A year has passed since handing in my senior thesis, a paper entitled “The Jewish Relationship to Ethical Food,” which I quoted in my blog post last month. For months, I immersed myself in Jewish texts regarding food. Many of the authors I read are published in this issue of Sh’ma, including Joel Hecker and Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi. With these voices in mind, I argued that Judaism inherently elevates eating and tables as sacred acts and spaces. In contrast to a daily routine of eating for pure survival, Judaism asks us to sanctify these moments in order to exalt the act of eating as more than just banality or carnality.
In the year since graduating college, I have pared my Jewish practices into near disappearance. As my months of independent living accumulate, I find myself reducing and further reducing any adherence to religious observance. This rebellion is not on purpose; I just seem to have lost motivation for maintaining Jewish tradition. Don’t worry, parents: my Jewish identity is thriving and stronger than ever. Yet, this character is increasingly evolving disparately from faith.
Interestingly, though, I argued in a blog a few months ago that the only tradition I still find meaningful is Shabbat dinner. I do not produce a kosher menu, nor do I invite a Jewish guest list, but I try to mark Friday nights as special through my eating choices. While I would not argue that this is my version of a “tisch,” I do suggest that perhaps my subconscious appreciation for Shabbat dinner relates to Hecker’s understanding that, “through our most basic activities, with eating as a prime example, we are able to participate in the flow of divine being that underlies all of reality.”
Was God in this place, and I did not know it?
Judaism’s subtle emphasis on food, eating and tables as emblems of humanity’s connection to the divine suddenly reappears. While perhaps the months since writing my thesis have led me farther away from tradition, I see now the emergence of my original argument: despite needing to eat three times a day, there is the potential for this act to exist in a realm above the material. Feeding our bodies can nourish our Jewish souls.
For this relationship, I offer:
בָּרוּךְ אֱלֹהֵינוּ שֶׁאָכַלְנוּ מִשֶּׁלוֹ וּבְטוּבוֹ חָיִינוּemail print