יום שלישי, יולי 10, 2007



Please visit my new site:


I will keep all the old posts up here, at least for now. But they are also at the new site, in a much more navigable format.

New posts will be seen only at the new site.

If you have been so kind as to link to me, please change the link on your site.

יום ראשון, יולי 08, 2007


Eco-Kashrut: Is it "Eco" and Kosher or is "Eco" the new Kosher?

Saturday's Washington Post ran an article about the concept of eco-kashrut and growing interest in eating foods that are produced in a way that meets Jewish ethical standards, e.g., respectful of the environment, avoiding cruelty to animals, and with responsible labor standards--sustaining ourselves sustainably, as I like to say.

The story notes that:

the most dramatic expansion of eco-kosher principles is likely to come in the next few years as Conservative rabbis and congregations, which occupy the middle ground between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, create a new ethical standard for food production.

What remains unclear to me is whether its advocates think of eco-kashrut as an add-on to conventional kashrut ("eco" and kosher), or as an alternative to it (ecological responsibility as the new kosher). The WashPost notes that:

The Conservative seal of approval will not be based on traditional kosher requirements, such as separating meat from dairy products, avoiding pork and shellfish, and slaughtering animals with a sharp knife across the throat.

That sounds like eco-kosher as the new kosher to me. Yet just a bit later, the article quotes a rabbi as speaking of eco-kashrut as an add-on:

We do believe that most Jews, if given a choice between 'This item is kosher' and 'This item is kosher and also was produced by a company that respects its workers and the environment,' that most Jews will choose the latter.

Obviously, we are a long way from an agreed upon definition. But I would guess that the Jews who are most likely to be attracted to an "eco-kashrut" concept are progressive Jews, who just happen also those least likely to adhere to conventional kashrut. (According to the story, only about 15% of US Jews keep kosher.) If so, then doesn't a concept of eco-kashrut as alternative hold more promise?

Thanks to jewschool for the pointer and discussion.

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Live Earth and Shabbat

The following is excerpted from TreeHugger. It is posted from Israel by Karin Kloosterman, who notes she has "mixed feelings" about the Live Earth concerts:

today [6 July] there was a green expo and market at Rabin Square promoting organic food and clothing; ecological movies, shows for kids and a yoga workshop in Tel Aviv. And tomorrow from 6 to 11 pm will be a large screen set up at Rabin Square to broadcast the [Live Earth concert] event live from Channel 10. [...]

Why the mixed feelings? The concert is going to start broadcasting during the Sabbath. And in a way, the Sabbath in Israel offers a 24+ hour period reprieve for nature from man’s material demands. Observant Jews park their cars, turn off the electrical appliances, refrain from working, plowing the fields; and they give their animals rest too. Studies of air pollution levels in Israel decrease dramatically from the Friday night to sundown Saturday night, making us wonder why green groups throughout Israel don’t use Shabbat for their own environmental agenda?

Excellent question, Karin.

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יום שני, יולי 02, 2007


The full moon of Tammuz

This was posted on Sunday and I confirmed that the photo appeared. Then it is gone for some reason. And when I try to edit the post to bring the photo back, stupid Blogger insists on changing the date of the post. Improvements (i.e. change of blogging software) coming soon...

Over one of the Washingtonia palms just in front of the house, at about 10:00 p.m. on Shabbat eve of 14 Tammuz, the full moon that marks the brightest 24-hour period due to its close proximity to the summer solstice.1

Full Moon of Tammuz

The contrast between the bright moon and the otherwise dark sky is a bit of a challenge for my digital camera, but the effect nonetheless conveys just how bright the moon was. It is pretty much the only source of light in the photo, though there is some illumination from a light in the house and other lights visible along the canyon below.

As I discussed in the previous summer-solstice post, it is striking that of the four major seasonal sun-earth events, the summer solstice is the one at which there is no Jewish festival tied to the corresponding moon cycle.2 In that entry, I suggested a reason for there not being one: unlike the other seasons, this time of year threatens few pagan-temptation problems for an ancient agricultural society's monotheism. There is, in a Mediterranean climate, almost no risk of major storms or other natural phenomena that might tempt the people to pay homage to pagan gods. And, while I am confident that the lack of such temptation is correct, I must say that I am puzzled by the references in the Book of Joshua, right near the striking passage about the sun standing still (10:12-13), to hail stones and to a flooded Jordan, the flow of which must be stopped in order for the people to cross. Both of these references imply a sudden storm, very much out of season for events that tradition claims happened around this time of year.3 (Biblical scholars, help me out here!)

As I noted, there are some modern efforts to establish a Jewish summer-solstice ritual (and some similar interest among some Christians as well; see links in previous entry). However, those efforts that I know of all place the proposed rituals on the solstice itself. Given the lunar timing of all the other holidays, such a proposal seems, well, pagan. Any such rituals (and I will leave to others what they might be) should occur or climax on the evening depicted here: the full moon of Tammuz, the period of maximum day and night light.

1. There are years in which the full moon closest to the summer solstice would be that of Sivan. Next year will be one such year, as was 2005.

2. That is, there is Chanukah, timed for the waning moon closest to the winter solstice; Pesach, timed for the full moon of spring; and the High Holy Days, which begin with the new moon closest to the autumnal equinox and continue through to the week-long festival of Sukkot, which begins with the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. By occurring on Shabbat, the full moon of Tammuz joined Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and Chanukah, which all occurred on or began on Shabbat in 5767.

3. The battles depicted therein probably never happened at all. That's not the point. The book was written after the settlement in the Land of Israel to interpret the past in a way consistent with the now-settled national narrative. If it was intended to be understood that these events happened in summer, a hail storm and flooded river are rather out of context. The commentaries I have looked at do not address this, to my satisfaction, although there is perhaps a literature I have yet to locate.

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