Parsha Shemini — mindfulness consumption
This week's Parsha (Weekly Bible reading) provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on our relationship to food.
The Torah itself sets limits on what animals we can eat or not eat. And is the basis of Kosher.
But there is a deeper question. Can we consume animals in the first place?
Indeed, the Torah prohibited eating animals until after the flood of Noah. Man was essentially Vegan. Indeed, Israel today is known as the Vegan capital of the world. It is also a world leader in Food Tech, alternative meat, fish, eggs and milk, and Agtech. It also, unfortunately, has high a rate of food waste.
The key to all this is mindfulness and consumption.
Kashrut has embedded in us mindfulness and awareness of how and what we eat. It has not solved the problem of overconsumption, incorrect consumption leading to obesity and illness.
So, consumption choices we make can play a part.
But, there needs to a recognition that this world is has a higher purpose — That is to be holy.
כי אני יהוה אלהיכם והתקדשתם והייתם קדשים כי קדוש אני ולא תטמאו את־נפשתיכם בכל־השרץ הרמש על־הארץ׃
For I am the Lord your God; you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy; nor shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.
What does it mean to be holy, to sanctify yourselves?
Is mindfulness just another word for holy- There are many similarities — Be mindful of yourself, your body, and be aware of others, and have gratitude. Recognize that we part of the Universe — God’s world.
We all have a part in making this world a better, holy place. Let’s be conscious that our actions make an impact.
We live in the consumer age — we over-consume We like to travel, eat a good steak, own more than one car or property. Are we conscious of how buying or eating impacts the environment?
Today, around 30% of methane emissions are due to gas emissions from around 1.5 billion cows that are being used to produce milk and meat. So, should all become vegans? Today alternative meat, milk, eggs, and more are all the rage.
What about fish? –approx. 50% of all fish caught is discarded.
Just look at this is an extreme and sic example,” Look carefully: these fins should be attached to the ultimate Apex Predator — the shark. I almost choked when I read those 1/4 million sharks are killed EVERY DAY for the sole purpose of making shark fin soup” Stephen Fern of https://ark2030.org
The Restoration of Oceans is a critical landmark program in our battle to end the climate crisis and the destruction of ecosystems that support life on earth. Restoring global whale populations is the equivalent of planting 100 billion trees.
Food Waste- The cost of food waste in the UK is GBP 10.2 billion, in Israel, net US$ 4 Billion the USA a staggering $161 billion. This has both huge Environmental & social impact.
Sometimes we do have a choice, but there are some things that are not in control.
So, the question of who is responsible is complex — For example, should one donate money to offset the Co2 when you fly? or drive?
Is buying an Electric Car such a big advantage, CO2 saving over gas cars? They still need electricity to be recharged, metal components and battery disposal is an issue.
What about plastic? — Today there are good recycling options. Look at https://www.ubqmaterials.com an Israeli company recycling plastic.
What about when one buys or receives a Newspaper with all that waste of paper? In today’s digital world, why do we still need printed newspapers and magazines?
It is easy to blame the companies and products we consume, but our choices as consumers do make a difference.
Net Zero — Carbon offsets — Trees, Reforestation, Tree Planting are used as a way for companies to offset. How effective is this? Is the Carbon offset a price fair? Is this process too complicated?
Which gives rise to the use of the term Net Zero. Many companies, countries strive to be Net Zero.
I think that Net Zero is pareve. A Jewish word that is not here or there. On the fence.
What is needed is Net Zero+.
So, my new motto is Net Zero+. We need to more than just survive, we need to bring a positive change, to not only the Environment but also Social.
I believe the story of Choni — Planting a Carob Tree best encapsulates this.
“Once while Honi HaMa’agal (the circle-maker) was walking down the road, he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked, “How many years will it take for this tree to bear fruit” The man answered that it would take 70 years. Honi said, “Are you so healthy that you expect to live that long to enjoy its fruit?” The man answered,
I found a fruitful world because my forebears planted for me. Thus, I shall do for my children.”