Is this the beginning of a new era for Jewish delis everywhere?
Many Jews choose to eschew pork, for what they’ve learned are well-established, religiously and historically important reasons. But now, those reasons have been thrown into questions by a group of Biblical scholars, who suggest that maybe the chosen people have been skipping bacon for, well, no reason at all.
In an article that ran last week in the Israeli publication Haaretz, it is posited that believers of Judaism could plausibly justify eating bacon and pork products because more and more Biblical scholars are now arguing that the Book of Leviticus might not have originally been intended to apply to the general public.
The idea that pork products aren’t kosher stems from several passages of Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, in which it is written that it is only permissible to eat meat from “any animal that has a cloven hoof that is completely split into double hooves, and which brings up its cud.”
But these religious scholars attest that the rules in Leviticus were meant only for
the priests of the Temple—not the general public. This could be a game-changer for ordering Chinese food on Christmas.
Traditionally, only one section of Leviticus—Chapter 21—has been read to apply to priests—the ban on ritual scarring and tattoos. The rest of the book (and its myriad rules) has been applied to one and all. But the new scholarship suggests that during the period of Babylonian captivity, someone had the bright idea to suggest that all of the rules in Leviticus should apply to all Jews, not just priests. The thought was that doing so encouraged the exiled community to cohere as a unified group, joined together by rules that apply to one and all.
As Professor Robert Gnuse of Loyola University points out, the ban on bacon encouraged “the enthusiastic self-perception that [the Jewish people] were all priests in the new Temple of God, the world.” But this perspective’s foundation has been rocked by new examination of how the rules of the Book of Leviticus should be applied.
As to whether this discovery will resonate with contemporary Jewish communities, well, that just might depend on how much they want it to. After all, bacon might just be the ultimate temptress.