I'm a Jew, though a fairly unorthodox one. Being relatively new to paleo, I'm enjoying the interesting thinking coming about as I look to the Tanakh on eating paleo, and how my better, healthier lifestyle fitsin with my faith. To any Paleo Jews out there - what have you learned? What in your practice have you abandoned, kept, or modified? Has going paleo changed how you think about G-d?
Edit: Has anyone read A Wild Faith or God in the Wilderness? Both are books about Judaism and nature.
I am basically secular, but my mom is Renewal...she eats mostly paleo, and feels good about eating what she calls eco-kosher...grassfed meats, wild fish, etc. She feels that this fits with her spiritual beliefs, and wouldn't feel good about eating most modern kosher meats....her and I both don't eat dairy, so that fits right in there...I sometimes go with her to services, or shabbat dinner, and usually feel awkward about refusing the challah and the wine, I suppose if I were more involved, I'd come up with a nice substitute...
I am not Jewish, but I am fascinated by where cultural practices come from, among other funny little obsessions (I am the only person who has attempted to recreate and wear the ancient Roman version of the bra :-D), and this research forms a major part of my work today.
All in all, after all these years of research and living and working in other countries, I have come to the following conclusions ...
Almost all cultural facets and practices "make sense" in their time and geographical place for one reason or another, and these reasons are usually kinda practical once you discount the religious or traditional aspect. Take meat type: as a general rule, colder countries eat more pork and beef, warmer countries eat more lamb (and many have a prohibition on pork and some on beef).
Why is this? Well, it could be as simple as climate and economics. Populations in colder countries in the past required more fleece products for clothing, so people didn't consume so many sheep because they needed next year's fleece from those animals (and they didn't have as many flax sources for linen). Warmer countries didn't require so many fleece products, so they ate their sheep and they couldn't raise as many cows to create a major meat source because their countries' climate did not allow for long grasses to grow (this is one of the reasons why North Africans hardly eat any beef, despite there being no religious prohibition on the meat).
Colder countries with more hardcore climates seem to require more leather as well ... so what you end up with is colder countries eating more pork. Warmer countries end up eating more lamb and mutton.
Again, blood products are a bit of a disaster in a warmer climate where there is no refrigeration; in a colder country, however, this is not so much of a problem and they are a vital source of nutrients.
The pork prohibition is fascinating though, and, in fact, was the thing that sparked my interest in this field about twenty five years ago when I came across a reference to evidence that the pork prohibition among certain peoples in the Middle East is very, very old -- far, far older than people realise, like "start of civilisation in the ME" old. The hypothesis was that it possibly originated as a protectionist measure on the part of one sheep-rearing tribe who simply did not want to trade with another tribe who bred pigs. But, furthermore, when you look at other cultural connections -- honour cultures amongst peoples who live in mountainous areas and rely on wandering ruminants, how you keep certain livestock and what conditions you require to rise them etc -- you star to realise how keeping pigs does not exactly fit with a certain kind of lifestyle in certain conditions; in short, you can't really live in a mountainous or hilly area where there are other hostile tribes around.
However, the other side to this is that when you transfer certain cultural practices to another time and/or place, they can fail abysmally and end up as highly dangerous practices -- look at what happened to Indian vegetarians when they first came to Britain in the 50s; they suffered from chronic anemia because British fruit and veg had less animal residue than the fruit and veg in India.
To take another example: shatnez. To me, this makes a lot of sense when you consider older textile processes -- in short, it would be a bugger to wash. Wool, at the best of times, can be a nightmare. Ceremonial robes of other cultures that mixed linen and wool probably just wouldn't have ever been washed, and to the "cleanse conscious" early Jews, such an idea would have probably been anathema.
I have gone on a bit here :oD. Sorry, it's just that it is one of my obsessions and I can get a bit carried away.
So, to finish, you could argue that that kosher restrictions were kinda "paleo" if you consider that the spirit of "paleo" means consuming to the best of your ability, health and gene expression within a certain environmental context at a certain time. Had I been the member of an early nomadic tribe wandering around in the ME, I probably would have thought twice about mixing dairy and meat in the same meal for the simple reason that in a warmer climate, there's a risk of contaminating two lots of foods if either the dairy or the meat is off.
I am Conservative, not currently very observant, but fairly well educated in Judaism and grew up with observant friends. When I discovered the truth about diet it led me to believe that Judaism and the old testament are not paleo, and that the bible, while no doubt being inspired by God, was written by humans. It was well into agricultural times and I would suspect that people then had no idea of what lifestyle had preceded them. The bible is filled with references to bread and grains, wine and honey. Some of the healthiest people on the planet eat tons of pork and seafood, while in my estimation Jews keeping strict kosher suffer all of the diseases of civilization with the same frequency as the rest of the population.
The worst part about keeping kosher is that I can't eat real bacon. As a wise rabbi once said about Paleo... "just eat real food... the rest is all commentary."
Interesting question. It has made me look at Kashrut differently.
Don't mix meat and dairy --> possibly beneficial for digestion.
No Pork --> Maybe they knew pigs were high in 06!?.
Humane treatment and killing of animals --> health grass fed beef! Unfortunately kosher today only means killing commercial animals a certain way. But the idea to treat our animals humanely is solid.
No Shellfish --> Not sure about this one. Someone could probably argue that since they are bottom dwellers they eat the oceans crap and thus are unsanitary for us.
Holiday fasts--> mandatory IFing.
Unfortunately since I have been Paleo I have had to cook my grass fed beef downstairs and away from the upstairs kosher kitchen. (still live with my parents).
I think eating Paleo and Kosher is possible if you are willing to eat grass fed beef and decide that even though its not 'kosher' it is humanely raised animal and thus is really what kosher meat is all about.
EDIT: With the comments taken into account it does make more sense that these dietary rules were made more in order to separate Jews from socializing and mixing with other peoples rather than as healthy eating guidelines.
One of my dear teachers was rather insistent on not trying to find "reasons" for the rules of Kashrut or any other Biblical mandates for that matter. I think he was trying to make the point that it is not ours to reason why or why not. We either follow (to whatever extent we choose) these religious/cultural rules or we don't. And if we follow the rules it's because G-d said so and it's part of our cultural heritage.
Also, I am totally bemused by the bacon obsession in the paleo community but maybe that's because I don't know what I'm missing.
I've never found eating bacon and shellfish makes my kippah fit differently. I view eating primal as my way of keeping kosher and keeping my body in good health, which I feel is the intention of kashrut in the first place. :)
I think the only place where primal living clashes with Judaism is with the motzi on shabbat and holidays. Cutting that out hasn't affected how I feel about judaism or my relationship to it. I actually was gluten free for a few years before becoming primal.
I feel much closer to writings that recommend eating meat on shabbat and holidays to enhance your enjoyment. Eating with friends within primal guidelines is also easy since shabbat meals are my social life and those are usually based around meat. Kosher wise, yeah I can't have bacon, but I can have beef prosciutto, and grass fed meat isn't hard to find in Israel where I live.
Reading the bible; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were shepherds and ate primally, it was only after the Israelites left Egypt that they became a farming culture. Even most of the ritual sacrifices in the temple were meat based, though one was grain based. So I think I am connecting to some really ancient ancestors by eating like they did.
That isn't why I do it though, I just want to be healthy. (though being healthy is also a mitzvah, I am told)
Also only having one set of dishes in the kitchen saves me a lot of space.
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