What does it mean for our home/synagogue to be a mikdash me'at? How do we treat mundane space differently than holy space?
What role does kashrut play in the creation of a mikdash me'at?
It would be irresponsible and reprehensible to advocate the total disregard of the dietary laws. It would prove Reform to be very superficial indeed. These laws not only have hygienic but also a deeper ethical significance because they keep us apart from all that is bestial and crude. They teach us the lovely virtue of self-discipline and may thereby assist us to become a holy people, a demand which the Torah relates to these laws.
Rabbi Bernard Felsenthal
The laws of Kashrut are generally considered by Jews themselves to be the watershed between Orthodoxy and Liberalism. He who keeps the dietary laws appears to the Liberal as an Orthodox Jew, and those who disregard them are, in return, decried by the Orthodox not only as Liberals but even as godless and un-Jewish.
Rabbi Max Freudenthal
CCAR Pittsburg Platform, 1885
4. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.
Does spiritual elevation come from the path of least resistance? Is Judaism supposed to be easy?
CCAR Responsa, 1979
Judaism has always recognized a religious dimension to the consumption of food. Being a gift of God, food was never to be taken for granted. And if this was true of food generally, it was especially true of meat, fish, and fowl, which involve the taking of life. Those Reform Jews who observe the dietary laws, totally or in part, seem to do so because (a) it adds to their personal expression of Judaism; the daily meals serve as reminders of Jewish ideals; (b) it provides an additional link with other Jews and a link to history; it enables Jews of all groups to eat in their home or their synagogue; (c) it encourages ethical discipline; a large number of Reform Jews observe a modified form of the dietary laws by abstaining from pork products, animals specifically prohibited, seafood, and the mixing of meat and milk. Some form of dietary observance may be carried out as a daily reminder of Judaism; the form may be left to the individual or congregation. One might opt to eat only kosher meat or even to adopt some form of vegetarianism so as to avoid the necessity of taking a life. (This would be in consonance with the principle of tsa-ar baalei chayim–prevention of cruelty to animals.) The range of options available to the Reform Jew is from full observance of the Biblical and Rabbinic regulations to total non-observance.
What do we gain from the range of options? What do we lose?
Kashrut for the 21st Century
In the first decade of the 21st century, a growing movement emerged focusing not only on ritual, but also on ethical kashrut. This movement emphasizes not only the traditional rules, but also takes into account issues such as animal treatment, workers conditions, and environmental impact, taking its cue from a number of supporting biblical sources:
- The Torah prohibits the mistreatment of workers (Leviticus 19:13, Deuteronomy 24:14), as all humans are created btzelim elokim (in the image of God). Specific prohibitions include oppressing workers (lo taashok) and delaying their payment.
- The treatment of animals is also deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition. Tzar baalei haim(the mistreatment of animals) is explicitly forbidden by the Torah, and Jewish liturgy is full of praise for God’s demonstrated mercy to all creatures. Animals are even given the Sabbath as a day of rest (Exodus 23:12).
- Environmental values are found in the many agricultural mitzvot in the Torah, including the creation story, where God charges humans l’uvdah ul’shomra (to work and to guard the earth) (Genesis 2:15).
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz