Monday, October 12, 2009

Paleodiet and Animal Consumption II
From a post on the UTJ listserv earlier this year;

"The Rav said: The precepts were given only in order that man might be refined by them. For what does the Holy One, blessed be He, care whether a man kills an animal by the throat or by the nape of the neck?"
--from Genesis Rabbah 44:1 as found on page 39 of "Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages" by Theodore L. Steinberg.

From this I take it that the killing of an animal is meaningless. What is important is how the character of a man is shaped when he does it. That was my impression. I am willing to be corrected.

My initial response to the brief exchange;

I've been following this discussion, I'm not responding to anyone on particular. I grew up in Appalachia, hunting was quite common. Using the phrase "hunting for sport" would have earned you a "Mah zeh?" facial expression and a "You mean going on Safari, in Africa?...".

Hunting is a big investment of time, money and energy, and just getting some antlers or a head is simply not worth all that effort. I asked a chassidic rabbi about hunting once, and he was clear that from his perspective there was no issur in it inherently (let alone what sort of 'middot' in fosters), as long as benefit was derived from the taking of the animals life - and this would be especially so for a gentile, who is permitted to consume the meat (even possibly halachically, as pe Ever Min haHai). He seemed to have a clear consciousness of life relying on death, plain and simple (or maybe it's the fur shtreimels and spodeks they wear..). The kinds of weapons (razor-sharp arrowheads and high caliber, mushrooming bullets), are literally designed to cause as much swift bloodloss as possible, all to the end of shortening the 'dying' of the animal. I eavesdropped once on a hunting class where the teacher was specifically talking about these attributes, emphasising the point of shortening the suffering. And they've lived a natural, predator/prey existence until the point they're taken...been in a slaughterhouse laterly?

I think the attitude that hunting AS SUCH fosters 'bad middot' (or reading R. Landau's "hunting for sport" as simply "hunting") is, I'm sorry, complete narishkeit compared to the dehumanization fostered by the mechanical, agribusiness mass carnage approach we get most of our 'kosher' meat from, let alone so much dehumanizing that comes with 'modern' existence [at the time I hadn't read R. Landau's tshuva, where he clearly is against hunting as such; my language would definitely have been different had I been clear on this - though I definitely the hunting endeavor has definitely changed since the place and time of which he wrote]. And I believe rabbis of 200 years ago would probably agree, if they could see the degree to which we've manipulated and industrialized the living, breathing world around us. These animals have literally be bred and chemically modified to be muscle-bound, docile and slow-witted, or with dairy cows, chronically pregnant for better milk-bearing - herded through some of the most profoundly disgusting and smell factory settings you can imagine. At the other end of the process, there's scarcely an indication that a living animal was even involved; nicely package in plastic wrap or cartons, etc, etc.

We're so removed from the fact that life requires death one way or another - and we call such ignorance "being civilized".

I have not known people, personally, who hunted regularly who were not very serious, conscious and respectful about what they do. they know full well that they are using deadly weapons and that they are taking a life - unlike many of the people who spend money for OTHERS to KNOW THE HALACHOT, to do the shechting, plucking, salting, etc...virtually ALL of which Alter-Alter-Zeyde probably did out of simple workaday life.

A response from a rabbinic list member (my emph);

My yore deiah rebbe was a schochet himself. He was both a legalist and a spiritualist. He said that the long ritual o schechita was partially to sensitise the slaughterer to the issues of life and death. Each kill should be done consciously and judiciously [the exacting terminology of "clean kill" and "fair chase" hunting].

30 years ago he decried the assembly line slaughter of meat and chickens as not complying with the spirit of the law; and the ensuing numbness of the hands during the course of each shift violated the letter of the law too since a very sensitive feel is a prerequsite for a schochet to be aware that he has complied with the law.

Bottom line, he would concur with pierre (imho) that today's agribusiness is a complete abuse of the kosher slaughtering law. As ramban would put it, disgusting within the confines of Torah.

We have gotten away from nature and we are paying a high price.

I'll bet the rabbis of old and the native amerindians would find a lot of common ground concerning nature and respect for life and the ecology of producing meat for consumption. iow do slaughter and do eat meat but do it judiciously.

I responded;

I had a fantastic story in an email about R. Shlomo Aviner who was consulted about whether or not a certain product was kosher based on the heksher. He said in the letter than all supervision should be assumed to be kosher. Obviously, not because all supervision is adequate for one's give hashgafa - but because it is very inappropriate to say that the supervisors under that hashgacha are falsifiers, etc. I will try to find the email.

My main point in mentioning hunting as I did is, I think it's fair to say that many people do find themselves divorced from the processes of halacha, the processes of the natural world, etc (and not just modern condition or existential angst), such that people can really live radically divided lives; going to ivy-league law schools and denying non-Torah laws as merely baseless and arbitrary; going to medical school and denying fundamental principles of biology, etc, etc. And the affluence that comes with certain segments of the charedi community entering these professions is it's own mess. How people can spend years in yeshiva and have no working knowledge of Hebrew is something that's come up in the educational sphere that was terrifying to me. But it's one of many realities about the Jewish world that are terrifying. James Howard Kunstler recently wrote "The long Emergency; Surviving the converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century". The Jewish world is experiencing some of it's own converging catastrophes, and as with the general world experiencing climate change [or not], economic crisis [or not], peak oil [or not], islamofacism [or not], we experience shidduchim crises [or not], abuse crises [or not], educational crises [or not]...naysayers all along the way from left, right and not on the 'spectrum'. I think, jewishly, the idea of a spectrum is the problem, and generally, mass civilisation the problem. Not that there's ever been any way to turn back...only turning.

A later followup when the rabbi respondant asked permission to post my hunting-related comments to his blog;

That people who even eat meat have such deep reaction against the "taking life" part of hunting was just one example of losing grasp of responsiblity, the limiting of engagement with the realities of life (i.e., at times death is necessary for our life), losing touch with or letting go of the awesome, defining awareness of protecting life, of making and crafting life individually and collectively, and at times taking life into your hands. I think of the manner in which HKBH stipulates exactingly about shechita, korbanot, statecraft, business, war - details! - not merely the *efficient* pat division of "ben adam l'Makom/l'Chavero", that has moderns acting and thinking merely in terms of 'ritually' and 'ethically', 'deed and creed', etc. I've blogged a bit recently about the diffusion of obligations and rights that are part of the Torah derech, and that consequences when people wave certain duties and privileges due to perceived or engineered notions of 'changing times' or "the evolution of human society".

In tanach as recently noted by R. Joshua Berman in "Created Equal" (a great book I can't push enough), there is enlightening comparison to be made between ancient suzerainty treaties and covenant in Torah. But in Torah there is a diffusion of duty and privilege between EACH individual Jew and HKBH - not between one king and a King. There are obligations made over all israel that in other texts are made only between certain individuals or certain groups; in Torah, the entire nation are to be priests, the entire nation are obligated in military service - and in the ancient-through-early modern world...these have been specific classes within hierarchical societies.

The pervasive mindset these Torah obligations COULD have created over millenia is very different from what evolved to be the 'modern' mindset of Professionals, of Experts, of specialization (the restraint on horses made on Shlomo HaMelekh being about a limit on the extent and nature of the military, which was to be largely a militia of the people for defending the land, not necessarily for charioting out to expand an empire) - where certain duties and knowledge that would seem to be incumbent on all reasonable human beings (self-preservation, responsibility for ones health and livelyhood, etc), are privileged information or privileged access to "experts". The fact that the following quote from sci fi author Robert Heinlein seems rather extravagant should give us pause for thought;

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort
the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations,
analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal,
fight efficiently, die gallantly."

I think it's not the content of his contention so much as the opening we have problems with; many of us have a real hard time cognating "A human being should" - and many people think we're more 'civilized' for not having that breadth and detail of perspective and experience that makes for real Common Knowledge. Many people think a "civilized" Jew should not know how to change his/her oil, or more seriously, use a firearm to defend oneself and family against immediate danger, as was a not infrequent reality in the recent past and present. This general 'point' could be made at the yeshiva world and the MO world. For all their learning, secular and religious, neither - or either - could be the nation mandated by Torah. Where the contemporary non-Jewish world grew enormously from Jewish ideas and often from the presence of Jews, Jewish national society doesn't seem to have actually evolved productively. I say this not because I think I can propose some "new Israelite" model, like R. Yuter might do. I say this because I'm scared, and I think in the relatively near future we're going to suffer the consequences of the smallness of mind and heart and hand, as 'civilized' humans and as Jews.

How far is a "nation of doctors/nation of lawyers/nation of programmers/nation of CPAs" - none of which are mandated in Torah - all of which are represented in the yeshivish/MO worlds...going to take us into the future? I might have mentioned before the piece "living in the shadow" from Nishma's Introspection. I think it's totally deadon and it should be a "must read" in this social/economic climate. Maybe R. Hecht could be confinced to post it as a special piece on Nishma's page. I think it's that important.


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