Tuesday, September 23, 2008

News and Information: Your Not-so-Daily Dose.

A couple interesting things to write about/share. Some news, some not, but all educationally fascinating.

+ I think I'll leave any and all comments on the new GLBT siddur that is in the works to the write-up FrumSatire did over on his blog . I'll be honest: I'm incredibly liberal, but some of the new prayers in the siddur make ME uncomfortable. Just check out the blog. Prayers for unexpected intimacy? You'll catch my drift.

+ I have failed miserably at preparing anything coherent to share about the upcoming new year -- Rosh Hashanah -- leading us into 5769. Luckily, other people are way ahead of me on this. Who, you ask? Well, Ilana-Davita posted up some information last week that you can find here , and she also linked to Leora's blog , which also has some outstanding information about various food symbols for the new year, not to mention a beautiful piece of art. Then there is Jew Wishes who has one heckuva comprehensive list of websites for the High Holy Days, not to mention a suggested list of books to pick up. But I promise to have something. I need to have something. I am starting off 5769 as a graduate student, with a boyfriend, in a new state, far away from just about everything I was and knew at this point last year. I have sort of become a new person. I'm miles away from my hashkafah of a year ago, not to mention miles physically and emotionally away from who I was. It will be an interesting start, I think.

+ Over the weekend Evan and I were debating the details of kashrut and why chicken is considered meat and fish isn't. To be honest, I'd never thought about the whole issue of why fish is parve, but he got me thinking. I've been doing the vegetarian thing (okay, I faltered on Sunday ONCE and had some buffalo chicken wing/ball things while watching the Patriots game), mostly because I'm torn about the whole kashurt and interpretation of the meat/milk law as being ALL dairy and ALL meat (except fish, you know, since it's parve). Being a vegetarian is my effort to move in that direction, though there are a boatload of other reasons why, and I'll post more on that after I collect my thoughts and do some reading (hat tip to A Simple Jew for some thoughtful links).  So back to the point: Fish is parve, which means it's neither dairy nor meat, so it can be eaten with anything and this makes Jews stoked because it opens up the options for protein with a dairy meal. Thus, after some exhaustive searching on my Blackberry, I came across the website for Beth Tzedec (a Toronto congregation) with an interesting and thoughtful discussion of the issue. The question posed was: "The Torah tells us not to seethe the kid in its mother's milk. A chicken does not have mother's milk. Why isn't chicken parve like fish?" And the answer by Rav Roy Tanenbaum:
The answer to your question illustrates how laypeople help to determine the scope of Jewish law. The Talmudic sages were of course aware of the fact that chickens do not have mothers' milk. But before establishing the category of chicken, they wanted to know how the average person in the street uses language. So they [asked] ... the following questions: "If you sent a servant to the market to buy meat and he came back with fish, what would your reaction be? Alternatively, if he came back with chicken, what would your reaction be?"
The scholars learned that most people of the time included chicken in their normal understandaing of the word "meat" whereas they did not include fish. This is still true today as illustrated in the fact that when we wish to exclude chicken we have to use the term "red meat."
So to avoid confusion among the masses of people, the sages incorporated chicken under the halakha of meat.
So what can I say? It comes back to making things easier and less confusing, but at least I now have an explanation.

+ I'm adding several books to my Amazon Wish List (feel free to shower me with gifts at any time), though mostly as a reminder to read them at some point, not necessarily to procur, considering my reading list is quite heavy as is. The first is a new book by Brandeis Professor Jonathan Sarna (yes, you guessed it, his father is Nahum Sarna, whose books I have been reading for class) about the American Jewish experience, but more importantly about renewing the Jewish experience both ritually and religiously. The book is "A Time to Every Purpose: Letters to a Young Jew ," and you'll note that the title is taken from Qohelet! I'm also throwing on David Sears' "The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism ." And lastly, thanks to Jew Wishes , I'm throwing on Elie Wiesel's "Legends of Our Time ."