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Religious Dietary Laws


Tonyfinch
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Robert and Nina - There is a difference between ritual ceremony which is practiced in the privacy of one's home and religious law. I am looking at each individual act to see what it actually promotes and to see if by itself it is segregationist. There is a difference between being seperate as a matter of being alike in a cultural way and creating cultural barriers that prevent people from being alike. Anyone can participate in ritual Jewish ceremony. Non-Jews can attend bar mitzvah, bris, sabbath candle lightings, seders etc. But Jews cannot eat in the homes of non-Jews. Those types of rules promote segregation and not cultural identity. Jews cannot marry non-Jews. That promotes segregation. Why can't a Jew can marry a non-Jew and still follow the religion? When a Jew can't work on Saturday he limits himself as to the type of job he can have, or in the type of place he can have in the community. That promotes sergregation. A Jew should be able to work on Saturday and still be a faithful Jew.

But if you want to say that all religions are by nature segregationist, you will not have a dispute from me. But my point is that in order to modernize, they need to parse what they actually need to preserve from what was intended to segregate them from the rest of the world during a time when that was their only means of survival.

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The late 18th-early 19th century movement for Jewish enlightenment and emancipation had as its goal the integration of Jews into western European society. Their slogan was be a Jew at home and a man on the street.

The most recent manifestation of this among religious Jews is "modern orthodoxy," espoused by Norman Lamm and the leadership of Yeshiva University, among others.

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Robert and Nina - There is a difference between ritual ceremony which is practiced in the privacy of one's home and religious law. I am looking at each individual act to see what it actually promotes and to see if by itself it is segregationist. There is a difference between being seperate as a matter of being alike in a cultural way and creating cultural barriers that prevent people from being alike. Anyone can participate in ritual Jewish ceremony. Non-Jews can attend bar mitzvah, bris, sabbath candle lightings, seders etc. But Jews cannot eat in the homes of non-Jews. Those types of rules promote segregation and not cultural identity. Jews cannot marry non-Jews. That promotes segregation. Why can't a Jew can marry a non-Jew and still follow the religion? When a Jew can't work on Saturday he limits himself as to the type of job he can have, or in the type of place he can have in the community.  That promotes sergregation. A Jew should be able to work on Saturday and still be a faithful Jew.

But if you want to say that all religions are by nature segregationist, you will not have a dispute from me. But my point is that in order to modernize, they need to parse what they actually need to preserve from what was intended to segregate them from the rest of the world during a time when that was their only means of survival.

But Steve, then why did you voluntarily choose to ritualize Judaism at all? Why "mark" yourself or your children as segregated in any way? And what does this mean: "there is a difference between being separate as a matter of being alike in a cultural way and creating cultural barriers..." - what's the difference between "being separate" and "being segregated?"

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Nope, I don't buy that.  Shabbes tradition, taken a little further, prevent Jews from doing a zillion things on Shabbes.  And as you well know, people pick and choose their levels of kashrut all the time - and many, many people have no trouble eating with others or in other people's homes and limiting themselves to the extent they choose.

And barmitzvah is certainly segregationist according to your definition.  A public, social statement of cultural and religious separate identity.  And a bris - well jeez, an actual physical mark identifying a child, and ceremonially, at that!

Again, you've got to admit that you pick and choose your segregationist traditions like everybody else - your line is your own, but it's there.  Look at how much Yiddish you insert into your English, all the time.  That's not segregationist?  I have yet to  understand your reasons, other than social, for choosing to observe the rituals you have chosen.

You really didn't address these points yet.

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Steve, you keep insisting on this "segregation" that dietary laws "create," and I just don't buy it. You're very hung up on that word, and you insist that it is the case. I know of too many situations that say it ain't so.

First of all, if an observant Jew will not eat in a non-Jew's home (or that of a Jew who does not observe the dietary restrictions), there are plenty of other things to do besides eat! (Yes, it's true.) It does not mean that there can be no relationship between them. It's a matter of making the decision of how open you want to be to influences outside of the particular decisions you have made for yourself -- and these are decisions that transcend religion by a very, very wide margin. Will you go to the movies with someone who loves Julia Roberts and sees all her films, even though she can't act her way out of a paper bag? You might decide not to -- and I can tell you that that's segregationist, and it will ruin your relationship with that person. This is the logic that you keep proposing.

I used to be much more religious than I am. When I would visit the states and wanted to meet up with old friends, we went to kosher restaurants. The people weren't kosher, in fact many of the weren't Jewish. I could easily have said, no, they don't follow the laws I follow therefore I will absolutely not see them. (Or, my friends could have said, hell, I'm not going to any kosher restaurants. Bye bye friendship with cakewalk.) And would you blame that on dietary laws? Making such a choice has nothing to do with dietary laws. It has to do with the individual. There are too many religious/secular friendships that work, and work well, for me to buy this blanket statement of "segregationist" that you keep insisting upon. It has become a meaningless word at this stage, and since we all know that segregation is "bad," you just use that bad word and feel that you are making a point of some sort. But I don't think you are.

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Steve, I work on Saturday, I eat in non-Jewish homes, and so on a long list. Are you going to tell me I'm not Jewish? Much more likely that certain societal elements will remind you in unpleasant ways that you *are* Jewish than that you aren't. That is, the likelihood is much greater that you will be defined inclusively by others rather than exclusively. If you choose the latter for yourself, that's something else.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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You keep asking me the same question which is, why don't I completely discard everything about Judaism from my life? I answered that already. Because that is not how the world I live in works and I am comfortable in that world. So I accept all of the inherent conflicts, ambiguities and inconsistancies that come with that world and I juggle them so they make the most sense in spite of it all. But what I am trying to identify is the difference between seperateness and segregation. And when you pray to god every morning, that is a private act with no consequence to anyone. Even if it is done by a group of people who seperate themselves from the rest of society to pray. But when you won't eat somewhere because of dietary law, or you won't marry someone because of their religion, those are acts that have consequences to others. My having my sons bar mitzvahed had no consequence to anyone. But my not allowing my sons to eat in the home of a non-Jewish friend does.

Here's what should happen. If Jews want to stay kosher at home, fine. But they should not impose their dietary restrictions on non-Jews because it might make those people feel inferior in some way. Like the Iranians who wouldn't attend the dinner in Spain because of the wine. Being gracious guests should be more important and more virtuous then religious dietary law. And considering how religion teaches all of those virtuous things, and proper behavior, the tell that religion is self-serving is that they only promote virtuosity when the religion can sufffer no detriment.

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Cakewalk - Well please tell me then what the laws of kashruth are supposed to accomplish? What is their purpose? Why should anyone follow them?

Robert S. - I am not disagreeing with you. I would consider you a Jew. But many orthodox would consider you an inferior Jew, and some of them wouldn't even consider you a Jew.

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I'm intrigued by the level of transgression implicit in dietary laws.

I'm wondering if there's any dish that would come close to the amuse-gueule of the Bistro Bataille of semen on sacrament in terms of addressing the foundational aspects of a religion.

Wilma squawks no more

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Though I grew up in a kosher home, I have chosen in my adult life to not keep kosher as I would rather open myself up to all the good food there is in this world rather than limit myself based on 3000-year old laws that I do not feel apply to 21st century life. I do not have a problem with those do follow the dietary laws. However, what does bother me is people who are overly concerned with the minutiae of religious laws (dogma, if you will) and ignoring the big picture. Which is the greater affront to G-d, mixing wool & cotton in the same garment or being a slumlord? Drinking alcohol or blowing up women and children? Eating fish on Friday or forcing people into poverty by outlawing contraception?

Edited by BklynEats (log)
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Cakewalk - Well please tell me then what the laws of kashruth are supposed to accomplish? What is their purpose? Why should anyone follow them?

Robert S. - I am not disagreeing with you. I would consider you a Jew. But many orthodox would consider you an inferior Jew, and some of them wouldn't even consider you a Jew.

We've all been through this before, and verily even on this very thread (not to mention others)!

The laws of kashruth seem to have originally been about obedience. You can have whatever reaction to that you like, I'm well aware of the arguments against "obedience." I'm not "supporting" it or "not supporting" it. But that's what the dietary laws seem to be about. There's this whole listing of things we can and cannot eat, and then there's the age-old stricture, I am the lord your god. Boom. That's why you do it. Because I said so.

There isn't any particular logic to it, it looks pretty much like the "health" aspect was invented much later, mostly because we're "reasonable" beings and have difficulty with the idea of doing something "without reason." So if we don't see a reason for following something, our options are either: 1) stop following it, or 2) make up a reason. Because most of us are uncomfortable following something that is outside the realm of logic.

BTW -- most Orthodox Jews (even ultra-Orthodox) would consider even the most atheistic Jew to still be a Jew. He would probably virulently disagree with his lifestyle and his thoughts, etc. (even hate it, in fact), but would still consider him to be a Jew.

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I do not have a problem with those do follow the dietary laws.

I don't either but I do have a problem with their reasons. (see below)

However, what does bother me is people who are overly concerned with the minutiae of religious laws (dogma, if you will) and ignoring the big picture.

Like Hassidic Jews in the diamond center who are big gonifs.

The laws of kashruth seem to have originally been about obedience

Obedience to what and for what purpose?

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However, what does bother me is people who are overly concerned with the minutiae of religious laws (dogma, if you will) and ignoring the big picture.

Like Hassidic Jews in the diamond center who are big gonifs.

Will you next insist that all blacks have rhythm? :wacko:

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Jews...should not impose their dietary restrictions on non-Jews

Or on other, different, groups of Jews. We've been here already.

Vivremanger has said: "Food preferences become taboos as a group increasingly feels that its distinctive identity is worth preserving and must be maintained against an outside challenge."

To which I would add that within the greater group - Jews, in this case - smaller groups make decisions along the taboo/preference continuum. The ultrareligious will declare, or reaffirm, certain dietary taboos. The very orthodox, the orthodox, the very conservative, and so on down the line, will decide which of these disallowances are in fact taboo, and which may be submitted to preference. In other words, there are many, many shades of distinctive identity. This all takes place under the tent. Go outside and you will find those who will insist that you are a Jew whether you eat shellfish or not. Outside the tent, you are far more likely to be included rather than excluded. The outside challenge in this case is not to an aspect of Jewishness, but to the whole, regardless of variation in its parts.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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I can understand why people believe in God. The Universe is so huge and complex, so beyond the understanding of mankind in so many ways, so awesome in its scope and possibilities, that it is not that difficult to believe that it was created.

While I was "baptized" when an infant, I have never followed any particular religious practice. In later life, my mother told me I had let a particularly loud fart when being baptized in the local church. Perhaps that set the tone for for what would follow in my life.

I am, however, part (Native American) Indian and as the years have passed (and after having explored the writings of Rudolf Steiner as well as the practice of Buddhism) the pull of my Native American blood has grown stronger and now seems sufficient. There are only two very simple things to understand:

1) There is the Great Spirit.

2) There is the Great Mystery.

If more people could learn to appreciate the simplicity of the above, and leave intellect and ancestoral differences aside, we might have a better chance to to find peace within ourselves - leading to a better chance for peace in the world around us.

It might also help alleviate religious dietary restrictions. :biggrin:

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I see, you single out Hasidic Jews as gonifs? As opposed to every other kind of gonif on the earth? I know a lot of Hasidic diamond guys. A lot. Some are gonifs, some are not. (actually the plural is ganevim). And there are far more religious people of other faiths who are gonifs. What's the percente of Jews in the world - it's tiny. And percentage of Jews who are Hasidic? Tiny.

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But many orthodox would consider you an inferior Jew, and some of them wouldn't even consider you a Jew.

Having worked with many orthodox Jews, I can confirm what Steve says. They might not say so to your face, but they hold in contempt someone who is not as "righteous" as they. On the other side, we have had a number of sporadic social contacts with highly religious (orthodox) Jews and never felt completely comfortable. We always felt like they were uncomfortable having us in their homes, so we never pursued a social relationship with them, nor they with us.

There was clearly a large gulf that separated us.

This is not unique to Jews, but that's what we are talking about here.

Dietary restrictions are a pretty fundamental barrier to easy social realtionships, since so much of social contact revolves around food.

Vivre-I agree with Steve. Thank you for that wonderfully lucid post.

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While this argument has given particular attention to the issue of Jewish taboos, I could give examples of similar trends among Muslims, and I suspect, among Hindus as well.

Would you, please? I think the most interesting part of this topic is the examination of the universality of dietary laws. I wonder, do you have a similar database of knowledge regarding secular dietary laws such as those of veganism, fruitarianism, etc.? Do you see any meaningful distinction between religious and secular dietary restrictions?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You keep asking me the same question which is, why don't I completely discard everything about Judaism from my life? I answered that already. Because that is not how the world I live in works and I am comfortable in that world. So I accept all of the inherent conflicts, ambiguities and inconsistancies that come with that world and I juggle them so they make the most sense in spite of it all. But what I am trying to identify is the difference between seperateness and segregation. And when you pray to god every morning, that is a private act with no consequence to anyone. Even if it is done by a group of people who seperate themselves from the rest of society to pray. But when you won't eat somewhere because of dietary law, or you won't marry someone because of their religion, those are acts that have consequences to others. My having my sons bar mitzvahed had no consequence to anyone. But my not allowing my sons to eat in the home of a non-Jewish friend does.

Here's what should happen. If Jews want to stay kosher at home, fine. But they should not impose their dietary restrictions on non-Jews because it might make those people feel inferior in some way. Like the Iranians who wouldn't attend the dinner in Spain because of the wine. Being gracious guests should be more important and more virtuous then religious dietary law. And considering how religion teaches all of those virtuous things, and proper behavior, the tell that religion is self-serving is that they only promote virtuosity when the religion can sufffer no detriment.

"...how the world I live in works..." - the world in which you choose to separately, dinscintly, identify yourself publicly as a Jew. If that ain't segregationist, I don't know what is. And mind you, I'm not using the word in a negative sense. You are. And what about the bris, which I assume your sons had? A clearer segregationist mark couldn't exist.

And it's completely possible to be a gracious guest and keep one's own kosher limitations. Let's say you don't like brussel sprouts. You really don't like them. You're gonna eat them anyway, or will you eat everything else you're served and just say you don't like brussel sprouts? I have had lots of kosher people eat at my house - with many variations of observance. They were anything but superior in attitude or ungracious. And it makes for interesting conversation.

Let's face it - you got a major bone to pick with religious Jews and their observances. But it's personal.

"I am comfortable in that world. So I accept all of the inherent conflicts, ambiguities and inconsistancies that come with that world and I juggle them so they make the most sense in spite of it all." - Why is that not okay for other Jews, but okay for you?

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Having worked with many orthodox Jews, I can confirm what Steve says.  They might not say so to your face, but they hold in contempt someone who is not as "righteous" as they.

To clarify: I hope what you are confirming is that some people feel and act this way. As long as you are willing to accept that plenty of other similarly situated people don't feel or act that way at all, I'm okay with your comment.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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"If Jews want to stay kosher at home, fine. But they should not impose their dietary restrictions on non-Jews because it might make those people feel inferior in some way."

That's absurd. They're not imposing their restriction on non-Jews. Other people can do whatever they want. Someone else's choices about diet doesn't make somebody else anything. It's about *their* choices. It's got nothing to do with imposing anything on anybody else.

When I stopped eating pork, most everybody I know just thought I was nuts, not superior.

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To clarify: I hope what you are confirming is that some people feel and act this way. As long as you are willing to accept that plenty of other similarly situated people don't feel or act that way at all, I'm okay with your comment.

Yes yes. I should have qualified my statement. Thank you. Some people, Not all. Surely.

I suppose what is shocking to me is to hear "pious" people, people who make so much of their reverence for God speak with such ill will and venom about another person merely because they are not as "observant" as they.

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