Here’s another of my truly random, train of thought musings.
Creation is so abundant with life, that survival doesn’t require that one consume everything. That, in a nutshell, may be the unspoken message in our dietary laws. These rules raise so many questions.
If these rules exist to teach us to limit our desires, then why not simple admonitions against gluttony and waste, instead of a seemingly random selection of animals that are fit to eat and not fit to eat?
Why should the list of things not to eat include so many things that humans find tasty or enjoyable? Why exclude crustaceans, bivalves, and the like?
Why aren’t certain plants and grains deemed unfit to eat? And just who decided that quinoa (or corn, for that matter) was hametz, anyway?
Some scholars say the dietary laws were to separate us from the other tribes of the times. Others, now largely discredited, suggest these were rudimentary health codes. The rabbis tell us that it is about sanctifying our lives and making the very act of eating holy.
They say if you don’t know something, you can’t miss it. Isn’t that the same sort of bad parenting 101 as “eat anything in the garden except from that tree?” We know we’re not supposed to eat it, but we know it exists. How can we not be tempted?
Now, I’m certainly not tempted to eat many of the prohibited foods. I’ve no desire to sample camel meat or iguana meat, for example. Surely, however, there have been Jews who were curious about those.
There are so many things that, under Jewish dietary law, one can eat, so why so much fuss about what we can’t eat? Why do so many Israeli restaurants serve mock shrimp? Why do kosher imitation bacon bits exist?
Did G”d (or Moshe) even have an inkling of what these dietary practices would lead to? I find it amusing that I received an email plea from a certain Jewish sect’s rabbi to write in to protest the harsh punishment handed down against one of the Rubashkins. How ironic to be timed with this parasha.
Kashrut has become an industry. Yes, there are now brave attempts to reclaim kashrut on the basis of ethical and environmental standards. How did we let the system evolve into the corrupt, letter of the law rather than intent system that it has become. Why has it taken us so many thousands of years to seriously consider re-organizing the system?
As I read the dietary laws as listed in parashat Sh’mini, I find myself asking the same questions that people must have been asking at the time. Why this? Why that? Why not this? Why not that? Do I need to follow every capricious whim of G”d in order to show my loyalty and devotion?
I cannot claim to have lived a life of continuous kashrut observance. I have had periods in my life when my observance of kashrut was stricter than at other times. I don’t find my inconsistency all that troubling. In fact, consistency, I would find troubling. Consistency leads to complacency, and if there’s anything that Jews should not be, it’s complacent.
That’s a challenge in our society. I suppose my thoughts here are influenced by the fact that I am currently reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright-Sided” an excoriation of “positive thinking.” Positive thinking is just what the CEOs and rich capitalists want. It’s just what the Rubashkins and their ilk want. That’s not the Jewish way. We were born to kvetch, to question, to challenge. Yet we passively accepted the laws of kashrut as handed =down to us not only by G”d but by the rabbis interpretations of what they think G”d might possibly have meant.
Just some things to think about the next time someone says to you “don’t eat that, it’s not kosher!”
©2010 by Adrian A. Durlester