“The rules of kashrut keeps us thinking about the preciousness of life and God’s dream of a peaceful world. Every time we pick up a fork and wonder if it is milk or meat, we are awakened to the ancient dream of a world free from violence.”
– Rabbi Ed Feinstein from Tough Questions Jews Ask
First off, I just have to say that being apart of a young couples Torah learning group is by far one of the neatest things I’ve ever experienced. I have to truly give it up to Encino’s own Valley Beth Shalom (VBSnextGen) for providing free outreach programs to the LA community. Learn more here
If you have never had the pleasure of hearing Rabbi Feinstein speak, let me tell you, it’s something to put on your bucket list. This man is hilarious insightful, current and filled with wisdom and depth. Last night, about a dozen of us gathered around to discuss Koshrut & Living with Intention. Why are we kosher? Does God really care?
DID YOU KNOW?
The very first commandment in the Torah is from Genesis 2:15 “Of every tree of the garden you are to eat [achol tochal]…”
We discussed this text deeply, to discover that we are created to eat and enjoy the foods of the earth. It’s no wonder why we Jews LOVE to have food at all our celebrations! It’s in our DNA!
As Rabbi Feinstein pointed out, that humans were originally designed to live as vegetarians. A philosophy I have personally enjoyed living for the last many years; do no harm and respect living beings on earth. But, what he suggests is that it is also human nature to crave meat. So, centuries ago, the Rabbis came up with a system that would limit the ways in which we kill to eat. This would act as a reminder to us that we did not create that life we are taking, and that we must honor it in every possible way.
Rabbi Feinstein goes on to say, “The real purpose [of keeping kosher] has to do with the value of life and controlling our power to kill.”
He goes on to list the four basic laws of kashrut (excerpted from his book Tough Questions Jews Ask):
- Only certain animals may be eaten. These animals aren’t necessarily more special or less special, but that we are to recognize that we can’t just “go out and kill whatever we feel like”.
- The animals must be killed in the most painless way possible.
- All the blood must be removed from the meat. Blood symbolizes life, and all life belongs to God.
- All foods made from milk and all foods made from meat must be prepared, served and eaten separately. Meat, which involves killing, symbolizes the taking of life. Milk, which nourishes newborns symbolized the giving of life. The two must never be confused in our lives.
So what we are recognizing, is that when we eat, we must remain humane. Our role on this planet to is nurture (“tend and till”) the earth. When we do kill, let us honor that being by not dunking it in its own nectar (bathing a kid in its mother’s milk). Koshrut can be a great step towards living a more respectful and compassionate life.
What do you think? Do you think human beings naturally crave meat? Or did we develop this way over time?
May every stomach across the globe be filled with nutritious foods from gardens of abundance.