Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NYT's stupid article on an Israeli cookbook, and the stupid rabbinical comment it contained


Some Israeli has written a pork cookbook, and self-published it. Though fewer than 3000 copies of the book have sold, the New York Times sees a story. Their article about the book, and the non reaction from both the rabbinical and pork eating community is here.

Two Orthodox Rabbis were trotted out to give obligatory objections. One, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, says the book no one has bought "hurts" him but wisely tells the Times that interfering with the eating habits of secular Jews is not on the top of his list of priorities. The other, Shimon  Felix said "he thought Dr. Landau’s intent was “let’s stick it to the religious tradition.”

This, of course, is the intentional fallacy. Instead of responding to what the book actually says, the Rabbi assumes the author intended something, and responds to that instead. If the book, itself, does nothing provacative and is, as I presume, merely a collection of recipes, Shimon Felix is out of order, and guilty of making a baseless assumption. The article continues:

“There’s something childish to being so naughty,” the rabbi said. “It’s more mature and adult to look at this as an ancient tradition.”

Well, no, Rabbi, I disagree. There's something childish about assigning motives to people you've never met, and to books you haven't read. Perhaps the author of the book is the child, and grandchild of pork eaters. Perhaps he's always eaten pork, and sees nothing unusual about eating it. Or if the author grew up kosher, perhaps he's by now a comfortable atheist who has already satisfied himself that there is no God and no commandments. In either case would there anything "immature" or "naughty" about sharing some favorite recipes? The author of this book likes pork. That's all we know. Anything else is speculation and assumption.

By the way, New York Times,  I've also self-published a book that sold fewer than 3000 copies. And unlike the pork cookbook, mine was publicly burnt, so I'd venture to say it created more of a stir. So, how about doing a story on that?

Search for more information about pork at

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