Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Moses Put Jews on a Diet

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                  

The 5 Books of Moses are the first books in the "Old Testament" or as we call it in Hebrew, the Tanakh.  They are Genesis, Exodus,  Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  In Leviticus, Chapter 11 and in Deuteronomy, Chapter 14:2-21 are the list of animals that Moses told us we could eat and not eat.  From not getting all we'd like in the 400 years spent in slavery in Egypt, immediately after giving us the 10 Commandments, we were put on this diet.  Our dietary laws are called "Kashrut."  It means the fit and proper foods and being in accordance with our religious law.
Kosher Foods Meats: Only animals that have: the following 2 qualifications, and they must do both. 1. cloven /split hoofs--divided into 2 parts (the foot of the cow or sheep) 2. chew their cud. -this is food brought back up into their mouth from their 1st stomach to be chewed again. We also eat just certain sections of the animal. Those parts with any blood or large veins are not acceptable, like the parts for rib or T Bone steaks unless the large vein is removed. .
No: camel, horse, pig, rabbit or rock badger. Yes: Ox, sheep, cattle (cows), goats, deer.
Fish: Must have: 1. fins 2. scales No: lobsters, oysters, shrimp, clams, crabs (shellfish) Swordfish, sturgeon
Birds: Yes: chicken, turkey, geese, ducks, doves No: birds of prey like the : Eagles, Vultures, ravens, hawks, owls, ostriches, pelicans, storks, herons, etc.
No: Amphibian creatures and insects- no snakes, rats, mice, lizards, eels, snails, ants,
Milk: Only from kosher animals. Goat milk, cows are the usual.
No: eggs from a non Kosher animal
No: milk from a non kosher animal-like camel milk No: oil from a non kosher fish
Yes: honey
Any food known to be harmful to health must not be eaten even if permitted under the kosher law. So if you are allergic to a food, you are not to eat it even if it comes from a kosher animal.
No: an animal that died a natural death No: blood-even if it comes from a kosher animal, except fish blood. Yes: an animal that was slaughtered according to the law-cut the throat to cause instant death.
The directions for the killing of a kosher animal were given to us through the Oral Torah. This does not include fish. Fish of the sea is to be gathered and this is found in Numbers 11:22.  
Meat and fowl are animals kept in flocks and herds, not running around wild. They are to be slaughtered in the most humane way. It's designed to cause the least pain to the animal and to remove as much blood as possible because we are not to eat any blood. To make doubly sure we're not eating blood, meat has to be koshered first by soaking it in water and by salting.
The man whose job it is to do this is called the Shohet, and he knows how to cause consciousness immediately, within 2 seconds. This also ensures a complete and rapid draining of the blood from the animal. Part of his requirements is that he must be a pious person who has passed the test about all this which is found in a book called the Shulhan Arukh that has all the rules and regulations in it. He is knowledgeable like a veterinarian about the body of the animal so he can make sure that the animal was healthy. Then he receives a certificate by rabbinic authorities to work as a Shohet. So this goes back to our traditions as told in Deuteronomy 12:21 with details in the Talmud and codified in the Shulhan Arukh.
In 3 separate sections; Exodus 23:19, 34:26; and Deuteronomy 14:21, and the Oral Torah, we are told:
You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk." A kid is a young goat. It also means the young of the kosher animals that are fit to eat. This is referring to the recipe. It means you do not cook meat and milk together nor do you eat them together. No cheeseburgers. Not one drop of the fat from the meat is to be mixed into any milk dish, either. To make sure we follow this rule, it includes fowl, like chicken, as well. No chicken and milk dishes, and I can think of plenty in our American diets.
Have you ever put some bit of meat and milk on a petri dish and watch the results? That similar event can happen in our stomachs, so we don't let the 2 get together there, either, even if they're not cooked together. So we let a time period go by after eating meat before we eat a dairy product. An acceptable practice is to wait from 3 hours to a 6 hour waiting period. This allows time for the deterioration of the fatty residue which clings to the palate and does not easily rinse out, and the meat particles lodged in the crevices of the teeth must be gone. Considering this, it's a good thing to brush one's teeth after eating, and even better if you have an electric toothbrush.

My Challah, special hand-made bread without milk for a Friday night chicken dinner
But, if you eat a dairy product such as ice cream, you can rinse out your mouth with water, eat a bit of bread such as pita or a bagel and then have your meat meal. This is because dairy products don't have all the fat that meat has nor does it get in between your teeth. If someone is ill, or for small children, the waiting period should be shortened to 1 hour.
Some foods are do not contain meat nor dairy, and they are called parev. This would include vegetables and fruits. We watch how bread is made. If there's some milk in it, it is to be eaten only with a milk meal, or noshed on alone. So we wouldn't serve ice cream for dessert after a steak dinner.
The reasoning for not mixing meat and milk is that we are teaching our people to be sensitive to animals and people's feelings. Cooking goat meat in its mother's milk is just not right. It is an affront to the mother goat. Here she gave us her milk in the milking process and what did we do with it? Kill her baby goat and then cook it in her milk! The picture that looms in my mind is one of shock and sadness. Animals have feelings internally as well as externally, just like we do.
The whole process of keeping kosher and eating this way is to remind us of who we are and what our duties are and how we are not to melt into society and forget. It only takes a generation to do that. We've been maintaining this ritual for over 3,000 years, ever since Moses.
People that would were trying to cause us problems would try to force us to eat meat of a pig as a way make us deny our faith. Many people became unhappy martyrs who suffered death in resistance. It was something the Nazis tried to do to my uncle in Germany in 1939.
These are not laws for health. This is in order to teach our values and moral-ethical sensitivity. Quite often Jews have become vegetarians or even vegans in the process. This diet is to influence the character of a people. I think it's done a pretty good job.
Resource: To Be a Jew, a guide to Jewish Observance in contemporary Life from the chapter, The Dietary Laws: A Diet for the Soul. by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin

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