Is This Duck Kosher? It’s Complicated
January 8, 2019 10:55 AM   Subscribe

 
This has led some scholars to believe that the atalef is actually some variety of screech owl, or even—this is a serious argument that was seriously made—a platypus.

Listen if we're already operating under the assumption that a hedge on fire revealed the word of god to a guy in the desert then I don't see how you can say it's nonsense to propose that the existence of platypi was also similarly mentioned.


Those other rabbis wrote back saying that the bird was perfectly fine to eat, and that in fact they had eaten the surviving duck.

never before have i felt such a close connection to judaism
posted by poffin boffin at 11:10 AM on January 8 [44 favorites]


This was an especially interesting read, as in the christian circles in which I'm familiar similar questions might be solved by praying about it and using that personal experience as a basis for argumentation. Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 11:14 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


They should just Ask.Metafilter. We're very good at deciding whether people can eat things.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:22 AM on January 8 [64 favorites]


Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?

Keep in mind that everything I know about orthodox sects is from back in the 90s when grand rebbes like Schneerson and Teitelbaum were still alive, but: it depends on how religious you are, basically? In orthodox circles when you have questions about halakah, you take them to your rebbe and he ideally provides you with the guidance you need based on the grand rebbe's pronouncements. It usually won't matter if another sect's rebbe disagrees with what your sect's primary leader says because generally in your sect his word on the law IS the law.

In less strict circles there often isn't really a primary community leader so while you could very easily ask one of the rabbis at your local temple, most people I know who are conservative or reform just sort of figure it out as they go. But also those less strict denominations are less likely to keep kosher on a regular basis so it doesn't really come up except on high holidays, and then you get caught up in differences in interpretations between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim and Sephardim (eaters of the forbidden bean!)
posted by poffin boffin at 11:40 AM on January 8 [9 favorites]


According to Zivotofsky and Amar, a fundamental problem lay in the research done by these American communities. Apparently they just Googled “Muscovy duck” and landed on an enthusiast website called Muscovy Duck Central.

That is some quality hand-crafted IndieWeb. Now I'm imagining Rashi's Angelfire page.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 11:45 AM on January 8 [8 favorites]


"eaters of the forbidden bean" is an awesome (and accurate!) description of the differences in dietary practice between Ashkenazim and Sephardim for Passover.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 11:48 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I am not a Jew myself. I have a friend who is not exactly orthodox, but is way more frum (strict about the rules) than my other Jewish friends and relatives.
We had a conversation about whether he could come with me to register for a tech conference on a Saturday. I was arguing that it wasn't actually work, because he enjoys the conference and attending it isn't what he's specifically paid to do. That kind of worked but he raised problems with carrying the conference badge (can't carry things on the sabbath), and we argued whether wearing counted as carrying. Apparently I was being naive and there is a long history of people trying to get around the carrying rule and he was having none of it.

I just get the impression there is this long history of good-natured argument about the details and workarounds of various rules that everybody knows don't really make sense, and it's more like a relaxed D&D game than anything else.
posted by w0mbat at 12:07 PM on January 8 [17 favorites]


poffin boffin: I had an apartment two doors down from a Chabad House once...there was a billboard of Schneerson that peered in my window.
posted by wellred at 12:09 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I'd say if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...but that's not the way to construct a kosher Talmudic argument.
posted by kozad at 12:21 PM on January 8 [7 favorites]


"This was an especially interesting read, as in the christian circles in which I'm familiar similar questions might be solved by praying about it and using that personal experience as a basis for argumentation. Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?"

My impression (I'm not Orthodox) is that the rabbi would be checking the Talmud for which arguments make the best logical sense and deciding that way.

I'm taking this question to facebook. I'll get back to you.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 12:22 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I just get the impression there is this long history of good-natured argument about the details and workarounds of various rules that everybody knows don't really make sense, and it's more like a relaxed D&D game than anything else.

If you want to dig in, check out, say, the Rabbinical Assembly's (the Conservative Movement's ruling body) rulings on various issues. See a bunch here. A Rabbi friend posted the ruling on exercising on shabbat a bit ago, and it's fascinating. There's a bunch of stuff in there about whether or not exercise counts as "work" (if you're enjoying it and it adds to your enjoyment of Shabbat, that's good, but if you're training for something, and trying really hard, that's bad), whether or not the exercise is medically necessary (in which case you definitely do need to do it on Shabbat), if you're competing (that's bad), if you're using something like a fitbit (definitely bad, because using electricity), what sort of exercise it is (Does ice skating count as "plowing", which is bad?), etc., etc., etc.
posted by damayanti at 12:24 PM on January 8 [14 favorites]


"This was an especially interesting read, as in the christian circles in which I'm familiar similar questions might be solved by praying about it and using that personal experience as a basis for argumentation. Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?"

It’s been a while since my Orthodox upbringing, but that generally didn’t seem like how people operate, in particular with personal experience or a “response” to a prayer being seen as divine enough to be significant in the case of a legal ruling. People might pray for divine guidance but that’s more about other sorts of decisions or situations. There’s generally a mindset that while God used to speak to people in previous generations, that doesn’t really happen anymore in a clear way.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:31 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


god: i am the LORD your god, you will have no other gods before me
moses: okie dokie
god: also lol check out this fucking weird animal i made when i was super high
posted by poffin boffin at 12:37 PM on January 8 [46 favorites]


Metafilter: Platers of the forbidden bean!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:56 PM on January 8 [26 favorites]


Kikujiro's Summer: This was an especially interesting read, as in the christian circles in which I'm familiar similar questions might be solved by praying about it and using that personal experience as a basis for argumentation. Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?

Absolutely and specifically not.

The halacha was given to humanity to interpret. The story of the Asp Oven, in Bava Metzia 59a-b is absolutely clear about this. From it we get the principle of "lo bashamayim hi" -- "it is not in heaven." Despite the fact that a voice from Heaven itself stated that Rabbi Eleazar's new style of oven was, in fact, immune from becoming tamei, the fact that a majority of the other scholars disagreed meant that a whole bunch of things which had been made with it were NOT ritually acceptable. Now, there's a whole lot more to the story -- there were definitely serious consequences to how much this hurt Rabbi Eleazar's feelings, but, nonetheless, the law is clear.

You can't pray for an answer about a legal ruling, and you can't go off of a gut feeling. To do so would be to abdicate your own human responsibility to learn, study, know the precedents, and understand the rules and laws that you're basing things on.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:00 PM on January 8 [48 favorites]


There is a reason that multiple rabbis studying the Torah independently and coming to the same conclusion has been regarded as clear evidence of divine intervention.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:02 PM on January 8 [7 favorites]


And by "serious consequences" I mean things like half the crops in the country failed that year, Rabbi Eleazar had to wear a blindfold for a couple weeks before he calmed down, because whatever he looked at caught on fire, and his wife had to distract him from making any sort of petitionary prayer for the rest of his life, because she knew that, if he asked God for ANYTHING, God would throw in "killing the people who hurt his feelings" as a freebie whether he asked for it or not.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:03 PM on January 8 [23 favorites]


(Yes, this whole thing is considered to be a myth and not literal. But the laws and principles which the story tells are considered to be absolutely real. Sure, we don't REALLY think that hurting the feelings of a great sage turns him into Cyclops from the X-Men, but we do believe that hurting someone's feelings should be taken as seriously as if that were true. And we don't think that a carob tree jumped the length of a football field, a river flowed backward, the walls of the school bent themselves into a parallelogram, or a Voice from Heaven backed Rabbi Eleazar up, but we learn the lesson of what is and is not evidence from that.)
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:08 PM on January 8 [16 favorites]


I think Xiphias Gladius's explanation is a very interesting example of the difference between the US's dominant Christian culture and perspectives that we just don't learn about in any sort of way unless we belong to their group. (I do not belong to either and find them both fascinating.) I went to public school and never learned any of this, but the Christian approach of praying to God and coming to an answer seems sort of just...ever-present? in mainstream American culture.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:12 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I've had a long-standing question as to whether elephants are kosher, if I ever find myself in conversation with a Rabbi. Sadly hasn't happened yet. I also have a question about the Koran for a similar situation.
posted by feersum endjinn at 1:13 PM on January 8


feersum endjinn -- I'm not a rabbi, but they're not. The only mammals which are kosher are ruminant ungulates.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:14 PM on January 8 [11 favorites]


fiercecupcake -- well, we CAN pray for humility, patience, and wisdom in our work in looking for an answer, and we MUST pray to give thanks to God for giving us the Law in the first place. But, well ... we can't pray for the answer itself. That's cheating.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:15 PM on January 8 [13 favorites]


The only mammals which are kosher are ruminant ungulates.

Which means, I was once solemnly informed in Hebrew school, that a giraffe would be kosher if only (a) they weren't an endangered species and (b) there was a shochet somewhere on Earth with the equipment to decapitate that tremendous neck in one clean blow and then hang it upside down for the blood to drain away.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:17 PM on January 8 [17 favorites]


Oh -- also -- just to be clear -- you can't pray about LEGAL questions. If you're asking about stuff like, I dunno, "Should I bet on red or black", you're not sinning. You're just a moron. Like, there's actually a Talmudic term for "fool", and one thing that can make you one is praying for specific answers to pragmatic questions. It's not a sin. It just won't work.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:20 PM on January 8 [23 favorites]


The Pluto Gangsta -- yep. Also, to be fair, the sheckting the neck thing is pretty easy -- it's a pretty big target, and you go crosswise, not lengthwise. Hanging it upside down to drain would be a bit of a trick, though. Maybe a crane?

... yesofcourseihavethoughtaboutthisbeforehasnteverybody...
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 1:22 PM on January 8 [9 favorites]


Fun fact: many states consider muscovies to be a nuisance and if you're the property owner you can kill (and eat) them without a hunting license. They are kind of a nuisance if you've lived/worked near a pond full of 'em.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:22 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the question of can Catholics eat beaver or capybara during Lent?
posted by ckape at 1:23 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


The only mammals which are kosher are ruminant ungulates.

Including monotremes? Because I'm totally team atalef = platypus.
posted by The Bellman at 1:24 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


There's certainly a concept of one's personal relationship with God in Judaism, but it's not quite the same as the Protestant version.
posted by atoxyl at 1:28 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


The story of the Asp Oven, in Bava Metzi’a 59a-b is absolutely clear about this.

That whole section of the Talmud reads like the Silmarillion as written by Mel Brooks and it is, for that reason, my favorite.
posted by nonasuch at 1:42 PM on January 8 [29 favorites]


Including monotremes? Because I'm totally team atalef = platypus.

If atalef is a platypus, then it's a bird, but not a kosher one (because the Torah says it isn't).


Kikujiro's Summer: This was an especially interesting read, as in the christian circles in which I'm familiar similar questions might be solved by praying about it and using that personal experience as a basis for argumentation. Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?

Xiphias Gladius: Absolutely and specifically not."


When it comes to matters of law and theology, not all Christians believe that one can just pray about it. Part of the Protestant Reformation was the embracing of 'sola scriptura' - that is, basing decisions solely on the Bible, and not on the learned fathers of the Church. The Catholic church still doesn't look to prayer/individual enlightenment to bring the answer as to whether something is allowed or not.

But Xiphias Gladius is absolutely right: there is no praying to understand halacha, it's all studying, studying, studying. It's based on precedent and evidence from the Torah, Talmud, etc. I'm Reform (which is a-halachic) so I'm pretty vague on the details, but there are many rulings about what is permitted or not, and different people/movements follow the different rulings. For example, the Conservative movement believes one should follow halacha, but halacha should also be changed.

Also: the debate on the Muscovy Duck is hilarious. It reminds me of the time my friends were arguing about whether pineapple needed the blessing for "fruit of the tree" or "fruit of the earth" - my Orthodox-raised friend was arguing that the blessing was definitely "of the tree", that's what the Rabbis said, until the less Orthodox friend pulled up the Wikipedia article to show her that pineapples don't grow on trees. We all speculated that the ruling had been made by some 19th century Polish rabbi who was pretty vague on the botany of tropical fruit.

Fortunately, it was not Shabbat, or I should have remained confused forever. I am also very vague when it comes to tropical fruit.
posted by jb at 1:42 PM on January 8 [12 favorites]


I also have a question about the Koran for a similar situation.

One of the thoughts I had while reading the article is to wonder if there were similar debates about whether a given food is halal or not.

As another aside; when I was growing up the common name for Muscovy Ducks was Mustard Ducks, and they were reputed to be some sort of goose and really mean.
posted by TedW at 1:43 PM on January 8


So it might not be kosher because it's kind of a jerk? Geese are kosher, though, and they are enormous assholes. I grew up on a duck farm, and my babcia had a working farm, so given my exposure to certain food animals, I'm picturing G-d coming up with the list of kosher animals by the "fuck you, fuck you, you're cool, fuck you" method.
posted by Ruki at 1:44 PM on January 8 [11 favorites]


Rabbi Eleazar had to wear a blindfold for a couple weeks before he calmed down, because whatever he looked at caught on fire,

this is really dumb, maybe, but how come the blindfold didn't catch on fire?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:49 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


This thread is making me really miss the more-than-slightly-silly "what does halacha say about X" debates my friends and I had as undergrads. I don't get to do that much anymore. Turns out, when you get a group of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox college students together, all of whom are basically OK with how everyone else practices, a good time can be had.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 1:51 PM on January 8 [9 favorites]


This is where I get to remember my granddad. All of my three surviving grandparents were card-carrying fanatic proselytizing atheists. But every single time we had pork, my granddad found it appropriate to give a short speech on how "the rules" had been given by some people in the desert, where there were no fridges or basic hygiene and anyway it was very hot. So those rules didn't count for us. At all. It was the same with shellfish, but for some reason he only gave the speech when we had lobster, shrimp didn't matter.
Imagine how weird it was to hear this every other weekend when you had no idea that your family had any connection to any religion, let alone Judaism. I was aware religion existed, and actually read the Bible as a kid, in order to figure out what all these people were talking about. My stepmother was a practicing Christian. But I didn't connect the dots till I was well into my teens.
posted by mumimor at 2:05 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


This article is a treat. I'm an apostate Catholic boy who's always felt deep affinity with Jewish culture (humorous dramatic representations are pretty similar) and arguments over cannon are so much more interesting when the stakes are sin and death, rather than fandom cred. I don't believe in close interpretation of religious texts, or any texts, but I wish the discussions surrounding fundamental Christianity or the garbage fire that is called 'constitutional originalism' were half as interesting and life-affirming as scholarly debate about the Jewish faith.

My pull-quote:

One of the forbidden species would transliterate as atalef. In modern Hebrew, that’s… a bat. Which is not a bird. Most people interpret it that way, assuming that the bat was thought to be some kind of bizarre bird at the time, but not everybody does. Nobody is quite sure if atalef had the same meaning then as it does now, and some early Rabbinic discussion of the Torah described the atalef as laying eggs, but also raising its young. This has led some scholars to believe that the atalef is actually some variety of screech owl, or even—this is a serious argument that was seriously made—a platypus.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:30 PM on January 8


This was an especially interesting read, as in the christian circles in which I'm familiar similar questions might be solved by praying about it and using that personal experience as a basis for argumentation. Does that sort of thing happen in Judaism too?

I know this has been answered already but absolutely not. You need to make arguments based on the words as they are written.

There's a story in the Talmud, about these rabbis who are disagreeing about something, all the rabbis but one on the same side. And the one who didn't agree, Rabbi Eliezer, after no one listens to his arguments, says "if I am right, let this tree prove it", and God moves the tree. And the other rabbis say you cannot use the movement of a tree as proof. And then the same with making a river run backwards and a lightning strike and God literally saying he's right, and then one of the other rabbis says to God, "The answer is not in the heavens", and the majority ruled and God laughed saying "My children have defeated me". (If you tell it as a joke, the punchline is that the other rabbi now says "Nu, so now it's 3 against 2".)
posted by jeather at 2:31 PM on January 8 [18 favorites]


mumimor, this is what I think I love about Hebrew tradition. It's an ancient belief system that has tons of faith but it also obsessed with logic and law. So even folks who are completely atheist are compelled to give deference to ancient ideas, because they usually hold up for one reason or another, even if we've moved beyond the context where they were necessary. It comes from a time when science and religion were synonymous in an uncomplicated way, and that it still exists and is practiced by strict adherents makes it something akin to a fossil or Rosetta Stone when considering heuristics. Those analogies fail. It almost needs its own term.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:38 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


It seems that one of the many benefits of such a system is that it must inoculate people against listening to visionary/prophet types who purport to speak directly to God.

Rabbis are a check on each other, and plus even an incredibly brilliant and evil scholar still couldn't torment the Talmud into saying everybody needs to stockpile weapons and take massive doses of LSD, or whatever.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:42 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]


Luckily, I had my grandpa for ages, and I realized that he was heavily influenced by his granddad who was orthodox and also a very loving and wise man. So even as my granddad left the religion (for reasons that made sense to him), he kept the knowledge, and in many ways the method, and he also spent time teaching those to us.
posted by mumimor at 2:43 PM on January 8


and his wife had to distract him from making any sort of petitionary prayer for the rest of his life

What’s also great is in the context of Jewish culture this probably just means Rabbi Eleazar was just getting hella laid.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:47 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


pyramid termite: this is really dumb, maybe, but how come the blindfold didn't catch on fire?

Same reason Cyclops doesn't blast through a blindfold if he needs to wear one when his crystal visor falls off/breaks. And with the same degree of scientific accuracy and logical consistency. It's a myth. In myths and in comic books, it is a trope that wearing a blindfold prevents people from using uncontrollable optic blast attacks.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 3:17 PM on January 8 [8 favorites]


this is really dumb, maybe, but how come the blindfold didn't catch on fire?

Looking at something is for your eyes to capture light reflected by that object. If there's a blindfold over your eyes, theoretically all light is blocked, and thus you're not "looking" at anything, even the blindfold.
posted by explosion at 3:21 PM on January 8 [7 favorites]


The part of the giraffe that bothers me is the de-nerving. Oh, you didn't know you have to de-nerve meat before it's kosher? Well, you do, which is why kosher beef and lamb in the USA is taken from the front part of the animal, and the back part is sold to non-kosher butchers, because it's filled with veins that are a pain to remove.

I imagine that kosher slaughtering a giraffe, and then being compelled to sell the rear half at a discount, would be something of an issue.
posted by 1adam12 at 3:30 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Speaking of the blessings for different kinds of food: Oedipus Hex.

I grew up Christian, and while folks are right about Protestant emphasis on reading your own bible, it's a completely different focus - especially in more evangelical traditions you cultivate a personal relationship with God *by* reading the text, and particular verses can give inspiration, comfort, as well as answers to questions about both what is permitted and what you should do in your own life. There could very well be a cultural expectation about what answer you ought to arrive at, for sure, but the goal is to understand and know the verses in such a way that you feel the answer on a more emotional level. In that kind of context, winning an interpretation argument because you were cleverer and drew a tighter logical argument could be a negative, if you're just being prideful, "legalistic", or relating to the text on a purely intellectual level.

(Caveats, I'm speaking from general impressions of a community I no longer am part of, your denomination may vary etc.)
posted by heyforfour at 3:30 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Oh, you didn't know you have to de-nerve meat before it's kosher?

Something something beautiful French kosher butcher Catherine De-nerve...
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:36 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


this is really dumb, maybe, but how come the blindfold didn't catch on fire?

Presumably the blindfold was yellow. The power of G-D doesn't work on the colour yellow.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:39 PM on January 8


...and it's more like a relaxed D&D game than anything else.

Would a Gelatinous Cube be kosher?
posted by 445supermag at 5:24 PM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Depends on how the gelatin is made!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:45 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


vogon_poet, that's a great point that illustrates the mechanic. But I have to give you an 'eponisterical achievment' button, because you just described the baked-in-the-cake recipe for corrupt, self-feeding conservatism that made jesus so gaddang popular when he bitched out the pharisees.

It's not an absolute fault, but it's the kinda well known bug that makes liberal Christians smug to this day.
posted by es_de_bah at 5:45 PM on January 8


Rabbinical Judaism is largely post-Jesus though.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:50 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


This whole debate is something of a canard.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:14 PM on January 8 [20 favorites]


This whole debate is something of a canard.

BOOOOOOO

...

yaaaaay
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:25 PM on January 8 [11 favorites]


this is really dumb, maybe, but how come the blindfold didn't catch on fire?

Going for the Cyclops example--he's generally cooperative when he ends up with a simple blindfold, it's not imposed on him. I've assumed the point in that circumstance is that it's tied tightly across his closed eyelids to keep them from accidentally opening. If he worked his eyes open under there, it would blast the blindfold off.

In the Rabbi case, I'd go for a combination of that and the fact that if the blindfold is dark enough, he's not really seeing it (as per explosion) above--his eyes aren't projecting flame, it's that anything he sees focuses his attention (and his hurt feelings) upon it.
posted by Four Ds at 6:28 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I feel frantically and pedantically compelled to point out that Cyclops eye beams are not actually lasers -- as in collimated light and infrared radiation. They are in fact emnations from a domain of kinetic force whose portals are located behind his eyelids.

Punch Beams From The Punching Dimension, if you will.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 6:38 PM on January 8 [18 favorites]


I feel frantically and pedantically compelled to point out that Cyclops eye beams are not actually lasers

Hey if you didn't I would, thank you for saving me from lowering myself further into the pit of geekery. That being said, despite NUMEROUS IN TEXT CITATIONS on the matter, sometimes the writers/artists of various X-titles forget that Cyclops's beams DO NOT PRODUCE HEAT and he's shown doing something like light a fire or candles. Infuriating.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:49 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


we CAN pray for humility, patience, and wisdom in our work in looking for an answer, and we MUST pray to give thanks to God for giving us the Law in the first place. But, well ... we can't pray for the answer itself. That's cheating.

I think I know how Jewish God feels whenever my students show up for office hours asking how to do the homework
posted by a car full of lions at 7:38 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


Some time ago I wondered about the kosher status of various New World animals, which is how I ended up reading Kashrut of Exotic Animals: The Buffalo, by Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:01 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


I also have a question about the Koran for a similar situation.

One of the thoughts I had while reading the article is to wonder if there were similar debates about whether a given food is halal or not.


Of course! I'm still in a-mostly-joking argument with a friend on whether kangaroos are halal. (The Australian Council of Imams - iirc - says no; the Turkish one says yes; I'm just going to pretend I don't see them claws and throw another one on the bbq.)

Jewish traditions definitely win at really going at it, but Muslim jurists are not that far behind. That's why we have so many splinters and schools.
posted by cendawanita at 8:25 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


The great eternal commonality between Muslims and Jews: Arguing about food in increasingly circular ways.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:37 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


AND sideeyeing another sect's interpretation of what's good to eat.
posted by cendawanita at 8:42 PM on January 8 [3 favorites]


Note how carefully I avoided suggesting that Cyclops's eye beams were heat rays, because, yep, I know they are kinetic.
As for the kashrut of gelatinous cubes -- to a certain extent, it depends on if they are animals in the first place. If they aren't animals, and aren't edible, they are not treif -- things like crayons and not-tallow candles aren't subject to kashrut.
If it is an animal, it is almost certainly not kosher -- it is hard to imagine anything that is more directly a "creeping thing" of the sort which is forbidden to eat.
Now, in Nethack, gelatinous cube corpses can be eaten -- they cause acid damage, but can grant various elemental resistances to a person who eats them. And the acid damage can be mitigated by tinning it.
Since, in Nethack, only food can be tinned, we thus know that it IS food, so doesn't fall under the "lo kelev" not-food exception. "Lo kelev" -- "not a dog" -- if even a dog won't eat it, it isn't really food. Now, in Nethack, a dog won't eat a gelatinous cube unless it has managed to pick up acid resistance, by, for instance, being polymorphed into something with acid resistance, but WILL eat one if it IS acid resistant.
Therefore, we may conclude that a gelatinous cube counts as food.
If a person can't handle the acidic nature of the cube corpse, then it would be treif under the principle that, no matter what else is going on, poison is inherently treif.
Next, is it an animal? Does a gelatinous cube corpse count as meat in the first place? While there are some edge cases and specific exceptions, for the most part, almost everything that is treif was once an animal. Once again, we can turn to Nethack: in Nethack, eating a gelatinous cube corpse does NOT break vegan conduct.
So gelatinous cubes are not meat, and therefore, unless there is a factor I am not considering, are kosher, so long as you can handle the acidity.
posted by Xiphias Gladius at 8:43 PM on January 8 [46 favorites]


Rabbinical Judaism is largely post-Jesus though.

This is true but you just headed off my attempt to make a low-hanging joke about this assertion:

It seems that one of the many benefits of such a system is that it must inoculate people against listening to visionary/prophet types who purport to speak directly to God.
posted by atoxyl at 9:48 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


One might argue that one of the reasons the system of Rabbinical Judaism got popular post-temple (besides yanno, the loss of the temple the second time) was to try and head off any future Jesus-types (or rather Paul types) getting any ideas.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:04 PM on January 8


Xiphias Gladius, that is amazing. Flagged as fantastic.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 8:28 AM on January 9


Fun fact - not only is human breast milk pareve (not considered dairy so you can cook it with meat), but the rabbis also concluded that - even though cannibalism is completely not allowed, and killing a human for meat is even more not allowed - if you did need to eat a human for food (you would literally die if you didn't eat and that was the only edible substance available, making the law of pikuach nefesh (saving your life) arguably more important than the law against eating non-kosher flesh), it would not require kosher slaughter and that meat would, in fact, be considered pareve.
posted by Mchelly at 9:31 AM on January 9 [5 favorites]


One might argue that one of the reasons the system of Rabbinical Judaism got popular post-temple (besides yanno, the loss of the temple the second time) was to try and head off any future Jesus-types (or rather Paul types) getting any ideas.

I was explaining the story of Rabbi Eliezer and the oven that Xiphas Gladius was talking about last night to my husband (raised Catholic), and the first thing that he seized upon was the idea of a bunch of rabbis standing around and being like 'being able to perform miracles in front of our very eyes is all well and good, but no basis for legal precedent'. Seems a little pointed there towards some wine-making and bread and fish multiplying folks there, huh.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:45 AM on January 9 [8 favorites]


making the law of pikuach nefesh (saving your life) arguably more important than the law against eating non-kosher flesh), it would not require kosher slaughter and that meat would, in fact, be considered pareve.

Does the law of pikuach nefesh assume the person has already died? (As if often the case in survival cannibalism after plane crashes, etc.) Because I'm having trouble imagining the Rabbis saying it would be okay to kill to save your own life, but eating an already dead person is different.
posted by jb at 9:57 AM on January 9


Muscovy ducks are odd-looking and quite friendly and affectionate.

2 good reasons not to eat, imho.
posted by allthinky at 10:21 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


So in the events leading to the case of the Her Majesty vs Dudley and Stephens the unfortunate cabin boy Richard Parker didn't become pareve?
posted by Blasdelb at 10:24 AM on January 9


Yes, the eat-ee would have to be already dead. Pikuach nefesh doesn’t trump the law against murder.

But since you’re not allowed to derive benefit from a corpse, there are also rabbis who argued that even if you would die, you still can’t eat a person. So there’s that.
posted by Mchelly at 10:37 AM on January 9 [1 favorite]


And the pareve thing isn’t really a benefit, since if you had any cheese to put on your corpseburger, you wouldn’t be starving enough to justify the meat.

It just means you don’t have to wait afterwards before eating the dairy you don’t have.
posted by Mchelly at 10:42 AM on January 9 [6 favorites]


But let's say you did murder someone because otherwise you would have starved to death. Now, the murder is clearly against the rules, but is the corpse still kosher?
posted by jeather at 12:36 PM on January 9


Corpse was never kosher. It was (arguably) permissible to eat because the alternative was dying.

If it helps, when it comes to following or breaking the laws, your actions are judged differently between "l'hatchila" (before the fact) and "b'dieved" (after the fact). So if you go into a situation knowing something's wrong, and you do the thing (like murdering the guy, or eating the duck your rabbi already told you was problematic), l'hatchila, then you can't use your perfectly good reason for doing so as a mitigating factor. But if you did the thing and then b'dieved learn that it was a problem, then it's generally considered less bad.

So you would never, ever plan to eat the guy. But if g-d forbid you had to eat the guy, it's good to know that you wouldn't have had to wait 6 hours before eating ice cream.
posted by Mchelly at 12:52 PM on January 9 [5 favorites]


Okay, so it's treyf to eat someone you kill for the purposes of eating, but not if you murder someone and then realise you are starving to death it's not treyf. Except I'm not sure, because "eating someone so you don't starve" isn't wrong, so it doesn't need to have that reasoning.

I'm not trying to have a mitigating factor for the murder! That's wrong, clearly. Just you know, if you kill someone, you don't ALSO have to break kashrut.
posted by jeather at 1:06 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


these are very specific questions and i am wondering if there's anything special you'd like to share with the group, maybe some plans you have for the weekend
posted by poffin boffin at 2:30 PM on January 9 [11 favorites]


I haven't even gotten to the questions about whether I need to rekasher the flatware after dinner yet.
posted by jeather at 2:59 PM on January 9 [7 favorites]


There's a bunch of stuff in there about whether or not exercise counts as "work" (if you're enjoying it and it adds to your enjoyment of Shabbat, that's good, but if you're training for something, and trying really hard, that's bad), whether or not the exercise is medically necessary (in which case you definitely do need to do it on Shabbat), if you're competing (that's bad), if you're using something like a fitbit (definitely bad, because using electricity), what sort of exercise it is (Does ice skating count as "plowing", which is bad?), etc., etc., etc.

[Looks at Apple Watch and imagines never getting a perfect week.] "You tied your longest move streak: 6 days! Extend the streak tomorrow!"
posted by fedward at 5:18 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]


On the off-chance anyone is still reading this thread. poffin boffin said:

...you get caught up in differences in interpretations between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim and Sephardim (eaters of the forbidden bean!)
.. I have spent many minutes trying to track down what this means. I was unable. Can I get some background?
posted by DoubtingThomas at 9:02 AM on January 11




Jewish Voices for Peas: All we are saying is give peas a chance.
posted by jb at 9:37 AM on January 11


The Conservative branch of the family eats kitniyot now. I don't because I go to a Modern Orthodox shul, but my Reform husband, whose entire observance entails not eating on YK, not eating chametz during Passover, and saying the brachot for Hanukkah, steadfastly refuses. He makes bacon every Saturday morning, but will loudly complain about not being able to eat popcorn. Eat the popcorn! It's got fiber!
posted by Ruki at 5:27 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


I'd say if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...but that's not the way to construct a kosher Talmudic argument.

--kozad, above

Most under-rated comment. But I disagree; isn't logic key to a Talmudic argument? From now on I'm just going to assume that's the origin of the phrase, and you can't convince me otherwise.
posted by ellenaim at 2:44 PM on February 7


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