CLEAN MEAT

Clean meat is a term I recently added to my vocabulary. It refers to meat that is grown in laboratories from animal cells. Environmentalists and animal activists are proponents of clean meat because it could produce the flavor of hamburgers and sausages without the greenhouse gases and animal suffering of the factory farming system. Jewish consumers are proponents of clean meat because it could produce kosher bacon et al.

Because I am neither a scientist nor a nutritionist, I find the technological reasoning behind clean meat to be beyond my purview. As a rabbi, as one who believes that I have a fair understanding of American Jewry, I cannot help but feel that the interest – mildly put – in the ability to artificially produce bacon and other heretofore forbidden food products is rooted in the following three reasons:

American Jews, observant American Jews do not seem to be concerned about the prohibition found in the Torah adjuring us not to act according to the abominations of foreign nations. Rather than expand the prohibition to include all foreign nations, our rabbinic sage strove to show that it applies to the seven Canaanite nations and that kosher is solely limited to ingredients. Therefore, from a kosher standpoint, rabbinic authorities seem to have no problem giving their seal of approval to chemically laced, nitrate loaded and artery clogging  nutrition free foods. Apparently, contemporary rabbinic greats as well as those who oversee kashrut agencies are not in any way troubled that we have succeeded in mimicking American culture as far as fast food (hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza), nor do they seem to be concerned that more often than not, observant Jews consume these fast foods in “animal position” that is to say, while standing up (as Jews, we are mandated to eat like a mentsch, in a seated position). Having shown that we are halachically (in accordance with the dictates of Jewish law) capable of duplicating Big Macs and Big Whoppers, it’s only logical to segue into duplicating an Egg McMuffin and  a (Whataburger) Breakfast Platter using clean meat.

I believe that it’s fair to say that there is a disproportionate number of American Jews  in the fields of law, medicine, accounting and comedy. I cannot help but wonderer if there is a disproportionate number of American Jews when it comes to being curious. Even though Adam and Eve had no religious affiliation (we read about them last Shabbat) did their sense of curiosity filter down more to American Jews than to any other people? Are observant American Jews more infatuated in foods that are verboten, than say observant American Moslems? Does Mohammed crave bacon and eggs as much Menachem? As apt an addage as “curiosity killed the cat” may be, perhaps it doesn’t apply to Jews when it comes to heretofore forbidden foods that are suddenly deemed kosher because they constitute clean meat.

The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) forbids us to remind a person of his past deeds. Heaven forfend that I should single out any one person, but we are living in an age of “Ba’alei Teshuvah” or those who began to observe the dictates of Judaism at some point in their lives. They constitute a sizeable portion of the Orthodox community in contemporary America. Unlike the “Frum from Birth” or those born into  observant Jewish family, “Ba’alei Teshuvah” gave up a great deal, including in some cases forbidden foods when they embraced their new lifestyle. Those “Frum from Birth” never tasted shrimp, bacon or cheeseburgers. Frum from Birth Jews neither long for the taste nor savor the flavor. Not so, the “Ba’alei Teshuvah community. The Ba’alei Teshuvah community has every reason to anticipate the day when clean meat hits the market. However private a matter it might be, upon tasting clean meat kosher bacon or similar, “Ba’alei Teshuvah will have every right to silently intone “Chadeish Yameinu K’Kedem” or renew our days as of old.

THE CONVERSION BUSINESS

Earlier this month, the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews issued a solemn renunciation: “the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific mission work directed towards Jews.”
I have no idea how world Jewish leaders, both religious and lay reacted to this statement, basically telling us that the Catholic Church no longer has conversion of Jews on their agenda, nor do I care. There is one rabbi however, of a Traditional Congregation in Dallas Texas, who is indignant. And that’s putting it mildly.
Have they no sense of shame or embarrassment to advertise “We are no longer in the Conversion Business” as far as actively seeking out Jews? Do they not realize how repugnant they present themselves? Perhaps it’s time to analyze how they got into the “business” in the first place:
Insecurity. If one is totally secure in one’s belief, if one is convinced that his belief system is the best in the world, then why seek validation from someone with a different belief? If your belief works for you, gezunterheit! Believe in it with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might (sorry about that, my Judaism keeps creeping in). But please leave my heart, my soul, my being out of it.
Have you ever been to a restaurant where someone orders, let’s say kishke. While eating the kishke, this person is carrying on with how fabulous the kishke is, to the point that he’s beginning to turn your kishkes. Wait, it gets worse! Now the kishke eater is insisting that you have to taste some of the kishke as well! The kishke eater just won’t take “no” for an answer. Now, it just so happens, that you detest kishke. Where I come from, there is one word to describe the kishke eater: OBNOXIOUS.
Is it any different with the Catholic Church shoving the Trinity and all else that goes along with it down the throats of Jews over the centuries? And now, the kishke eater issues a proclamation that he is no longer going to be obnoxious. Sorry, but if you are like me, then you’ve become fed up long ago.
Slate, an online magazine was so amused by what came out of the Vatican, that they ran a headline “Jews Can Go to Heaven”. Slate may be onto something. The Catholic Church, with its age old sanctimonious attitude that they are the sole arbiters of which souls can enter heaven, has suddenly proclaimed Jew Day. How very patronizing! I don’t know about you, but I’m not aware of any Jew fearing being turned away from heaven by some celestial Catholic bouncer.
It’s bad enough that over the centuries, Catholics with the imprimatur of their church, behaved in such ungodly ways. If the Church can’t bring itself to apologize for its leaders and followers forcibly converting Jews or murdering those Jews who refused to be converted, fine! If they want to act as though it never happened, I promise that I won’t throw it up to them. But to tell us that we Jews can now get into heaven…
A modicum of seichel and good taste would have had the Vatican look ahead and not back. If their conscience is truly troubling them, then there’s countless religious volumes as well as other religious artifacts that belong to us that has “mysteriously” found its way into the Vatican. Returning these holy books and items to their rightful owner (even Jesus saw theft as being reprehensible) would be far more meaningful than telling us that they are no longer in the Conversion business, forced or otherwise.