Monday, November 5, 2007

Kosher food, my body, and my heart

Kendra said:
About kashrut (and mitzvot in general) though, there is a fairly strong principle that basically boils down to: "if someone would think you're breaking a mitzvah by watching you without talking to you, then don't do that thing, even if you're within the bounds of the mitzvah." Like not eating shrimp shaped tofu.

I don't know if that's part of your halakhah...I don't take this principle to the extremes some folk, do myself, so I'm not implying any criticism....

I don't take it that extreme myself either and no, I don't sense any criticism so don't fret (though constructive criticism sparks nice debate at times too).

I understand the idea that even the appearance if not substance of breaking the rules/laws/path/etc. is important when you are trying to lead each other by example in mutual silent support and encouragement (as opposed to Mao-era communist "struggle" rallies where victims of the moment were harassed, humiliated and hounded endlessly).

On the other hand, I have a strong spiritual resistance to this as well on the principle that history has shown us much that is not G-dly can flit by under the cover of appearance to which no question is put because assumptions are made instead. *cough* World War II *cough* Vatican *cough* doings *cough*

So first, were the rules invented for literalism's sake or was there an overall import? Well if it was supposed to be literal, cow milk would not figure into it and neither would cheeseburgers made from kosher beef. It would strictly be goat's milk and the meat of young goats. I can't imagine a G-d spending so much time on DNA combinatorics and quantum electrodynamics where chemistry is concerned and then having a deep thing for just goats and to put it bluntly, screw the cows. Neither can anyone else it seems and so milk and meat rules are not goat-specific.

It would seem that if you were to discard everything ever written and go by what you feel in your heart, talk to G-d there, what does He tell you through your conscience? Start from the fundamental level we and G-d start at together before all else.

My heart says that milk is the issue of a mother to a child and emblematic of the furtherance of life, the continuation of it, the nurturing of young. How much more basic an act of motherly love and caring for offspring do you find than the feeding of young? We borrow milk from these animals and we share in their natural act of nurturing to feed ourselves.

Meat on the other hand involves not life but death. We have to kill to eat the meat. Another life is given up, albeit not by conscious choice of the animals, that we might live a little longer. However necessary it seems, it still bothers our conscience. Milk doesn't and perhaps it should with regard to the question as to whether we are worthy of partaking of those animals' milk. We do question readily if we deserve to gain from those animals' deaths. I like to think that as long as one human lives whom it bothers, then a spark of His conscience is still shining.

Juxtaposing these two ideas, that one is partaking of the motherly giving of life and the other is a sad but needed partaking of the removal of life, it would seem to be mean indeed to mix them. A cheeseburger is tasty, but it is worth putting the product of the animals sharing their life with us together with the product of their death? I can see where this command would be given.

However, does a totally meat and animal-free soy product, put with another similar product, despite being textured and made to taste like the former thing, do the same injustice to the animal? I don't see it that way. Evidently, neither do various rabbis who sign off on the certification of many many soy, rice, and other foods that mimic but do not actually become the more seriously taken and rigorously regulated meat and milk products.

I sometimes cry for the collision between my physical needs and my spiritual desires. I would like the Hippocratic Oath of doctors do no harm but I would also live. The meat at McDonald's was going to go for nothing if I didn't eat it. The animal is already dead, let it not be in vain. Then again, my doing business there only gave them one more meal's income worth of incentive to kill another cow or another chicken. G-d, what have I done? How do I not starve to death? How do I live with myself?

Instead I pray that what I am feeling in the world now is true and really happening. A move towards sustainable cruelty free plant-based diets and away from the killing or abuse of any animal. I pray that we are entering a new age where soon there will be nothing kosher about any product that came from the pain and suffering of any animal, and where we become by the elimination of those cruelties more worthy of drinking their milk. I pray for the patience that I might not go insane with the frustration of being stuck between the regretted past and the desired future.

Please G-d. Please let it be soon. In the meantime, thank you for so much healthy food being approved for consumption by the rabbis and thank you for making it seemingly not coincidentally much better for my body than I ate before. No more meat digestion issues, no more lactose intolerance (I know You mean well G-d and weren't trying to hurt me through disenfranchisement at the ice cream place). So many things are getting better for me now. Help me keep going away from where I've been to where I should and must be.

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