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Abstracts

For More Information:

Colleen Hastings
Creighton University
Hitchcock, Room 304D
2500 California Street
Omaha, NE 68178

(402) 280-2303

colleenhastings@creighton.edu

 

List of Contributors:

Ruth Abusch-Magder, "Kashrut: Women as Gatekeepers of Jewish Identity"
Eran I. Argov, "A Carnivorous God? The Transformation of Paschal Food Rituals in Rabbinic and Patristic Thought"
S. Daniel Breslauer, "The Vegetarian Alternative: Biblical Adumbrations, Modern Reverberations"
Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, "Does God Care What We Eat?" and "Food and Table Talk in the Early Rabbinic Seder and Last Supper in Luke's Gospel"
Cara De Silva, "In Memory's Kitchen: Reflections on Recently Discovered Forms of Holocaust Literature"
Maria Diemling, "Garlic in Jewish-Christian Polemical Discourse in Early Modern Ashkenaz"
Marcie Cohen Ferris, "Matzah Ball Gumbo, Gasper Good Gefilte Fish, and Big Momma's Kreplach: Exploring Southern Jewish Foodways"
Joel Hecker, "The Blessing in the Belly: Mystical Meals in Medieval Kabbalah"
Eve Jochnowitz, "Smoked Salmon Sushi and Sturgeon Stomachs: The Russian Jewish Foodscapes of New York"
Jenna Weissman Joselit, "Jewish in Dishes: Food, Faith, and Community in Modern America"
David Kraemer, "Separating the Dishes"
Alan Nadler, "Holy Kugel! The Sanctification of East European Jewish Ethnic Foods at the Hasidic Tish"
Alice Nakhimovsky, "Public Holidays and Private Foods: The Fugitive World of Russian-Jewish Cooking"
Joan Nathan, "From Beans to Bagels: A Social History of Jewish Food in America"
Oliver B. Pollak, "101 Years of Nebraska Jewish Charitable Cookbooks"
Gary A. Rendsberg, "The Vegetarian Ideal in the Bible"
Brannon Wheeler, "Food of the Book or Food of Israel? Israelite and Jewish Food Laws in the Muslim Exegesis of Quran 9:30"

Kashrut: Women as Gatekeepers of Jewish Identity

Ruth Abusch-Magder
Yale University


Kashrut is a basic Jewish observance that is incumbent on all Jews, regardless of sex, age, or marital status. Yet the particular involvement of women in foodways (defined as the “pattern of what is eaten, when, how, and what it means”), in Jewish culture specifically and in Western culture more broadly, and the connection of food to home life make kashrut a particularly good place to begin to understand how nineteenth century German-speaking Jewish women, in Europe and in America, were both limited and empowered by their position in the home.

My goal in this presentation is to use kashrut to expand our understanding of the relationship of community, women, and home to the enactment of Jewish ritual and identity. I show that the responsibilities placed upon women involving food and domestic life meant that women gained a certain amount of power over decisions relating to food, particularly at a time when questions of identity were central to Jewish life. I show that, in contrast to limitations put on women in other aspects of ritual life, the assumptions of the religious legal structure of kashrut ceded women a degree of religious authority in kitchen and food matters, which subsequently translated into influence over and expression of personal visions of Judaism. I believe that even in an era of diminishing rabbinic control, these rabbinic assumptions shaped the reality of Jewish foodways. However, I suggest that there were also fundamental differences between the legal ideal and the day-to-day enactment of Jewish ritual. I do this by examining the halakhic idea of kashrut observance and by suggesting an alternative model, the Jewish food chain, which better reflects lived experience. By applying that model to an examination of kashrut first in Germany and second in America, I will highlight how the communal context in which kashrut is observed or forsaken influences the relative importance of the home in ritual life and the power of women to influence Jewish expression.

The material for this presentation comes from a larger project on domestic Jewish life and the importance of food in Jewish identity in Germany and America between 1850 and 1914. I rely on a variety of source materials including memoirs, letters, newspapers, and in particular cookbooks. Visual aids are used to reinforce the connection between discussions of experience and the theoretical framework. The use of examples from different communities helps illustrate how the Jewish food chain as a model reflects a diversity of experience as well as how the various elements of that model change in relative importance based on the particular geo-social setting.

Though this paper focuses on a period when there was a general move away from traditional observance, this paper does not attempt at an accounting of kashrut observance or attitudes towards particular foods. Instead it looks at how, at a time when Jews were confronting a growing freedom to define Jewish identity in personal terms, the unique combination of women’s domestic responsibilities and the centrality of the kitchen in the rituals of kashrut gave women an opportunity to express their individual approach to Jewish life. As keepers of the kitchen, women made decisions about kashrut. Whether in breach or in observance, the position individual women took regarding kashrut had effects beyond themselves. As the gatekeepers of this central Jewish observance, women used food to voice personal visions of Jewish identity.

List of Contributors

A Carnivorous God? The Transformation of Paschal Food Rituals in Rabbinic and Patristic Thought

Eran I. Argov
Oxford University


The centrality of food in Jewish rituals and their traditions is hardly disputable. Some of the most notable features of the Jewish faith are perhaps the dietary practices (Kasherut), such as abstaining from a range of products: pork, shellfish, crustaceans, and many more. These can be traced back to the Pentateuch (Lev 11), significantly appearing there as part of a larger corpus of directives and instructions, dedicated to the sacrifice of animals. Other Jewish restrictions relating to licit comestibles are also well known.

In the present paper, I propose to explore the case of Passover and the contacts of its earliest literary traditions with the sources of Easter. I shall attempt to argue, that the re-interpretation of the Exodus story, and the consequent re-shaping of Jewish paschal rituals by the Tannaim and Amoraim (the sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud, respectively), culminating in the Jewish Passover meal (Seder) and the compilation of its accompanying liturgical text (Hagaddah) was not carried out in indifference to the New Testament and the constituent role of the "Lord's Supper" in the formation of Patristic thought. Furthermore, a sensitive close reading of relevant passages in the works of Christian authors like Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardi, Origen, and Aphrahat may reveal not necessarily and "external" evidence, supposedly generated by the "parting of the ways," of the two traditions, but rather indicates a development of the Eucharistic legacy which appears to have run parallel, though not without at times engaging in dialogue with contemporary Jewish re-thinking of rituals and its resulting exegetical endeavors during the second and third centuries CE. Most of the Christian texts in question seem to predate the surviving rabbinic sources and thus, if the present assumption can be supported, may shed more light on the charged symbolism of the Seder's traditional menu, as stated in Rabban Gamaliel's relevant dictum in Pesakhim 10.5.

List of Contributors

The Vegetarian Alternative: Biblical Adumbrations; Modern Reverberations

S. Daniel Breslauer
University of Kansas


The vegetarian meal, as Claude Lévi-Strauss has already remarked, follows a different pattern and evokes a distinctive mythic meaning from that of the meat meal. For Lévi-Strauss, the contrast between raw and cooked is associated with meat, while that between honey and ashes is more appropriate for the vegetarian meal. Leviticus 2 concerns a meal (grain) offering and distinguishes between honey (which may not be turned into ashes) and salt (which must be). To understand this distinction, it is well to note the mythic import of the tension between carnivorous and vegetarian sacrificial meals (as in Genesis 4:1-5), the significance of honey (as in Judges 14), and of salt (as in Genesis 19:26 -28). Three themes emerge: the vegetarian alternative is dangerous, if combined with strength (honey) it can be destructive, if combined with caution (salt) it can be useful as a warning against passions.

These ideas reappear in modern re-appropriations of the vegetarian theme. Two stories by S.Y. Agnon—“The Whole Loaf” and “Panim Aherot” (Metamorphoses)—show the dynamics between a vegetarian meal as a dangerous occurrence and as a promise of possibilities in the future. Two novels by David Grossman make meals a central feature, The Zigzag Kid and Be My Knife. Looking at vegetarian themes in those stories reveals the same dichotomy. Between the poles of strength and caution, honey and salt, the vegetarian alternative takes on a distinctive dialectic within both biblical and contemporary Jewish writing.

List of Contributors

Does God Care What We Eat?

Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus
Wheaton College, Massachusetts


In my paper, I explore the presumptions behind Jewish justifications for killing or not killing animals for food. I contend that we presume the existence of something, life, vitality, something not completely reducible to the chemical composition of its parts, a quality of existence that previous generations called "the soul." Eating (or not eating) food that was alive is a way of perpetuating these presumed qualities and their rank in a hierarchy of being. Therefore, the predominant position was that God wanted us to eat meat, as long as it was kosher and served together “with words of Torah”; that is, eaten with the right spiritual intentions. On the other hand, there is a counter-tradition in Judaism advocating vegetarianism. In this view, meat-eating is God’s temporary concession to our animal cravings, but when our souls are more fully enlightened by the Torah, our moral impulse will abhor killing animals for food. The classic Jewish positions favoring meat-eating on the one hand, and vegetarianism on the other hand, are particularly well-represented by the thirteenth century medieval Spanish Kabbalist R. Bahya ben Asher and his circle, and the first chief rabbi of Israel, R. Abraham Isaac Kook. By presenting these two contrasting positions, I show how Jewish mystical attitudes about food raise important questions about our own modern, scientifically informed assumptions and experiences of what it means to be alive. Does it make sense for human beings to sacrifice the lives of other beings—animals—for food, clothing, medical experimentation, or for other activities supposed to enhance our lives, without the assumption of a hierarchy of being or “souls” like that implicit in these classic Jewish theories about food? Is the idea of higher and lower forms of life morally sound or even empirically demonstrable? Have we experienced or observed phenomena analogous to what the Jewish tradition calls "soul"? What are the ethics of dealing with "souls" or whatever comparable term we might use for these phenomena? Regardless of how we answer these questions, one thing is clear: Jewish ritual and mystical traditions intentionally transform eating into moral philosophy. And that moral philosophy in turn transforms our eating into divine service, as if we were offering sacrifices to God in the Temple . As it says in m. Avot 3:3: “At every table over which three have eaten and have spoken words of Torah over it, it as if they have eaten from the table of God.”

List of Contributors

In Memory's Kitchen: Reflections on Recently Discovered Forms of Holocaust Literature

Cara De Silva
New York


This paper discusses the genre of cookbooks created within concentration camps and prisoner-of-war camps, focusing especially on the creation of a cookbook Terezin, used as a "hoax" camp by the Nazis. I emphasize the pre-concentration camp food culture of the authors to enable readers to better understand the contents of the manuscript. I then discuss how the cookbook came to be produced at Terezin and under what conditions, including information on the subsistence fare of the inmates. This leads to a discussion of why the vast majority of recipes in the cookbook don't work, a poignant reflection of the deteriorating condition of their starving authors. Ingredients are missing, steps are reversed, recipes simply trail off incomplete.

Most important, given that the act of writing down the recipes in these circumstances was, consciously or unconsciously, an act of resistance, the paper discusses the meaning of food itself and its extraordinary power as a marker of identity. As such, this work was not created for use at the stove, but rather is a way of using food memories to reinforce the sense of self when struggling to survive psychologically in circumstances where your culture, traditions, and your very self are being destroyed.

List of Contributors

Food and Table Talk in the Early Rabbinic Seder and the Last Supper in Luke’s Gospel

Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus


The early rabbinic Seder and the account of the Last Supper in Luke’s Gospel incorporate the foundation myths of their respective communities into ritual meals, so that subsequent participants can re-enact the stories that make them who they are. Borrowing the literary conventions of Greco-Roman symposia, Luke and the rabbis of the Mishnah connect table talk to the events and “props” of their meal rituals in order to call attention to the fact that the foods function as more than just nourishment—they mark social boundaries. The Christian Eucharist is a ritual both of separation and re-integration, stressing the Christians’ break with other first century Jews, as well as the union of contemporary Christians with their ancestors. The rabbinic Seder is primarily a ritual of re-integration, stressing the unbroken link between contemporary Jews and their ancestors, despite the traumatic events of the Temple ’s destruction and exile. The table talk of these rituals associates words of “scripture” (whether the Written and Oral Torah or the sayings of Jesus) with the food and drink to be consumed. Ingesting the foods "inscribed" with the words of God is a ritualization of scriptural metaphors, a sensual internalization of the rabbinic or Christian myths.

List of Contributors

Matzah Ball Gumbo, Gasper Goo Gefilte Fish, and Big Momma’s Kreplach: Exploring Southern Jewish Foodways

Marcie Cohen Ferris
George Washington University


Since the earliest arrival of Sephardic Jewish immigrants to the South in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, southern Jews have blended their regional identity both as Jews and as Southerners through the foods they eat, the holidays they celebrate, and the products they buy. I am currently conducting research on this unique world for my doctoral dissertation, which has the same title as this presentation. I examine different aspects of food in the lives of southern Jews, from foods prepared in the home and the synagogue to food-related businesses that Jews created and patronized. These businesses include restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, butcher shops, bakeries, fish markets, liquor stores, summer camps, and resorts. My study focuses on families in Louisiana , Mississippi , Arkansas , Tennessee , Georgia , Alabama , North Carolina , and South Carolina from 1900 to the present. Through foodways, I show how Jews have become part of southern life, and in that process how they have created a uniquely rich chapter in American Jewish history.

Food events are the foundation of the southern Jewish community. These events include meals prepared in the home for visiting rabbis, Shabbat suppers at the Temple, community Passover Seders at the synagogue, fried chicken at Jewish summer camp, “Ballyhoo” luncheons, teas, and late night pizza parties, kosher supplies shipped by train from cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Memphis to outlying rural Jewish communities, and temple “barbecue” fundraisers.

The study of foodways in the Jewish South has been neglected in part because it is within the realm of women. It stands outside the world of public, male-dominated Jewish activities in synagogues, businesses, and community life. Yet food is fundamental to cultural identity. Folklorist Charles Camp argues that food “is one of the most, if not the single most, visible badges of identity.” It is important because “ordinary people understand and employ the symbolic and cultural dimensions of food in their everyday affairs.” What better way to understand how southern Jews construct their identity? Whatever their class, gender, or country of origin, all Jews share the common activity of preparing, eating, sharing, and celebrating food. Food both connects and distances Jews from their non-Jewish southern neighbors.

List of Contributors

Garlic in Jewish-Christian Polemical Discourse in Early Modern Ashkenaz

Maria Diemling
Hebrew University of Jerusalem


In my paper I explore the use of garlic in the religious discourse of Early Modern Ashkenaz. In my research, mainly dealing with the experience of Jews living in the Germanic lands, I often happen upon remarks about the "stench" of the Jews. This can be in the context of the suggestion that conversion to Christianity and baptism purifies Jews from their "inherent bad smell" and goes as far as to claim that Jews would need Christian blood for ritual purposes and for getting rid of their stench. I have always interpreted these references as an expression of anti-Semitism that uses the concept of smell/stench in order to despise an unwanted "Other."

On the other hand, the Ashkenazic depiction of a medieval Jewish couple with garlic, "shum," symbolizing the holy communities of Speyer , Worms and Mainz , is a well-known image, which clearly refers in a positive way to a vegetable with a very distinctive smell. Many Jewish sources from all periods of history mention garlic: the Israelites wander in the desert and miss the spices of Egypt such as garlic and onions; a French chicken recipe is recommended for Pesach since its forty cloves of garlic represent the time the Jews spent in the desert; the Mishnah advises Jews to eat garlic on Erev Shabbat.

Is there is a connection between these two perceptions? The notion of a distinctive "Jewish smell" and the popularity garlic seems to enjoy in the Jewish cuisine, but not within the Christianity society, might be related. Johann J. Schudt, chronicler of Jewish live in early eighteenth century Germany , seems to hint at it when describing wealthy Jewish households in which one distinguishes clearly the strong smell of garlic.

Did Ashkenazic Jews indeed adopt garlic, so warmly recommended by the Talmud, as an important ingredient in their cuisine? Is it true that garlic was despised by Christians, but loved by Jews, as Christian writers suggest? Are there distinct differences between Jewish and Christian food at this period? Is the conception of "Jewish stench" a purely Ashkenazic one, not known within an environment that enjoys similar spicy dishes?

List of Contributors

The Blessing in the Belly: Mystical Meals in Medieval Kabbalah

Joel Hecker
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College


In the Zohar’s narratives, one of the primary venues for the exchange of mystical teachings is the setting of the meal. In this paper I trace some of the mystical phenomena that are associated with these meals, particularly in terms of the embodiment that is suggested in the literary formulations of the experiences described. The mystical adepts described in the Zohar reflect upon their dining while contemplating Scripture, using a pneumatic or experiential hermeneutic. Thus inspired, they “remember” the experience of Israelites eating the manna. Describing that experience as a “blessing in the belly,” the kabbalists do not intend merely a colorful metaphor but rather a psychosomatic experience, a bodily experience of the mind’s imaginative travel. Resolved in this experience are tensions between body and soul, between ascetic strivings for spiritual experience and the engagement in the physicality of life enjoined by the Torah. The “blessing in the belly” and other similar tropes treat the body’s inwardness as a site of illumination, union, and wisdom; conversely, negative tropes treat the belly as the bodily expression of idolatry and death. The experiences are mystical by virtue of the fact that the food is the very stuff of the Divine.

A related motif is that of mystical satiation, enduring satisfaction from small quantities of divinely-endowed bread. Passages in the Zohar and in de Leon’s Sefer ha-Rimmon express perplexity by the disjuncture of normative halakhah’s requirement that one recite Grace after an olive’s-volume of bread rather than after actual satiety as Scripture provides. Recognizing the problem, the homily contends that the blessing will follow either satiety or a contemplation-induced satiety. Because Scripture specifies satiety, there is a need to fulfill this requirement. The resolution comes through the interposition of the verse “and feed every creature as it wills,” with emphasis on the word “wills” understood to refer to kavvanah. Satiety flows upon will, the mystical intention projected onto the food, not from grosser categories such as the quantity of food and size of one’s appetite.

These and other phenomena are analyzed in order to shed light on the meals of the zoharic narrative’s company of characters and on the nature of their embodied mystical experience.

List of Contributors

Smoked Salmon Sushi and Sturgeon Stomachs: The Russian Jewish Foodscapes of New York

Eve Jochnowitz
New York University


Since the beginning of the 1990s, a new wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union has dramatically reshaped the gastronomic landscapes of many New York neighborhoods, most notably, Brighton Beach, Rego Park, Washington Heights, Flatbush, and Ocean Parkway. A new culinary infrastructure has sprouted up to provide the ingredients for traditional Russian Jewish cooking in the home, as well as at restaurants, bars, coffee shops, nightclubs, and catering halls. These businesses use name selection, décor, inventory, menu design and selection to negotiate taste (in both senses), identity, authenticity, observance of the Jewish dietary laws, and commercial viability.

The existence of a cuisine implies an intense and intimate connection between a people and a place. Jewish cuisines and particularly the cuisines of uprooted and rearticulated Jewish communities are paradoxical in that the food and food practices have been separated, along with a population, from the places to which they were specific. My paper looks at the surprising and instructive ways in which Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union combine traditions and innovations in cooking and eating, and in vocabularies of presentation in the manufacture and retail of Russian food.

List of Contributors

Jewish in Dishes: Food, Faith, and Community in Modern America

Jenna Weissman Joselit
Princeton University


This presentation frames American Jewry’s response to food, setting forth some of the broad interpretive issues that animate the relationship between food and culture. Among these, the cookbook is addressed as a primary source of cultural and religious history. More specifically, I focus on the variety of ways by which American Jews have sought to reconcile—and in the process reinterpret—kashrut with science, consumer culture, and sentimentality.

List of Contributors

Separating the Dishes

David Kraemer
Jewish Theological Seminary of America


Traditional Jewish eating practice, as inherited and enacted in modernity, is in significant respects focused on maintaining a separation between meat and dairy dishes and utensils. This is so much the case, in fact, that Jewish demographers have used the question, “Do you keep separate sets of dishes?” to determine whether someone “keeps kosher” in a traditional way. Yet, if one reviews Talmudic sources relevant to the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy, one finds not a single mention of the maintaining of separate sets of dishes.

The history of the development of the practice of maintaining separate dishes, from late antiquity until modernity (the first mention of separate sets of dishes is, in fact, modern), turns on two fundamental factors: the history of the development of technologies of eating and the development of Jewish identities that demand extreme separation from one’s neighbors. In this presentation, I trace the history of the development of this practice as it correlates with the identified factors.

List of Contributors

Holy Kugel! The Sanctification of East European Jewish Ethnic Foods at the Hasidic Tish

Allan Nadler
Drew University


The Rebbe’s Tish (table) on the Sabbath and Jewish festivals is among the central and most enduring religious rituals in Hasidic life. The most powerful attraction of the Hasid’s pilgrimage to the Rebbe’s court is the opportunity to share the master’s food by partaking of his shirayim, or leftovers. According to common Hasidic belief, rooted in earlier kabbalistic doctrine, the Rebbe has the power to sanctify the food he eats by separating the sparks of holiness inherent and essential in all created things from corporeal matter.

Although this general idea of elevating food to its divine source through sacred eating was already well developed in Cordoveran and Lurianic Kabbalah, Hasidism popularized this kabbalistic concept and gave it concrete expression in the rituals of the Tish. The Tish not only allowed for the communal practice of a hitherto esoteric and socially restricted mystical practice, it also applied earlier kabbalistic theories about food and eating to the specific items on the Rebbe’s Sabbath and festival menu.

Using a variety of startling hermeneutic devices and exegetical techniques, Hasidic writers assigned very specific mystical significations to such eastern European Jewish foods as kugel, lokshen, gefilte fish, farfel, and kishke. This very concrete application of mystical doctrine is consistent with the general tendency of Hasidism, since its origins, to popularize kabbalistic doctrine and render it accessible to the Jewish masses.

At the same time, in the case of the Rebbe’s Tish, it resulted in an almost totemistic approach to ethnic foods. Among the ironic consequences of this approach that my presentation addresses is an extreme form of culinary conservatism, whereby any changes to the traditional Sabbath or festival diet were viewed as tantamount to heresy. Additionally, Hasidic eating etiquette, such that it was, was adapted and often changed in order to correspond to the specific items on the table at different stages of the Tish.

List of Contributors

Public Holidays and Private Foods: The Fugitive World of Russian-Jewish Cooking

Alice Nakhimovsky
Colgate University


When American Jews think of Jewish cooking, what they imagine are the immigrant kitchens of their Russian grandmothers, whose dishes, Americanized but still recognizable, remain an important part of American-Jewish identity. These foods, with their double Yiddish-English names, are linked with Jewish memory and Jewish holidays; they mark an association with another, not completely American, world.

The cuisine that stayed behind in Russia developed differently. Acculturating to a reality that was Russian, Soviet, and antisemitic, Jews continued to cook in a recognizably Jewish way. But the foods they served, with their double Yiddish-Russian names, came to be dissociated almost completely from Jewish ritual knowledge. Transferred from the Jewish to the Soviet holiday table, these de-ritualized foods remained nonetheless a mainstay of Jewish identity. Celebrating the same public holidays as their Russian counterparts, Soviet Jews ate in a way that marked their association with a private, not completely Russian, world.

This paper is based on interviews with Russian Jews, aged twenty-five to eighty-five, and on an analysis of Russian-language Jewish cookbooks published since 1989 when such publication became possible. Three issues are addressed: what constituted Russian Jewish food; lost connections: Kashruth and the Jewish calendar; and public holidays and private food.

List of Contributors

Keynote Address:

From Beans to Bagels: A Social History of Jewish Food in America

Joan Nathan
Washington , D.C.

In this presentation I trace the rich tapestry of more than three centuries of Jewish cooking in America . Our foods have greatly developed from the early Sephardic settlers who came to America in the seventeenth century, to the German Jewish settlers of the nineteenth, to the Eastern European in the late nineteenth and early twentieth, each immigrant bringing a wide variety of regional flavors, changing and adapting their traditional dishes according to what was available in the new country. I outline those changes as I describe the journey of bagels, brisket, babka, and many other so-called Jewish foods, integrating them into the overall history of America.

List of Contributors

101 Years of Nebraska Jewish Charitable Cookbooks

Oliver B. Pollak
University of Nebraska at Omaha


The publications of Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, B’nai B’rith, synagogues and temple sisterhoods, and the like are a rich, un-mined or under-exploited source of local, Jewish, and women’s/feminist history, as well of changing tastes and fashions. This presentation explores diverse examples of cookbooks published in Nebraska for their wealth of cultural and historical information.

List of Contributors

The Vegetarian Ideal in the Bible

Gary A. Rendsburg
Cornell University


The Bible presents a vegetarian ideal, which is surprisingly not widely recognized, either in the field of biblical studies or in broader academic circles. Both creation stories in Genesis 1-2 present the first humans as herbivores, with the permission to eat meat granted only in Genesis 9. In fact, the first creation account presents the entire animal kingdom as herbivores as well. The dietary laws may be explained through recourse to the vegetarian ideal: the permitted animals are all herbivores or may have been perceived as such, and the prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother’s milk is patient of an explanation along these lines. Finally, in his majestic prophecy about the utopian future, Isaiah envisions a world in which the predatory animals no longer will prey upon their traditional catch, but instead “will eat straw like the cattle” (Isaiah 11:6-7), thus restoring the world to its vegetarian and harmonious status at creation. These words were rehearsed almost two centuries later by the prophet Second Isaiah, who enhanced the lesson by more directly juxtaposing vegetarianism and the eradication of evil in his poetic parallelism.

List of Contributors

Food of the Book or Food of Israel ? Israelite and Jewish Food Laws in the Muslim Exegesis of Quran 9:30.

Brannon Wheeler
University of Washington


According to Muslim exegetes, Q 9:30 was revealed to the prophet Muhammad as a rebuke to the Jews of Medina who objected to the claim that Islam was the "Religion of Abraham." Q 9:30 states that all food was allowed for the Israelites before the revelation of the Torah except that food which Israel/Jacob forbade himself, and ends with an indication that this statement is proved by the text of the Torah. Muslim exegetes go on to identify the relevant passages from the Torah as Gen 32:33 (story of Jacob's prohibition of eating sinews after wrestling with God) or Gen 9:3-4 (food laws given to Noah). Referring to a number of other verses in the Quran (4:18. 4:160, 6:146), Muslim exegetes further maintain that the food laws imposed upon the Israelites, with the revelation of the Torah, were imposed by God as a punishment for the sins of the Israelites. With the revelation of the Quran, as a "New Torah" and a revival of the religion of Abraham, these food laws are repealed.

The exegesis of Q 9:30 illustrates way in which Muslim exegesis characterized Jews and Judaism more generally in the tension between an appropriation and rejection of the Bible and its later interpretation by Jews. Muslim scholars used their knowledge of both Jewish and Christian interpretation of the Bible to support the authority of the Quran and the prophet Muhammad while at the same time distinguishing themselves from Jews and Christians. As did Christian exegetes, Muslims also focused on the food laws of later rabbinic Judaism, and the relationship of these food laws to the written account of the Torah as revealed to Moses. The food prohibitions enjoined in the Torah and observed in later Judaism were portrayed as "defunct" laws abrogated and made unnecessarily onerous by the revelation of the Quran.

My paper examines the Muslim exegesis on Q 9:30 in relation to two broad areas: (1) How Muslim exegetes understood the verse to be related to the Bible (Gen 32:33, 9:3-4) and the apparent Jewish reference to the Oral Torah; (2) What issues this exegesis raises in comparison with cognate early Christian attitudes toward the revelatory status of the Bible, ancient Israel , and the Jews. In particular, this exegesis emphasizes the need to understand how Muslims (and Christians) in an attempt to imagine their own distinct identity, constructed an image of Judaism, as superseded. For Muslims, it was the food laws imposed upon and adhered to by Jews which epitomized what was taken as an abrogated religion.

List of Contributors

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