Monday, June 6, 2011

Looks Like A Duck

For those not satisfied with their lives, for those still feeling unfulfilled, and for those yet in search of happiness I am here to tell you that there is a second chance, an opportunity for redemption. You don’t have to repent, you don’t have to fast, meditate or self flagellate, and most of all you don’t have to become haredi. All you need to do is connect to and you can live out all of your fantasies. I read about a few years ago and went on-line to explore the possibilities. On you can take on a whole new fantasy persona. If you never like being a bald, nearsighted, effeminate, physically underdeveloped male Jew, you now have the opportunity to assume a new image and identity, transforming yourself into a tall, muscular adventurous stud. Similarly if you are an over weight, out of shape, faded middle age Jewish mother you can now have the chance of assuming a Barbie look alike, available to party with unending possibilities of trysts. The question is: does living a virtual life equal to living a real life? Does robbing a bank as an avatar on translate into being a felon, arrested and prosecuted? Does having multiple affairs on for a married man constitute adultery to be adjudicated by the legal system? In England, the courts ruled that a man living a virtual life and having a virtual affair in constituted adultery and grounds for divorce, even though it was only a virtual affair by a avatar in relationship with another avatar.

The courts in England understood the concept behind adultery and interpreted it to mean that the intent was consistent with actual adultery. In Jewish law there is a concept in “dinei ishut” of machshava lo k’maaseh”, that the conjured thought doesn’t constitute the act itself. Thus if a married man fantasizes making love to a woman other than his wife he wouldn’t be guilty of adultery. But what if he didn’t imagine it, but played it out on-line in an intricately woven fantasy world in which he was an avatar seeking out an affair. Would Machshava Lo K’maaseh” be applicable? Perhaps the courts in England may have helped the halachists along by nudging them in a different direction. Plotting out a relationship with another avatar may be adulterous since the intent was real (albeit fantasy), no longer living only in the imagination but in another dimension – a virtual dimension.

All of this brings me to the subject of this musing and that is the virtual (kosher) bacon products that are on our food shelves and rendered kosher by the mainstream koshering agencies that filter out the things we ought not eat. J&D Food Company has a line of products, which are bacon flavored but are vegetarian. They are considered kosher by the OU as well as other agencies such as Kof-K. On the surface it would seem to be kosher, but then I am reminded of the ruling in the London courts regarding the adultery committed by a virtual liaison in There actually wasn’t any physical contact between the two consenting adults but the intent was to consummate the relationship, and lacking physical presence they settled for virtual sex. Desiring to taste and eat the bacon isn’t halachically permissible but then there is the next best thing – virtual bacon. That is, something that appears to be bacon: it looks like bacon and tastes like bacon.

The bible prohibits consuming the flesh and bi products from that curious animal that doesn’t chew its cud but does have split hooves. However, the halachists maintain that the Bible doesn’t say we can’t mimic the taste of the swine (in fact doesn’t midrash tell us that the Israelites were able to ascribe to the manna any flavor they so imagined). That then is the loophole of the halachists. However if we look beyond the written law to the spirit of the law, as did the courts in London, another picture emerges. While we do not have conclusive reasons for the dietary laws and forbidden animals, we do know that to a large degree these laws were enacted to differentiate us from the extant culture. The intent was to develop a different culture, a new and unique one, to be a light unto others, to be apart from (am kohanim v’goy kadosh), different than the other cultures. (This too is partially the reason why we aren’t supposed to imbibe wine (stam yeinam) that isn’t kosher. The intent was to prevent us from closely mixing socially with the gentiles. To be separate, apart and different was the intention). By creating virtual bacon that looks, tastes and smell like the real thing aren’t we defeating the purpose and intent of the law. After all if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a duck. Thanks to our halachists we can now sprinkle bacon on our salads, season our food with it and serve steak with mock buttered potatoes. Does life get any better?