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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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GENESIS — 1:29 food

Concern for minimizing or avoiding pain to animals (tza’ar ba’aley hayim) underlies many regulations regarding kosher slaughtering.  This concern may lead some people to become vegetarians.  The book of Genesis suggests this in the Garden of Eden story, where Adam and Eve live in an ideal state as vegetarians.  Maimonides, the medieval commentator, made the same point but, recognizing the long history of eating meat embodies in the practice of kashrut embedded in the halakha, acknowledged that becoming vegetarian is out of the question for most people.  From this perspective the laws of kashrut, which permit meat to be eaten but only under specific conditions, represents a compromise.  That is why some commentators suggest that in messianic days everyone will be a vegetarian. Some contemporary Jews consciously elect vegetarianism as their form of kashrut.  This reflects a concern not only with tza’ar ba’aley hayim, but also with issues of consumption and concern for the environment (haganat hateva) since vegetarians use fewer natural resources.  The production of meat consumes many times more resources than the production of an equally nutritious amount of vegetarian food.  [A whole pound of tofu has the same environmental impact as just an ounce of beef! Greenhouse gas emission, water table depletion, pesticide use—all are markedly higher for the production of meat than for the production of dairy products (although the production of dairy and egg products, in turn, is still more environmentally damaging than the production of food for a vegan diet).] This is of particular concern since resources are so unevenly distributed in our world.  Vegetarians also have the advantage of needing only one set of dishes and cooking utensils.  Since poultry production is less than that of beef, pork or mutton, and since people have less empathy for non-mammals, some Jews compromise by limiting their meat consumption to kosher poultry, which is available in many supermarkets.  People with this concern also tend to buy products with a minimum of wasteful packaging (bal tash’hit) avoiding waste.  Attending to environmental concerns when deciding what to eat has become known as eco-kashrut, which adds the consideration of environmental damage, such as waste and pollution, to traditional concerns.  Some people add the working conditions of those involved in food production to the list of eco-kashrut concerns.  AGTJL 524-7

GENESIS — 1:29 food

R. Yehudah said in the name of Rav: “Animal flesh was not permitted to Adam, as it is written: ‘It [vegetation] will be for you to eat and for all the animals of the earth’ – but the animals of the earth will not be food for you.  And though it is written Genesis 1:28: ‘And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth,’ the “dominion” in question is in respect to work” Sanhedrin 59b. TEMIMAH-GEN 12

GENESIS — 1:29 food

Surrounded by an endless variety of edible plant life [this verse], Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden by G-d, to till and to tend Genesis 2:15, to work in the Garden, and to be shomrei adadah, “guardians of the earth.”  Life was easy in Eden, for everywhere they looked food was readily at hand, every tree pleasing to the sight and good for food Genesis 2:9.  Today, however, how ironic it is that we too are surrounded by food, but we have lost our sense of kesher, our connection to the food, to the land, and to our Creator. … Even when we think about healthy eating, we reduce food to proteins and carbohydrates, vitamins and mineral fiber and fat.  We label our food as good or bad.  Food is more than a combination of chemicals that taken in the right doses keeps us alive.  Food, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. The food we eat sustains us, nourishes us, and connects us to each other to the earth, and to the Creator of the earth.  Food is to be enjoyed and savored.  If we have no kesher to our food, we are even farther from a sense of kesher to the land. We do not know the sources of our food, how our food is grown, where it is grown, how it is harvested or the ramifications of those choices.  We do not understand that the cultivation of what we eat can actually be destructive to the fertility and the sustainability of the land.  This destruction of essential resources is an unnecessary waste that the biblical and rabbinical literature would call bal tashchit.  SACTAB 173-4

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