A stroll around Jerusalem’s Tisch Family Zoo is a wonderful, sensory reminder of the wealth of wildlife mentioned in the Bible.
Although not all the animal inhabitants feature in the Torah (I haven’t spotted references to red pandas or meerkats), there is a special emphasis on Biblical beasts. One of those is the giraffe.
A few years ago, Israeli vets announced that giraffes should be considered kosher. This followed much discussion about the biology of giraffes – not my area of expertise I should add, and precisely what species is mentioned in by the Bible.
But don’t rush down to your local kosher butcher in search of giraffe brisket.
Of course we can’t buy giraffe meat, kosher or otherwise. It’s generally agreed that the process of shechita, of kosher slaughter, cannot be applied to an animal as enormous as a giraffe. Practicalities aside, it’s unthinkable to even consider eating a species that is now, sadly, increasingly in danger of extinction.
For me one of the wonderful and most inspiring aspects of keeping kosher is that the everyday and sometimes mundane act of eating is elevated to something mindful and sacred, marked with blessings.
In a world – indeed in a country – where so many go without sufficient nutrition, there is a spiritual discipline in restricting what we eat.
The rules of kashrut are for many, just a starting point. We should consider the origin of our food, the ethics of its production and how those who produce it are paid and treated.
Others consider vegetarianism or even veganism to be a higher form of kashrut due to the environmental impact of meat production and ethical concerns around animal welfare.
Just because we can eat something does not mean that we should and Jerusalem’s biblical giraffes are an elegant, lofty reminder of this.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism