Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's not about the dishwasher unless I make it so.

A friend of mine just wrote a post about how, as an Orthodox Jew, she really regrets that she can't eat in someone's house just because they use the same dishwasher for both their meat and dairy utensils. She goes on to talk about how many people accuse the Orthodox of caring more about the dishwasher than about the friendship.

I understand that point of view. But I also think that it's not about the dishwasher until I decide that it is.

(full disclosure: I'm pretty sure that I'm the person my friend is referring to, given that we just had this conversation about her eating in my home. Maybe it comes up a lot, but I'm not betting on it.)

Here's my point:

I understand why, for an Orthodox Jew, it's impossible to eat things cooked in my pots and pans, served on my plates. It's like asking a paraplegic to walk up the steps into my house. Impossible. When that person says no, it's not a judgment - it's simply a statement of fact. So I can grouse about how offended I am, about how seriously I take my Judaism and how picky this friend is being. But ultimately, it's a fruitless exercise. Alternately, I can offer a solution or a compromise: eat in my home, but on paper plates. We'll order takeout. Or I can cook things in foil pans with single-use utensils.

It's just as if I invited a person who is wheelchair-dependent to my house with stairs. I could build a ramp. It won't be pretty, or as elegant a reception as I like to offer my guests. There are some parts of my house a wheelchair-dependent person would never be able to see. But we could still enjoy each other's company, a bite to eat, and stimulating conversation. It's not about the stairs, just as it's not about the dishwasher.

There are some of my much-loved recipes that my Orthodox friends will never taste. That's unfortunate, but far from a deal-breaker. Where I come from, hachnassat orchim (welcoming guests) is taken very seriously. It's about accommodating your guests to the best of your ability, and seeing to their needs, not to your own. And so I'm choosing to overlook the small sting to my pride and build the metaphorical ramp. And when we all sit around the table in the succah, breaking bread and celebrating together, the dishwasher won't even be relevant.


FosterAbba said...

This is the reason we don't have any Orthodox friends.

Oh yeah, and of course the equally-unforgivable fact that we are queer.

decemberbaby said...

Hmmm... I wonder whether you've missed my point?

Aurelia said...

You are right, and I'm glad you are willing to try, but I also know that it does sting.

I'm impressed that they will come over and eat anyway though. I was always told that Orthodox Jews just won't even go over to a non-Orthodox house, or go to restaurants, or anything.

Which I guess is the distinction. It is possible for you to find a middle ground and celebrate together, not just because of you, but because of their willingness.

Like the ramp--some disabled people refuse to even go over to a house and perhaps sit in the backyard and eat BBQ if there is no ramp to the house. Others will try. It's like a two way.