Food and Judaism


Why should I care?

-------- MIDRASH BREISHIT RABBAH, 13:3 --------------------------------------- Translation Original Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said: Three things are equally important: earth, humanity, and dew. Rabbi Levi bar Chiya said: These three terms are each composed of three letters to teach that without the earth there is no dew, without the dew there is no earth, and without them both there is no humanity. [Translation by AJWS] אר"ש בן יוחאי ג' דברים שקולין זה כזה, ואלו הן ארץ ואדם ומטר, א"ר לוי בר חייא ושלשתן מג' אותיות, ללמדך שאם אין ארץ אין מטר ואם אין מטר אין ארץ, ואם אין שניהם אין אדם. .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1) Why does Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai say that humanity, earth, and dew are equal? 2) How does Rabbi Levi support this thesis? What does he add? 3) What might this text teach us about how humans are connected to each other?  How does that influence how you want to relate to the earth and the dew?

-------- KEDUSHAT LEVI ON PARSHAT NOACH -------------------------------------- Translation Original The verse which states "Take for yourself from all that is edible" is said in the language that implies one who feeds others. This is explained in the Midrash which states, "The woman that was given to me gave me (fruit) from the tree (and I eat)." The past tense, I ate, was not used in the verse. The Midrash teaches a general rule that through eating,a Jew eats in the manner of fixing the flaw of Adam HaRishon that was made through his eating. This fixing is done by way of the mitzvot that Jews do when eating, which are blessings said of one's food and other blessings said in regards to food before consumption. Therefore, the reason why the verse says "I eat" and not "I ate" implies that an element of Adam's original eating continues to this day. Thus through the consciousness of our eating, we can repair that which was flawed before. הכלל, כי באכילה שאדם מישראל אוכל מתקן הפגם של אדם הראשון שפגם באכילה, דהיינו על ידי מצות שישראל עושים באכילה, הן בברכה על האכילה, הן בשאר מצוה שישראל עושים בהמאכל קודם האכילה, בבשר שחיטה ומליחה, ובכל מאכל יש מצות, מתקן הפגם של אדם הראשון. ובזה מבואר, 'ואוכל אכלתי לא נאמר אלא אכלתי ואוכל עוד', כלומר בזה שאוכל עוד, על ידי מצות, יתוקן מה שפגמתי. .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1) What might it mean that Adam HaRishon's sin of eating continues today?  Can you think of ways of eating or certain foods that feel wrong/sinful/unethical? 2) What might it mean to eat in a way that corrects past environmental or ethical sins? 3) How does this text impact your "eating consciousness?"

-------- BLU GREENBERG, HOW TO RUN A TRADITIONAL JEWISH HOUSEHOLD, (NEW YORK: SIMON & SCHUSTER, INC., FIRST FIRESIDE, 1985), P. 117-118. ---------- Translation Original   I believe that the purpose of kashrut is to make eating a special experience and to serve as a reminder of a Jew's ethical conscience as well as of the other unique teachings of Judaism. To me, distinctiveness and not separation is the Jew's calling. This feeling is possible in the presence of non-observant Jews and of non-Jews. The values of friendship, human solidarity, and socializing are highly esteemed Jewish values; making a living and exchanging professional service (sometimes performed over a meal) also are respected in Jewish culture. One of the great qualities of the Jewish tradition is its ability to balance contradictions- idealism and realism, Jewish particularism and unusual concern for humanity. Similarly, in the act of eating, one can strike that balance between fidelity to one's own principles and shared friendship and respectful contact with others. .... Suggested Discussion Questions Does this philosophy resonate with you? What social justice themes emerge from this text?

-------- BABYLONIAN TALMUD, YOMA 69B ----------------------------------------- Translation Original They [the Rabbis] said: Since this is a time of divine grace, let us pray for mercy from the evil inclination. They prayed for mercy, and it [the evil inclination] was handed over to them. It said to them: Realize that if you kill me, the world will be destroyed. They imprisoned it for three days, then looked in the whole land of Israel for a fresh egg and could not find one. [Soncino translation. Edited for gender neutrality] אמרו: הואיל ועת רצון הוא נבעי רחמי איצרא דעבירה. בעו רחמי ואמסר בידייהו. אמר להו: חזו דאי קטליתו ליה לההוא - כליא עלמא. חבשוהו תלתא יומי, ובעו ביעתא בת יומא בכל ארץ ישראל ולא אשתכח .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. In this text, the rabbis attempt to trap the evil inclination that exists in each person. What happens when they succeed? 2. Why were the rabbis unable to find a fresh egg after three days? 3. What does this text teach us about our human nature and what motivates us to create?

-------- BABYLONIAN TALMUD, BRACHOT 5B --------------------------------------- Translation Original R. Chiya b. Abba fell ill and R. Johanan went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him. R. Johanan once fell ill and R. Hanina went in to visit him. He said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand. He gave him his hand and he raised him. Why could not R. Johanan raise himself? — They replied: The prisoner cannot free himself from jail. R. Eleazar fell ill and R. Johanan went in to visit him. He noticed that he was lying in a dark room, and he bared his arm and light radiated from it. Thereupon he noticed that R. Eleazar was weeping, and he said to him: Why do you weep? Is it because you did not study enough Torah? Surely we learnt: The one who sacrifices much and the one who sacrifices little have the same merit, provided that the heart is directed to heaven. Is it perhaps lack of sustenance? Not everybody has the privilege to enjoy two tables. Is it perhaps because of [the lack of] children? This is the bone of my tenth son! — He replied to him: I am weeping on account of this beauty that is going to rot in the earth. He said to him: On that account you surely have a reason to weep; and they both wept. In the meanwhile he said to him: Are your sufferings welcome to you? — He replied: Neither they nor their reward. He said to him: Give me your hand, and he gave him his hand and he raised him. [Soncino translation] רבי חייא בר אבא חלש, על לגביה רבי יוחנן. אמר ליה: חביבין עליך יסורין? אמר ליה: לא הן ולא שכרן. אמר ליה: הב לי ידך! יהב ליה ידיה ואוקמיה. רבי יוחנן חלש, על לגביה רבי חנינא. אמר ליה: חביבין עליך יסורין? אמר ליה: לא הן ולא שכרן. אמר ליה: הב לי ידך! יהב ליה ידיה ואוקמיה. אמאי? לוקים רבי יוחנן לנפשיה! - אמרי: אין חבוש מתיר עצמו מבית האסורים. - רבי אלעזר חלש, על לגביה רבי יוחנן. חזא דהוה קא גני בבית אפל, גלייה לדרעיה ונפל נהורא. חזייה דהוה קא בכי רבי אלעזר. אמר ליה: אמאי קא בכית? אי משום תורה דלא אפשת - שנינו: אחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט ובלבד שיכוין לבו לשמים! ואי משום מזוני - לא כל אדם זוכה לשתי שלחנות! ואי משום בני - דין גרמא דעשיראה ביר. אמר ליה: להאי שופרא דבלי בעפרא קא בכינא. אמר ליה: על דא ודאי קא בכית, ובכו תרוייהו. אדהכי והכי, אמר ליה: חביבין עליך יסורין? אמר ליה: לא הן ולא שכרן. אמר ליה: הב לי ידך, יהב ליה ידיה ואוקמיה. .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. Who are the players in this text – seen and unseen? 2. According to this text, what are the measures of a well-lived life? 3. What social justice themes emerge from this text?

-------- PSALMS 146:7-9 ------------------------------------------------------ Translation Original Who secures justice for those who are wronged, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free; The LORD restores sight to the blind; the LORD makes those who are bent stand straight; the LORD loves the righteous; The LORD watches over the stranger; He gives courage to the orphan [JPS translation [1]] עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט לָעֲשׁוּקִים נֹתֵן לֶחֶם לָרְעֵבִים ה' מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים: ה' פֹּקֵחַ עִוְרִים ה' זֹקֵף כְּפוּפִים ה' אֹהֵב צַדִּיקִים: ה' שֹׁמֵר אֶת גֵּרִים יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה יְעוֹדֵד וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים יְעַוֵּת: .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. Why is it important to list these attributes of God? 2. How can we seek to emulate these attributes? [1]

-------- BABYLONIANTALMUD, SANHEDRIN 95A ------------------------------------- Translation Original Why did not David pronounce it himself [instead of Avishai]? — Because ‘a prisoner cannot free themselves from prison.' [Soncino translation] ונימא ליה איהו! - אין חבוש מוציא עצמו מבית האסורין .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. What does this text teach us about relationship to those who are trapped by circumstances? 2. How can we ally ourselves with people who are trapped? 3. What does this text teach us about empowerment?

-------- ISAIAH 42: 6-7 ------------------------------------------------------ Translation Original I the Lord, in My grace, have summoned you, And I have grasped you by the hand. I created you, and appointed you A covenant-people, a light of nations- Opening eyes deprived of light, Rescuing prisoners from confinement, From the dungeons those who sit in the darkness. אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק, וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ; וְאֶצָּרְךָ, וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם--לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם לִפְקֹחַ, עֵינַיִם עִוְרוֹת; לְהוֹצִיא מִמַּסְגֵּר אַסִּיר, מִבֵּית כֶּלֶא יֹשְׁבֵי חֹשֶׁךְ .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. What is God's relationship to the Jewish people? 2. What obligations come as a result of that relationship? 3. To whom does the obligation extend?