Monday, March 16, 2015

Meat and Milk

For thousands of years Jews have had a prohibition against mixing meat with milk. This is a lot of work. It involves separate sets of dishes, and by separate I mean compulsively separate.  In the last hundred years some of our rules have found scientific justification. One might suppose that correlations were noticed between behaviors and consequences, but given the short life spans it is puzzling. A lot of this stuff didn’t make sense until we saw germs under the microscope. I can imagine some saying:
-I defecated near the well and nothing happened.
Torah sometimes cloaks common sense rules in mysticism. If they told men that sex after childbirth is bad for the mother it might not have made an impression.  I knew an obstetrician whose children were born nine months apart.  Telling him:
-She’s unclean, dammit,
might have been more effective. Sorry to go mystical but there is the possibility that the prohibition on mixing meat and milk may one day find hygienic justification. Perhaps we will one day learn that meat and milk affects the bacterial balance in our gut or something. Before dismissing our laws as ridiculous, you should bear in mind that some of the rules made sense, even or especially if we didn’t know why.
I ran across an interesting article:
In summary, the original directive was to hold the spring festival promptly and deliver what you have on hand. This injunction seems a little harsh:
-I don’t care if it’s nursing, kill that baby goat now!
They wanted to emphasize immediate harvest for both Purim and Passover so they repeated it.  Then another goof misread the injunction and threw it in with the dietary restrictions, early cut and paste. Out of context it reads:
-Don’t boil the baby goat in the milk of its mother.
I like this explanation; it fits with my view of how things work. To this day we take Bible out of context. It is comforting that this isn’t just recent. Because of this and since we are such neurotics, housewives have been wasting untold eons of labor:
-But it reinforced your identity.
Talmud isn’t much help, a lot of blather about parts per thousand. This indicates to me that most people thought this silly.
Still these passages survived interminable manual transcription and edit. I think most people reading the text have an image of shepherds feeling a mammalian kinship with their flock.  That seems awfully sweet. Which does make it suspect.  But we are not talking about the shepherds any more but the scribes doing the transcription.
This would make the neurotic response of dietary prohibition a reaction against recognizing our kinship with our livestock.  The proper generalization of the normative interpretation would be to quit tormenting our food: catch and release, veal, factory farms, and farcie.
I’ve always thought ice cream would go well at Passover.
This reminds me of a story:  There was a woman who was a concentration camp guard.  After the war she came to Los Angeles and married a Jew. After many years he died and it somehow came out that she had been a war criminal and she was deported. At which point the women said:
-Hasn’t she suffered enough?

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