Craving
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Craving

Craving

In the non-kosher deli section, my father taught me that "If it feels good, do it" is a lie.

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I've had a craving for a turkey and cheddar cheese sandwich for about 20 years now, if not more. There is a clear image imprinted in my mind of the first one I saw, that beautifully stacked sandwich in the deli section of our local grocery store.

A curious redhead no older than four, I was wandering through the endless aisles, soaking in the variety of unfamiliar cereals, sauces and things I had never even heard of before. The special excitement that was usually saved for the end of the supermarket adventure was the seafood section where I would watch the live lobsters rove around their huge tank, climbing the walls and clamping their claws. Growing up in an observant Jewish home, for me this section was like a thrilling trip to the aquarium, even though I knew that these creatures were meant to be eaten by other shoppers.

I stared at the masterpiece, fantasizing about what this combination must taste like.

One day I meandered over to the deli section, and there I saw it, the layers of white turkey, yellow cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, stacked between two pieces of thick white bread. Hands and nose pasted against the glass, I stared at the masterpiece, fantasizing about what this combination must taste like. I was a huge fan of turkey and cheddar cheese, but in a kosher home the two had never rendezvoused, not even for a little get-together on the counter.

I have no idea how long I stood at that delicatessen window before I felt my father join me at my side. He kneeled down beside me, his bearded cheek so close to mine. Staring in the direction of my fixed gaze, he whispered, "Looks really delicious, doesn't it?"

My eyes still locked, I nodded slowly. It really did look delicious.

"You know you are the luckiest little girl in this whole store," my father said to me softly.

What could he mean? I looked at him, requesting an explanation.

"You see, all the little girls in this whole supermarket can come and buy this sandwich and eat it if they want to. But you're special, you're different. God made you a Jewish girl that keeps kosher, which means you can never ever eat that sandwich. But God knows you want to eat it, and He is so proud of you for deciding not to let yourself."

I chewed on my fathers words for a bit, feeling his sky blue eyes caressing me. I asked him if God was not angry that I wanted something that was not kosher. Wasn't I supposed to be disgusted by non-kosher food?

My father smiled and took my hand. "There is something I want to show you."

He led me away from the frigid meat department back in to the warmth of the parallel aisles of shelved foods. We stopped in front of a giant, two-foot tall bag of orange colored popcorn. My father pointed to it and said, "I really, really want to taste that popcorn." Today it is quite easy to find products like this with kosher supervision symbols, but 20 years ago, especially in the small upstate New York town where we lived, snacks like this were obviously not kosher. My father told me that his craving was this popcorn. It was challenging for him to walk by it every time he came to do the shopping, but he felt strong knowing that a bag of popcorn could never mean more to him than his dedication to God's Will for him to eat only kosher foods.

"You see, on one hand it feels really hard because you think you would very much like to taste that sandwich, but on the other hand you can feel really happy and proud that you are choosing not to. The more you want to do something that you know you shouldn't, the happier God is that you didn't do it and the more reward he gives you."

The ride home was a quiet one, my father and I both driving through the roads of the mind and imagination. The new lesson I learned that day needed to find its place in my world.

This is a craving I've learned to love.

It's been 20 years and I still have an intense craving to taste white turkey roll and cheddar cheese together. This is not like my other cravings that come and go, or that annoy me if I can't satisfy them. This is a craving I've learned to love and revel in with glowing pride. I fantasize not of eating the sandwich, but of arriving in the World to Come and seeing the thousands of turkey and cheese sandwiches that had been created in my mind and never been eaten. Every single one of them will be counted and weighed and I know that I will receive abundant reward for each and every one.

We live in a world that tells us "If it feels good, do it." Listen to your stomach, your urges, your impulses. One day in the cold deli section of a grocery store, my father taught me that we don't have to be afraid to face our desires head on and to realize how much we gain by never acquiring them. We can use our impulses to grow by overcoming them.

Published: September 21, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 20

(20) shira, September 8, 2013 7:09 PM

awesome article! love your writing style too.

(19) Anonymous, September 29, 2009 1:59 AM

Thank You!

loved this article, the idea that what is hard for someone is what will bring them closer to Hashem if they overcome it is so inspiring because than each struggle is a gift from Hashem and each battle that is fought is fought with pride! thank you for this beautiful article!

(18) Anonymous, September 25, 2009 12:04 AM

dairy free kosher soy cheese/ or veggie turkey?????

would that work?

(17) Anonymous, September 24, 2009 7:37 PM

I Have Tasted Most of those Dishes.

Thank you for this issue today. It comes at a time that I am changing and can use the thoughts and comments to help. ----------------------------- I ate tenderloin steak, Chinese and Italian foods. My favorite snack was a cheesburger expertly prepared. I've eaten apple pie, and lobster and cured bacon. I'm a good cook. It was normal eating because I'm not a Jew. I kept meat and dairy and pork Kosher for 6 years, also I fed my friends and family this way. So, I learned to be a pretty good Kosher cook.. After studying Hebrew and studying Torah, I chose not to use these foods in my body and it has been OK. I guess I was not addicted to them, or maybe G-d was dulling my taste for them. I don't know the answer to that.. I do know one thing for sure, If you never start something then you never have a need to quit that something. ------------------ As for substituting another food such as a non dairy cheese product with meat, drinking diet colas, eating faux lobster and crab, turkey ham, etc. Ewww. Not a good thing. I've bought a few Jewish cookbooks and found them wanting. Most recipies just weren't very tasty. So I made my own. Kosher food can be, diverse, tasty, healthy, exciting and can be prepared at home without adding those substitutes.. Just as sure as G-d made Kosher little green apples, he made Kosher big rosy delicious ones too. Many other people besides Jews are limited in their food choices. It means their physical lives depend on their refusing to eat what hurts them. In the case of choosing Kosher, it's your spiritual life that suffers. -----------------------Rivka, believe me. A turkey and cheese sandwich isn't so great here and now. Seeing all of them in the World to Come ......what a wonderful feeling for you.

(16) Anonymous, September 23, 2009 3:51 PM

thank God for temptation

one should be thankful that one is tempted to eat the non kosher sandwich as by resisting the temptation one grows spiritually which is a reward in this world, and as you write one is able to bring that growth to the next world thereby gaining a greater ability to bask/cleave to the divine presence which is the reward there. it seems to me that if there was no temptation there would be no growth for resisting and no reward. God willing one will have other challenges which provide opportunities for growth i agree with the comment about learning to cook properly.given that skill and the right ingredients i believe that one can have as much enjoyment from kosher food even on the basic sensory level as a non kosher person does from eating treif. on the psychological level it's more difficult as the yaiitzer hara will delude one into thinking that treif is better and the fact that it is forbidden adds greatly to its appeal, and will actually make it taste better should one weaken and succumb to the temptation. i was taught never to think or say yuch treif. instead i was taught to think and say i'm sure it's delicious but my religion does not allow me to eat it. if pressed to explain i can honestly say that i get pleasure from keeping the commandment which i believe is greater than the pleasure from eating the tasty non kosher food.

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