Monday, September 22, 2014
Here is my album of photos from Sunday’s People’s Climate March. I can’t recall anything I’ve ever attended that brought people of so many different backgrounds together for a common cause. I was marching with the faith communities, and they were all there – including pagans, spiritual seekers and atheists. There were many indigenous groups represented as well. Jews were there in large numbers too and I was proud to be among the many who sounded shofars as church bells rang out the alarm. As the faith groups waited for our turn to enter the march, there was an interfaith musical gathering, in which Peter Yarrow gave an entirely new meaning to the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” We used to focus on the final verse, the one about the soldiers. Now there is not need to go beyond the first verse. And in fact, a Muslim speaker later picked up on that. It’s not just the flowers that have gone – untold numbers of species have been eliminated. Where have all the fish gone? The bees? Here are some videos of the interfaith service that preceded the march including Yarrow’s song and some spirited singing led by Neshama Carlebach.
It remains to be seen whether this march can move the needle of inaction as world leaders gather this week and then again at a summit in Paris next year. But at the very least, we at TBE know that we are doing our part in assuming a leadership position on this crucial issue.
This is one mitzvah that has been near and dear to me – and not just because I proclaimed the era of the Kosher Oreo as a benchmark in American Jewish identity.
Here are the “How tos” and the “Whats.” With its roots in the Bible, the system of defining which foods are kosher was developed by the rabbis of late antiquity. Its application to changing realities has been the work of subsequent generations, including our own.
So what of the “whys”? Why Kosher? Louis Jacobs writes, “Unlike the ethical and moral precepts of Judaism, the dietary laws seem to defy human reasoning. Why should it matter to religion what a man eats and, if it does matter, why are these particular items of food singled out as forbidden?” Maimonides believes it was a matter of good health. Nachmanides sees it is beneficial t the soul rather than the body. The Torah sees these laws through the prism of holiness.
From my perspective, the “whys” boil down to identity, spiritual discipline, ethics and social connection. Kashrut preserves Jewish identity as a contact point for Jews across the globe and across the ages. Culture, after all, is transmitted though the stomach. Tastes and smells are deeply embedded in our childhood memories. Kashrut enables us to eat ethically and not indiscriminately, focusing on the sanctity of life and the pain of the animal. It turns eating from a basic biological instinct to a sacred activity.