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April 20, 1990 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-04-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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MALTER FURS

AT
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Some say that next to the
observance of the Sabbath,
the observance of the dietary
laws differentiated Jews from
all other peoples. Holiness is
the aim of the dietary laws,
not physical health or moral
well-being. Outward consecra-
tion was symbolically ex-
pressing an inner sanctity of
being a holy people, a light in
the darkness of the world
about the Jewish people.
In the days of the Mac-
cabees, the dietary laws were
highly controversial.
Followers of Greek culture
sneered at the distinctive
Jewish observances, especial-
ly the one forbidding the
eating of pork. The Book of
Maccabees tells how the
Syrians sought to force an ag-
ed man to set a public exam-
ple' by eating pork; he refus-
ed and died as a martyr.
The Torah does not explain
the dietary laws, nor do the
rabbis of Talmud attempt to
find rational explanations for
them. They were simply ac-
cepted because it was written
in the Torah, "You shall be
holy unto Me, therefore you
shall not eat any flesh that is
torn of beasts in the field,"
and again in Leviticus,
"Sanctify yourselves there-
fore and be ye holy, for I am
holy. Neither shall ye defile
yourselves with any manner
of swarming things that move
upon the earth."
Clearly the motivation is,
as the Torah says, "I have set
you apart from the peoples
that you should be Mine." To
be separate, to be distinctive,
to be unique and to have lit-
tle to do with surrounding
people was, then, the effect of
the dietary laws.
Today, Orthodoxy upholds
the necessity of observing
dietary laws. Kashrut is the
will of God. No additional ex-
planations are needed. Con-
servative Judaism likewise
upholds kashrut, but em-
phasizes it as a means of in-
culcating Jewish distinc-
tiveness and strengthening
Jewish unity. Reform
Judaism does not believe
religion is primarily concern-
ed with kitchen Judaism or
with eating habits. In the
United States, Reform
Judaism generally disregards
the observance of the dietary
laws.
Food and diet are on the
minds of many today. The
laws of kashrut reveal the an-
cient Jewish quest for achiev-
ing holiness through what we
eat or do not eat. ❑

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

53

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