By Rabbi Arthur Waskow, from his book DOWN-TO-EARTH JUDAISM: FOOD, MONEY, SEX, & THE REST OF LIFE (Morrow).By looking at Jewish approaches to food from the Biblical era to the modern age, we have brought ourselves to the edges of the present. If now we want to get a glimpse of possible futures for Jewish attitudes toward food, let us begin with four unconventional questions:
1. Are tomatoes grown by drenching the earth in pesticides “kosher” to eat, at home or at the synagogue’s next wedding reception?
2. Is newsprint made by chopping down an ancient and irreplaceable forest “kosher” to use for a Jewish newspaper?
3. Are windows and doors so carelessly built that the warm air flows out through them and the furnace keeps burning all night — are such doors and windows “kosher” for a home or for a Jewish Community Center building?
4. Is a bank that invests the depositors’ money in an oil company that befouls the ocean a “kosher” place for me or for a UJA to deposit money?
If by “kosher” we mean what we have so far called by that name — the traditional law-code of proper ritual slaughter, proper separation of meat and milk, proper tithing of fruit — then the accurate answer to all these questions is that the category of “kosher” does not apply to them. (Even to the first question, which is at least about food!)
But what if we both draw on the ancient meaning of “kosher” and go beyond it? What if we move the word and the idea to a new place in the spiral of Jewish thought, and test out a new word — “eco-kosher”? What if by “eco-kosher” we mean a broader sense of “good practice” in everyday life that draws on the deep well-springs of Jewish wisdom and tradition about the relationships between human beings and the earth?
Then perhaps the answer to these questions is that these ways of behaving may not be eco-kosher.