CULTURE Feeding the Soul: Reflections on Food and Tradition

richettiBy Daniel Reichel

The rules about food that were formed in the legal and theological tradition of Judaism, Islam and Christianity have become incomprehensible to many people. Why don’t some people eat some kind of meat? Why do they have to fast during the day and eat only after sunset? The inability to understand the theological significance of these rules prevents understanding their ethical value. These considerations were the central issue of the conference “Feeding the Soul. Food, Law and Religion,” organized in Milan by the Department of Juridical Science and the Center of Judaica Goren Goldstein and connected to the main theme of Expo 2015, “Feeding the planet. Energy for Life.”

“We are willing to fast for reasons of health or aesthetics, but not for religious reasons, because we no longer see the connection between faith and fasting,” the organizers said, explaining why they decided to open a debate on the issue. “Recover the theological and ethical roots of the relationship between food and religion is the starting point of this conference and also serves to better understand the consequences that this relationship has on the daily life of the worshippers and on the organization of all the Community.”

Rav Elia Richetti, former president of the Italian Rabbinical Assembly, explained to the public the Jewish point of view, underlining the connection between the laws of the kashrut and an ethic behavior towards food. The audience was very interested in discovering that in Judaism there is also a rule that forbids the waste of food. “It’s not only that you can’t throw away products that are still edible, it is also prescribed to make them available to the others and, doing so, fighting hunger.”

The vice president of the Italian Islamic religious Community (Coreis) Yahya Pallavicini and the episcopal vicar of Milan Luca Bressan gave a picture of the role of God and the laws connected to nutrition.

During the day there were also different panels that were focused on the kosher and halal certifications. The general secretary of Milan’s Jewish Community Alfonso Sassun spoke about the situation of the kashrut in Italy. Other panels dealt with the connection between ritual slaughter and the wellness of animals and on how to safeguard religious pluralism inside school cafeterias.