming more observant, while i am on the fence. sometimes i feel like religion is going to tear us apart, while at the same time feeling guilty for not wanting to be more religious at this stage in my life. i realize now that becoming more observant is a journey, and i don't need to feel pressured to take it all on right now.
thank you! Reply

Anonymous October 19, 2009

What are you to do when you can't afford to re-do the entire kitchen to make it Kosher? Or if you live nowhere near a store that carries Kosher meats, and you can't afford to buy it online all the time? Reply

margrete England December 16, 2008

I can't agree that 'kindness, goodness and compassion' are all very 'Jewish' things to do. Or rather, I can't agree that these things are exclusively Jewish, because they are what we Christians are all about as well!

Does not 'having a kosher kitchen' as opposed to the ordinary kind of kitchen, involve a lot of expenditure and kitchen re-design and installation? Separate work surfaces, separate kitchen sink, cupboards for keeping separate china and utensils, separate dishwasher etc? The only 'kosher' kitchen I've ever seen included all those things, it was bigger than many kitchens and installing all those extra fittings had cost quite a lot of money. Reply

Anonymous canada October 28, 2008

i agree You can't force your views on your husband. You can however, make some small changes in the home...start replacing products with Kosher ones.

Baby steps. Reply

Chayah Temecula, CA via jewishtemecula.com July 16, 2007

Small Steps You can't force him to keep the kitchen but you can keep it yourself. Buy only kosher food. Don't mix milk and meat. When we went to kasher our kitchen we did baby steps. First I stopped mixing milk and meat. I wouldn't cook it. Then I made sure all the food coming into the house was kosher. When we were ready, we bought all the needs to make the kitchen kosher. Our local Chabad Rabbi came and we ksahered the kitchen. I call the rabbi from time to time when we make mistakes. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI May 4, 2007

Kosher Kitchen DON'T try to force him to change - it NEVER works! Reply

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