ג׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ג (August 9, 2013)
Midrashic Statement That The Chazir Will Become Kosher May Be About To Become True [Parshat Shoftim By Rabbi Z. Lent]
Anyone for a kosher hamburger?
There is a fascinating midrash back in Parshat Shemini which talks about the animal we know as the chazir – the pig – and its etymology. The midrash says that the word chazir is used because in the future G-d will “return” (le’hachzir) the pig to the Jewish people and it will become a kosher animal.
There are many discussions about this particular midrash, and whether it is to be taken literally or whether it is an allusion to something else. The literalists argue as to whether the pig will change and begin to chew its cud, making it kosher, or whether it will simply become permitted in its present form. The others say it is an allusion to the evil nations, such as Amalek, upon whom G-d will return punishment.
This week we came upon another possible explanation. Amazingly, scientists in the Netherlands have come up with a way to produce cultured meat in a laboratory setting. The “meat” is produced from stem cells taken from the animal and grown in a petri dish. This produces strands of muscle fibre, 20,000 of which are used to create a fake burger. On Monday this week the first such burger was cooked and eaten in a studio in London, the most expensive burger in history, costing €250,000 to produce. The results were impressive for a new technology, and definitely made an edible burger, if not one you would pay quarter of a million euro for!
One of the interesting things about this research is that it can be applied to any animals you desire. You could make a giraffe burger, a leopard steak, or a lion lasagne … depending of course if you are prepared to eat synthetic meat. In the global food markets, once this technology is perfected and put into mass production, it will be a game changer, cutting out the entire meat and fowl industry. Of course, we are still decades away from that happening, and possibly more until people are ready to accept it on their dinner plates … but either way it is coming down the road.
The word ersatz is often used as an adjective to describe an inferior substitute for a product. This was entered into the English lexicon by the thousands of English speaking personnel who became German POW’s, and were given Ersatzkaffee (coffee substitute) to drink. This meat substitute is different though, as it is not made with a foreign substitute ingredient, but from real meat and muscle cells. For the kosher consumer this raises all kinds of questions: Is this kosher, is it fleishig (meaty) or pareve, is it ok to eat a non-kosher product it was grown in a lab? These questions are still to be discussed, but chances are it will be kosher and pareve, meaning that the midrashic statement that the chazir will become kosher may be about to become true.
The haftarah today is the fourth of the seven consolation Haftarot read after Tishah Be’Av. In the last two Haftarot the Jewish people complain that G-d has abandoned them. They are not happy with the comforting words of the Prophets alone – they want G-d Himself to comfort them, and indeed this haftarah begins with G-d’s promise, “I, indeed I, will comfort you.” The Prophet first reprimands the nation for forgetting about G-d in times of difficulty, but assures them the time for redemption has arrived. “Awaken, awaken, put on your strength, O Zion,” he calls out; “Put on the garments of your beauty, Jerusalem the Holy City … free yourself of the bands of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. Burst out in song, sing together, for the L-rd has consoled His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.”
Let us pray that along with the fulfilment of the midrashic statement about the chazir, that we merit to the other promises given in Tanach and the midrash … of all of the wonderful things we will see in the Messianic era, the era of Mashiach, a world filled with the knowledge of G-d, and with peace for all Mankind. Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Zalman Lent
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