Maybe as much as a year ago I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s “We are the weather” in which he gave an account of his own attempt to eat “righteously” that is, in ways that tackled the causes of global warming. Basically he advocated getting rid of anything to do with cattle, well sheep too. He suggested that merely talking about the global threat was not enough. Every person had a responsibility to their neighbour and their children to cut out wrong ways of living. This is very Jewish: the Torah of God requires obedience to God’s wisdom, which affects eating as well as, say, sex.
Since then I have sold a diesel car and bought an electric one; I have abandoned aeroplane travel, and I have eaten as a vegan, only with some fish. This has involved giving up dairy foods, which has not been a big deal, except for cheese, which I love. I confess to having occasionally broken my Torah in respect of cheese. Yes, you can buy vegan “cheese” but it tastes of something very mysterious and nasty. So does Veggiemite (Yeast extract) which I use instead of cheese, because as it happens, I like it.
My youthful faith, which I have perhaps never outgrown, was very Protestant, oriented to the Gospel as means of salvation, rather than the law. I accepted Martin Luther’s eloquent rants against legalism, including his advice to “sin boldly” as I threw off the restraints of middle class life style. Well, it was the 60’s. Only a much later exposure to the humour of Jewish practice of the Torah, saved me from that foolishness.
I have found Mr Foer’s commandment very liberating, freeing me from a useless worry in the face of global warming. I recognise that only the death of capitalism can truly deal with the issue, but meantime I can do something that would make a difference if everyone did it. It’s clean, clear and doable. That doesn’t mean I will always be perfectly righteous, but it does mean I’ll know exactly how unrighteous I am. No more nebulous faith! I’ll vote for Moses.
Vexed at violence? Do not kill. Disgusted at sexual degradation? Do not commit adultery. Worried about work/life balance? Keep the Sabbath day holy. Confused by multiculturalism? Do not bow down to idols. And the rest! Quite a lot of modern Christianity has lost the divine wisdom which expresses itself in commands, including the wisdom of Jesus. Take away his commands, and what’s left? At any rate, I record a debt of thanks to Rabbi Foer for reintroducing me to an important dimension of my own religion.