Holy Mackerel – and Other Kosher Animals: Shemini 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do we always need to have a reason to do things? Do we have the luxury to periodically do things (or not do things) “just because”? Or is life too short for that?

Not that imitating God is an unworthy proposition, but the reasons why some food is permitted and others aren’t obvious at first glance:

The Pitch: “For I the Lord am He who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God: you shall be holy, for I am holy.” – Leviticus 11:45

Swing #1: “The biblical food laws are, like circumcision, reminders of God’s covenant with Israel. … To be holy with respect to food means to eat what is allowed and to abstain from what is prohibited. As the anthropologist Mary Douglas demonstrated in her classic essay, ‘The Abominations of Leviticus,’ the biblical food laws have to do with boundaries – cultural, theological, and conceptual.” – Ronald Hendel, Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible

Swing #2: “There are norms stated as imperatives whose violation would seem to entail no immediate danger to society. … This is not to deny that these laws made sense in terms of the society in which they emerged and were alive; they did. They undoubtedly seem more mysterious to us than they did to biblical Israel.” – Jon D. Levenson, Sinai & Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible

Swing #3: “It is for this reason that I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, on condition that you accept upon yourselves the yoke of commandments. For all who accept the yoke of commandments acknowledge the exodus from Egypt, and all who do not accept the yoke of commandments deny the exodus from Egypt.” – Sifra

Late-Inning Questions: How do our commentators understand the reasons for permitted and forbidden foods? Why is it considered one of the ultimate signs of accepting God’s covenant? How do our meals enable us to feel more Godly?

On-Deck at TBT: We look forward to another Passover drive-up event on Sunday, April 10th. Bring us some food for donations and we’ll give you a bag filled with Passover goodies! Stay tuned for more details.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of inexplicable rules, I cannot for the life of me understand why MLB has restored the rule of starting each half-inning after the 9th inning with a runner on second base. While I’m in favor of numerous rule changes to speed up the game, this one feels so gimmicky that it threatens the integrity of these tightly-contested games.

Shabbat Shalom!