By Yehuda Shurpin
Scientists have recently demonstrated that they can now take stem cells from a cow and build them into hamburgers that look, feel and (almost) taste like the real thing. What does Jewish law have to say? Is this considered real meat? Is it kosher?
This is a fascinating question that needs to be studied carefully by expert rabbis when the issue becomes more practical and Petri-dish burgers become an affordable option. But here are some preliminary thoughts on the subject to give you some perspective.
Meat from Heaven
What makes this question so intriguing is that this is an example of how those seemingly fantastic Aggadic tales in the Talmud are nowadays becoming a starting point for new halachik questions.
There is actually a discussion in the Talmud about whether meat that does not come from an animal is considered kosher, although the origin of the meat in this case was even more miraculous:
A story of Rabbi Shimeon ben Chalafta, who was walking on the road, when lions met him and roared at him. Thereupon he quoted from Psalms: “The young lions roar for prey and to beg their food from G‑d,”1 and two lumps of flesh descended [from heaven]. They ate one and left the other. This he brought to the study hall and propounded: Is this fit [for food] or not? The scholar answered: “Nothing unfit descends from heaven.” Rabbi Zera asked Rabbi Abbahu: “What if something in the shape of a donkey were to descend?” He replied: “You ‘howling yorod,2’ did they not answer him that no unfit thing descends from heaven?”3
Miraculous meat appears again in the Talmud, although this time it was man-made:
Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Oshaia would spend every Sabbath eve studying the “Book of Creation”4 by means of which they created a calf and ate it.5
In discussing this story, later commentators debate whether such an animal would require shechitah (kosher slaughter) in order to be eaten.
Rabbi Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz, known as the Shelah, writes that it is not considered a real animal and does not need shechitah.6
Others write that while a technical interpretation of Biblical law may not require such an animal to be slaughtered, the rabbinical prohibition of “marit ayin” (not engaging in acts that look misleadingly similar to forbidden activity) would necessitate slaughter–lest an onlooker think that ordinary meat is being consumed without shechitah.7
So far we have discussed “miracle meat” that came from heaven or was created by spiritual means. Some commentators defined this meat as miraculous because it did not come from a naturally-born animal. But do we consider any meat that does not come from a naturally-born animal to be “miracle meat”? Or does it need to come through an actual miracle? How about test-tube meat, which does come from actual animal cells? In this case the dictum that “no unfit thing descends from heaven” obviously would not apply. Here are some of the issues that will need to be explored:
● The Cells The scientist extracted the cells of a real animal and used them to grow the tissues in a Petri dish. If, and that is not a small if, the mere cells are considered substantial enough to be called meat, this may present a problem. In addition to the prohibition of eating a limb from a living animal,8 there is an additional injunction not to eat any meat that was severed from a live animal.9
This is an issue for non-Jews as well as Jews, since Noahide law dictates that non-Jews may not eat even a minute amount of meat that was separated from a living animal.10
For Jews, if the cells are considered real meat, then presumably they would need to be extracted from a kosher animal that was slaughtered according to Jewish law.
Another consideration is that there is a halachik concept, “the product of non-kosher is itself not kosher, and the product of that which is kosher is itself kosher.”11 While at first glance this would seem to imply that the cells need to come from a kosher source, it is not clear whether the above rule would apply to microscopic cells that were extracted from an animal.
With a few weeks until summer, numerous new diets are popping up to offer a quick fix. But there’s a reason most diets fail – it’s just too easy to fall back into old habits. Even if you want to lose weight because of a health scare or for an upcoming family celebration, that inspiration often fades as your grandiose dieting plans lose steam. You can only rely on your own motivation for so long. Even if you do lose weight, maintaining that success is unlikely. Today’s nutritionists and psychologists teach us that we need to change our habits, not just our diet, but this strategy is actually rooted in traditional Jewish wisdom.
Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish sage and medical doctor, wrote extensively on nutrition and wellness, and his writings are now being incorporated into contemporary medical studies on healthy living habits. After years of studying his writings, I see that Maimonides believed that long-term weight loss success is dependent on more than just motivation; working your mind along with your body is essential. Weight loss and optimum health are more than simply issues of food and diet; changing our habits – our learned behaviors – is possible and effective when they are done at the right pace.
Motivation simply relies on inspiration and will power. Even if you are highly motivated, you still have to contend with old, stubborn habits. In order to achieve long-term success, changing those habits is essential. Habitual change causes a subconscious inner change. The outer action may be exactly the same every time you repeat it, but the subconscious accumulation of every minor experience and feeling associated with that act gains momentum each time it is repeated. Eventually, your new habits will replace your negative habits.
Maimonides distinguishes between ‘habit’ and ‘motivation’. He writes:
“Positive behavior characteristics are not acquired by doing great (positive) acts but rather by repeating positive acts. For example, giving $1,000 to one charity will not accustom a person to being generous, whereas giving $1 to 1000 different charities rehearses the trait of generosity in that individual. That repeated action of giving regulates that person to continue giving. By repeating an act many times, an established behavior or emotional pattern is formed. In contrast, one great act does do some level of good, but the motivation may disappear shortly thereafter.” (See Commentary to Avos 3:18)
Specifically with regards to health and wellness, Maimonides writes, “One’s usual custom and habit is a fundamental principle in the maintenance of health and the cure of illnesses. One should not change ones habits all at once.” (Regimen of Health 4, 15)
Here, Maimonides teaches us about human nature: to change a bad habit, the key is to take simple steps.
The success that many people had losing weight based on my book, “The Life Transforming Diet” was the result of adhering to the wisdom of Maimonides and his principles of behavior modification. As I continued my research, honing in more specifically on habits, I designed a five-week plan that comes just in time to prepare for the summer.
This plan for establishing habits for healthy living will set you in motion, as Maimonides discusses, to change those old, stubborn eating habits:
- Habit 1 – Week 1: Swap out one meal each day with a Light Meal that’s 250 calories or less, like fruit, salad, eggs and toast or cereal with milk.
- Habit 2 – Week 2: Make one meal each day a Concentrated Food or “CF Meal” of protein + veggies only. A glass of red wine is also allowed!
- Habit 3 – Week 3: Make one meal each day a “V-Plus” Meal – the V is for veggies! Eat as you normally would (including healthy grains), but for seconds, it’s veggies only.
- Habit 4 – Week 4: Add in Exercise with just 10 minutes of cardio, 3 days/week to start
- Habit 5 – Week 5: Between meals, start Snack Substitution: try water, veggies, low-fat dairy, or fruit instead.
It’s crucial not to jump stages in this program. The goal is to introduce one positive habit each week. In the first week, you will make only one change. In the second week, you will continue with your first change, and then add one more – and so on. It is important to make only the one change every week, and keep the rest of your routine exactly the same. These are the steps to changing your habits forever. You can read more about the 5 habits and 5-week program, including diet diaries, motivation, sample meal plans and daily schedules at www.5skinnyhabits.com.
Yogurtland, a leading frozen yogurt chain, is following the lead of Dunkin Donuts, Baskin Robbins and The Coffee Bean and has launched its first kosher store, the Beverly Connection location in Los Angeles.
The store is under the kosher supervision of the Rabbinical Council of California, according to the Kosher Today newsletter.
Yogurtland’s self-serve frozen yogurt shops allow customers to approach a wall of sweet and tart yogurt flavors and a topping bar. Paying by the ounce, consumers can choose among 16 yogurt flavors to create their own frozen treat and top it off their way.
“Certified kosher frozen yogurt from Yogurtland will be a welcomed treat for the kosher community,” said Rabbi Yaakov Vann, Director of Kashrut Services for the Rabbinical Council of California.
All of Yogurtland’s flavors are produced in a kosher-certified facility.
A New York Daily News headline writer needs a quick course in kosher dietary laws after an overly cute headline tried to get across the message that moose lasagna is not kosher if pork is used.
As most Jews and many non-Jews know, Jewish law forbids eating milk products and meat products together. Even if the moose meat were slaughtered according to Jewish law, mixing it with a cheese lasagna is as kosher as a ham on cheese sandwich.
The offending non-kosher item was pork, which the Daily News reported was found in batch sample of moose lasagna served up in IKEA stores in Europe.
The Daily News began its headline blurb with “Kosher wanted?” and then followed it with the report of the discovery of pork, which is a forbidden food not only for Jews but also for Muslims, whose European population is more than 45 million.
The newspaper explained that moose meat is common in Sweden home of IKEA, but is not usually used in lasagna.
Reported in the New York Times:
U.N. Agency Suspends Food Aid After Protest in Gaza By JODI RUDOREN The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip stopped food distribution and other services for refugees indefinitely, an official said Friday.
What happened was that last Thursday, the agency’s Gaza headquarters was breached:
“What happened today was completely unacceptable: The situation could very easily have resulted in serious injuries to UNRWA staff and to the demonstrators. This escalation, apparently pre-planned, was unwarranted and unprecedented,” Robert Turner, head of the agency’s Gaza operations, said in a statement. “All relief and distribution centers will consequently remain closed until guarantees are given by all relevant groups that UNRWA operations can continue unhindered,” he said.
So, is Israel wrong in its policy since we’re actually targeted by mortars, shootings, rockets, missiles and underground tunnels?
Cannot we demand guarantees?
P.S. Informed that
The hardcopy has this article somewhat buried at the bottom of page A4 under two other articles. Were it Israel–my oh my, it would be on pg 1 and take up half the page.
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Cooking a dish that both meat eaters and vegetarians will compromise on can be difficult. I was once in a predicament where I hosted someone who neglected to mention that she was a celiac and a vegetarian. Normally, I would prepare something extra for my vegetarian guests but I was only informed about this at the least minute. Suffice to say, this poor girl did not have many options. I tried convincing her to eat some chicken so she wouldn’t starve throughout the entire meal but no avail. A guest leaving hungry is every hosts nightmare.
Most meat eaters I know are reluctant to try vegan dishes, especially those that require tofu. Tofu is persona non gratta in my household. We tend to eat vegetarian dishes during the week and save meat/chicken for the weekends, holidays and special occasions. I generally prefer Shephard’s pie made from ground meat. I once ate a vegetarian version using ground soy beef. It didn’t work for me. I came across another version that even the meat-and-potato- types will appreciate. Like any other Shepherd’s pie, this vegetarian rendition is just as filling and plentiful. I made a sweet potato puree for the topping. I know people (some of whom are related to me) who have an aversion to sweet potatoes. I like the contrast of sweet and savory flavors combined. If you don’t, however, feel free to use red potatoes, Idaho potatoes, or rustic potatoes. Just omit the cinnamon and ground cloves factor. I used lentils in lieu of tofu. While lentils need 45 minutes to cook, I suggest that you grant yourself some time to prepare for this dish.
As a professed red blood male and a carniverous meat-eater (that bit was exaggerated although he does like his meat), my husband gave this recipe a thumbs up. In fact, we had to refrain from eating this entire dish.
For this recipe, you will need:
- 3-4 large sweet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup of soy,almond, rice or unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 1 cup of cooked brown or green lentils
- 1 cup of diced carrots
- 1 cup of diced celery
- 1 cup of chopped mushrooms
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 cloves or garlic minced
- 1 cup of dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of dried parsley
- Salt and pepper for taste
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Place potatoes in a pot with water. Bring to a boil on the stove top then reduce heat to medium to the potatoes continue to simmer. Let the potatoes cooks for about 20 minutes till fork tender. Once the potatoes have been cooked, drain them and add the non dairy milk, cinnamon, and cloves. Using a masher or a hand blender, puree till smooth. The puree should be a little watery. Set aside. In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms and cook for about 4 minutes util vegetables are fragrant and tender . Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, and parsley. Add the lentils and stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Then pour in the wine. Cook for another 10 minutes until liquid is reduced. Transfer vegetables to a 9 inch greased baking dish. Spread evenly sweet potato puree over vegetables. Place the dish in the oven and let it bake for about 40 minutes till the tips of the potatoes turn golden brown. Increase heat at the end of cooking for more browning, if desired. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp of chopped parsley on top of the pie to garnish. Serve hot.
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David P. Goldman (‘Spengler’) has been chronicling the decline and impending collapse of the Egyptian economy since the end of the Mubarak regime. With the tourism industry decimated, natural gas sales to Israel and Jordan halted by endemic terrorism, crime rampant, etc., Egypt’s foreign currency reserves will soon be gone. Agricultural production is down, and even in good times, Egypt does not produce enough food to feed its 83 million people.
When the money runs out, either Egypt will receive massive aid from other nations, or Egyptians will face starvation. Last month, Goldman wrote,
* The Food Industries Association warned Nov. 27 that lack of foreign exchange to purchase food commodities may reduce food imports by 40% during the next several months. Egypt imports half its total food consumption. Upper Egypt already is suffering a drop in food supplies (I presume other than state-subsidized bread) by 40%. Banks are refusing to provide financing for food imports because importers are already deeply in arrears.
* The Misr Beni Suef Cement company shut five plants due to a natural gas shortage.
* An epidemic of bird flu threatens to destroy Egypt’s chicken population because of a lack of natural gas to heat poultry farms.
Egypt’s government electricity company warned that the provision of power is in danger because government agencies are 15 billion Egyptian pounds (US $2.5 billion) in arrears on their electricity bills.
Gas and diesel supplies at filling stations are down 70% from normal levels since President Mohammed Morsi’s constitutional declarations.
* Shortage of fertilizer has cut agricultural exports by 10%, according to the Agricultural Export Council, and it is likely that overall production has fallen by a similar margin.
In thirty-five years of following debt crises in emerging economies, I have never seen anything like this. Latin American economies suffered from hyperinflation during the 1970s and 1980s, but no-one went hungry, because the economies in question all exported food, while Egypt imports half its food. The difference between Egypt and a banana republic is — the bananas.
Egypt is not the only Middle Eastern country facing a crisis — according to Goldman, all of the non-oil-producing Arab countries (e.g., Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen) are in trouble. It doesn’t help that rising demand for food from the more functional economies in East Asia has pushed up prices.
While Islamists like to say that “Islam is the solution,” radical Islam is precisely the opposite. Because of its negative effects on women, Christians, the educated middle classes, secular education in general, etc. — not to mention the disruptions caused by violent extremists — Islamism is death to economic success.
Naturally, one ‘solution’ to a problem caused by the incompetence of Muslims is to attack Israel and the Jews. Essam el-Erian, an adviser to President Morsi, recently announced that Jews of Egyptian descent living in Israel should give up their property to Palestinian ‘refugees’ and return to Egypt, since Israel was about to be destroyed.
Unfortunately for him, el-Erian forgot that Egyptians hate Jews even more than they hate Israel, and was forced to resign after the Islamic Jihad organization complained that the re-introduction of Jews would “rot the Egyptian economy” [they should be so lucky as to have Jewish businessmen!] and that Shari’a requires Muslims to kill Jews.
If that isn’t surreal enough, what is the Obama Administration doing in the face of the imminent collapse of the largest and historically most important and powerful state in the Arab world, now ruled by an anti-Western and anti-Semitic radical Islamic regime (which it helped bring to power)?
Why, giving them advanced F-16 aircraft, of course.
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