Tag Archives: religion

#99 On Jewish Folklore in Steampunk: A Review of Steampunk Torah and Merkabah Rider — Guest Blog by Rachel Landau

"Beis Midrash" by Boris Dubrov. Click for source.

“Hey, did you know giraffes are kosher?”

This made worldwide news in 2008, when a rabbi certified that giraffe milk was indeed kosher. The giraffe chews its cud and has split hooves, and its milk curdles.

Thus: kosher! How wacky of those Jews!

But this wasn’t news to me: I learned this in the third grade, along with the other rules of kashrut and shechita. We don’t eat giraffes, of course, not just because they’re endangered, but because according to Jewish law, you need to slice the arteries at a certain point, so that the blood drains most quickly and the animal dies without prolonged suffering. We know where that place is on a cow, but we’re not sure where that would be on a giraffe. So giraffes are off the menu – but they’re on the approved list.

To me, this story exemplifies much of Jewish law and modern Judaism. With a few basic axioms – just like Euclid’s – you can build a logical framework that supports any question you might have. Accept that G-d exists, and that He gave the Torah to us, and then hundreds of logical implications follow. This is the logical Judaism, the way we make sense of four thousand years of heritage and dense books and missing links. And it does make sense, one law leading to another, one interpretation and one rabbi at a time.

One of the main sources of the interpretation is the Midrash, a collection of interpretations, stories, and parables that explain the text of the Torah.

Continue reading


Filed under Review

#86 The Kaifeng Jews–Guest Blog by Historicity (Was Already Taken)

Note: This was cross-posted with permission from Historicity (Was Already Taken).

Late nineteenth century photo of two members of the Kaifeng Jewish community

When people think about Jewish Diaspora communities, they probably think of Fiddler on the Roof style Jewish communities, inquisitions, and lynch mobs. They forget that the Jewish Diaspora was not one singular event, and that it sent people in every direction across the globe, and not just to Europe. Many went east—there were vibrant, ancient Jewish communities across the Middle East up until the mid-twentieth century. And some went further east, to China.

There are many theories as to when and how Jews ended up in China. In my opinion, the most accurate theory is simply that some Jewish merchants followed the Silk Road as it rose to prominence in the third century CE, and ended up in China.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Essays, History