Ever since the Jersey City attack, I’ve been trying to figure out how to express why and how a kosher grocery store feels just as Jewish and safe and holy as shul does. In some ways, even more so.
The thing you have to understand about being a kid who is raised eating only foods under kosher supervision is that one of the phrases you learn to use in grocery stores, from the time you learn to talk, is: “Mommy, Daddy, is it kosher?” There’s always that moment when you ask for a treat where you wait while your parents examine the package, looking for a tiny symbol that will make it okay. And more often than not, when it’s a candy you haven’t seen before, the answer is no. You get used to that quickly, but it never stops being disappointing.
It’s never like that in a kosher grocery store. There, suddenly, you’re like every other kid. There are still no’s, of course—but it’s never because this, like so much of the public world around you, wasn’t designed for you. When you’re in a kosher grocery store, you’re suddenly blessedly normal.
And the thing is, that never goes away. The kosher grocery store remains that place throughout your life: the place where your life, its needs and its rhythms, are the norm.
It’s the place where, instead of finding lots of chocolate bunnies right before Easter, there’s a plethora of candy before Purim.
It’s the place that stays open late on Thursday night because that’s when you’re up cooking late for Shabbos.
It’s the place where you go early before work on Friday morning and see dozens of people winding through the aisles, evaluating ingredients, checking lists, throwing an extra package of white candles into a cart because you’re running low and because here, in the kosher grocery store, that’s as much of an essential as dish soap.
And some weeks, when you remember, it’s the place where you can feel, in the chaos of erev Shabbat, that these people—so often women—are doing holy work as they buy what they need to feed their families for Shabbat, creating memories of special “Shabbos foods” that their children are going to grow up associating with holiness and Judaism and Shabbos, just as much as the melodies they hear in shul.
Baruch ata HaShem, hazan et hakol. Blessed are You, God, Who nourishes us all.
R’ Tali Adler is a faculty member at Yeshivat Hadar and a musmekhet of Yeshivat Maharat.