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Feasting and FastingThe History and Ethics of Jewish Food$
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Aaron Gross, Jody Myers, and Jordan D. Rosenblum

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479899333

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479899333.001.0001

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Introduction to Part 1

Introduction to Part 1

(p.29) Introduction to Part 1
Feasting and Fasting

Jody Myers

NYU Press

The chapters in this part describe Jewish foodways as a dynamic cultural phenomenon. Practices are lost and added over the centuries and layered upon each other, intertwined, and continually shifting. Biblical food laws and ceremonies form a starting point. Food—or more often, the perils of food scarcity—is crucial in stories of creation, settlement, exile, and potential redemption in the core literature of the Israelites and the later Jewish people. Especially when they move to lands dominated by people of other religions, when the priestly sacrificial system ends, and when commonly available foods are different than those their ancestors ate, Jews adapt their modes of food production and eating and also leave their visible mark on the foodways in their new lands. The frequent reference to biblical texts in Jewish prayers, ceremonies, and religious law conveys the impression that Jewish foodways have changed little from biblical times. In truth, the ancient practices would be merely a shell without the substance supplied in the rabbinic, medieval, and modern eras. The intricate rules for keeping kosher, the meanings ascribed to foods, the liturgies and ceremonies added to home-based eating, and the food markers that became signs of Jewishness were barely present in the earliest phase of Jewish history; they emerged and then were continually reshaped in the centuries after the Hebrew Bible was composed. Like a recipe, these four chapters explain the steps taken that produced today’s Jewish foodways in their multiple variations as well as the characteristically modern ways of rejecting these behaviors and beliefs and supplanting them with others....

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