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Re: dietary restrictions NikkiT2

Posted by Dinah on December 1, 2002, at 23:43:58

In reply to Re: Lou.. I'd really like your thoughts on this... Dinah, posted by NikkiT2 on December 1, 2002, at 11:38:48

Let me preface this by saying that I am not of the Jewish faith, and so may have misunderstood certain aspects of the traditional explanations behind the dietary restrictions outlined in Leviticus 11.

Mammals are allowed to be eaten only if they have both completely cloven feet (so that the paw does not touch the ground) and if they chew their cuds. A pig has cloven hooves but does not chew its cud. There is some speculation that these prohibitions were sanitary in nature, since pigs carry more disease than cows. But my understanding is that traditional Jewish thought holds that the separation of animals into allowable and non-allowable is another attempt to make us reflect on the eating of meat, since a life must be taken in order for us to eat meat. By sanctifying the eating of meat, we do not take it lightly.

The birds that are considered non-allowable are mainly birds of prey or scavenger birds. Since the eating of blood is forbidden, perhaps that has something to do with the prohibition, since those birds would have presumably consumed blood of other animals. Water creatures are only allowed if they have fins and scales, which leaves out shellfish and catfish. Most insects, reptiles, and rodents are not allowed. In Leviticus, eating these creatures if frequently referred to as an abomination.

Leviticus 20:25 reads "So you shall set aside the pure beast from the impure, the impure bird from the pure. You shall not draw abomination on yourselves through beast or bird or anything with which the ground is alive, which I have set apart for you to treat as impure. You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine."

It is dairy and meat which must not be served together. This comes from Exodus 34:26 "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk." My understanding is that this was considered a delicacy at the time. I believe Jewish thought is that eating meat involves a sacrifice of a life, and that eating the deceased animal with the milk meant to nourish it and give it life was considered to be especially insensitive to that fact. The rule was broadened, as was frequently the case, as a sort of fence around the biblical prohibitions, so that none would be accidentally broken.

In general, the Jewish traditions involve elevating the mundane to the sacred. For example, eating is an ordinary event, animals eat without thought. But humans can make the act of eating a sacred one by giving thought and holy overtones to what one is doing.

Again, forgive me if I have not gotten the spirit or the facts correct in this. My sources range from the "Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary" (which was the source of the biblical quotes) to "To Life!" by Rabbi Kushner, to vaguely remembered ideas from college religion classes, and a lot in between. I freely admit that I may be mistaken in my understanding, and I wish those of you who practice or study Judaism would correct any misperceptions on my part.

Dinah

 

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