How We Eat: Sh’mini, Leviticus 9:1−11:47

Rachel Adler begins her d’var Torah on this week’s parasha with this:

Just now, American society is reexamining the way it eats. Michael Pollan, in his best-selling book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manefesto , advises distinguishing between food and some of the poor imitations for food that we currently ingest (New York: Penguin Group, 2008). He suggests that we not eat too much and that we eat mostly plants. That’s easier said than done. Barbara Kingsolver, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life , advocates eating only what is local to reduce our carbon imprint on this overburdened earth, to circumscribe the boundaries of our appetites and become locavores (Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008]). It appears that boundaryless eating is not respectful either of our bodies or of animals or of the earth or its products. Parashat Sh’mini , in Leviticus 11:1–23, lays out dietary laws for the people of Israel. We are counseled to restrict ourselves, to practice, one might say, a kind of purity law about diet. Somewhere in eternity, Levitical priests are smiling. “What a novel idea!” they whisper to one another.

This is so timely.  The way America eats is scrutiniezed all over the media these days.  Food blogs proliferate.  “Farm to table” eating is the trend of the decade, and farm shares, or CSAs are popping up all over the place.  It is the right time to reexamine our spiritual connection to food and eating.

Thoughts, anyone?  I’d love to hear what you think.  I’ll be posting more this week about this.  Let’s begin the conversation!

2 thoughts on “How We Eat: Sh’mini, Leviticus 9:1−11:47

  1. Having never kept kosher, but have family members who do, I respect their choice to do this.
    For me, I just need to control how much I”m eating more than WHAT I’m eating.
    Sorry, my response couldn’t be more ‘spiritual’, but I really hate discussing food or focusing on it any more than I already do, as it just, seriously, makes me hungry.
    Sad but true.
    I am curious as to how and why others do the kosher thing in this day and age, but to each their own.

  2. You know, everyone has their own reasons. If you are Conservative or Orthodox, your reasons may be different from someone who is Reform/Reconstructionist. For us, it is about cultural continuity. Jews have done this forever, and we feel connected to that. It is also a “mindfulness” thing – we are conscious eaters. Food is not to be taken for granted; we are grateful we can put healthful, wholesome food on our table. Regarding this parasha, the intricacy of the sacrifice rituals, and the rules involved signify the true value the Israelites placed on the lives of those animals. nothing was wasted, and it wasn’t just a free-for-all-let’s-kill-the-herd type of thing. I think that concept is important in today’s day and age where meat comes shrink-wrapped in a refrigerated case in the grocery store.

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