From For­bid­den Fruit to Milk and Hon­ey: A Com­men­tary on Food in the Torah

Diana Lip­ton
  • Review
By – April 25, 2018

In 2014, thanks to 55,000 vol­un­teers, Leket Israel, the Israeli Nation­al Food Bank, dis­trib­uted over 25 mil­lion pounds of pro­duce and per­ish­able food, 1.5 mil­lion pre­pared meals, and 1.2 mil­lion sand­wich­es to those in need. Along with this phys­i­cal sus­te­nance, the orga­ni­za­tion’s web­site was host to spir­i­tu­al sus­te­nance as well — short essays, com­posed by accom­plished schol­ars, ana­lyz­ing the foods men­tioned with­in the week­ly Torah por­tions. These essays, col­lect­ed by edi­tor and writer Diana Lip­ton in From For­bid­den Fruit to Milk and Hon­ey: A Com­men­tary on Food in the Torah, offer both food­ies and philoso­phers alike some­thing to taste.

Each of the con­trib­u­tors’ essays seeks to both ana­lyze the Bib­li­cal text and advo­cate for social­ly-con­scious con­sump­tion. After all, as Lip­ton notes in her intro­duc­tion, we have been increas­ing­ly sen­si­tized to what goes into the food we eat. From anorex­ia, to eth­i­cal kashrut, to land own­er­ship, the book deals with a cor­nu­copia of texts and their impli­ca­tions for today’s cuisine.

Whether it’s Rachel Havre­lock, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Chica­go Jew­ish Stud­ies pro­fes­sor using the descrip­tion of the bloody Nile Riv­er of the Ten Plagues nar­ra­tive in the Book of Exo­dus to urge for water con­ser­va­tion, or Israeli doc­tor­al stu­dent Dan Baras’s pre­sen­ta­tion of the veg­e­tar­i­an val­ues of Rab­bi Abra­ham Isaac Kook in a dis­cus­sion of Noah and his rela­tion­ship to ani­mals in the Book of Gen­e­sis, these com­men­ta­tors on the ancient Bible demon­strate its con­tin­ued rel­e­vance to today’s envi­ron­men­tal­ly and social­ly con­scious ethos.

Lipton’s own analy­sis of men­tions of food in the Torah, fol­low­ing each schol­ar’s offer­ing, includes many addi­tion­al insight­ful com­ments. She also pro­vides a help­ful list of food-cen­tered mem­oirs, anthro­po­log­i­cal and cul­tur­al stud­ies, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic works, aca­d­e­m­ic bib­li­cal stud­ies, and even Jew­ish cook­books for addi­tion­al research (and taste-testing).

Lip­ton and Leket Israel (to whom all pro­ceeds of the book go) are to be com­mend­ed for their tremen­dous efforts on behalf of Israeli soci­ety and Jews the world over.

Dr. Stu Halpern is Senior Advi­sor to the Provost of Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty. He has edit­ed or coedit­ed 17 books, includ­ing Torah and West­ern Thought: Intel­lec­tu­al Por­traits of Ortho­doxy and Moder­ni­ty and Books of the Peo­ple: Revis­it­ing Clas­sic Works of Jew­ish Thought, and has lec­tured in syn­a­gogues, Hil­lels and adult Jew­ish edu­ca­tion­al set­tings across the U.S.

Discussion Questions