Friday, June 19, 2015

Matir Issurim

"Using mail-order DNA, they’re tricking yeast cells into producing a substance that’s molecularly identical to milk. And if successful, they’ll turn this milk into cheese. Real cheese. But vegan cheese. Real vegan cheese. That’s the name of the project: Real Vegan Cheese. These hackers want cheese that tastes like the real thing, but they don’t want it coming from an animal."

Interesting project and so clearly to be the food of the future. Making meat and animal byproducts like milk in the lab has clear benefits in the long run in simple terms like financial costs and environmental preservation. It'll just be quicker and easier with better quality control to make this stuff in vitro than with actual animals. With advances in food science what they produce may be indistinguishable from the natural version. It also has the added benefit of limiting the cruelty to animals, which is an endemic problem in modern factory farming. In the future it will be bizarre and backwards to eat something that comes from actual, unsanitary animals.

But besides all the above benefits, what will it do to the kosher food industry? Is it meaningful to talk about the kashrut of single cells or the byproducts of micro-organisms? If the whole world will be eating foods made from GMO bacteria or yeast - what exactly would ever not be kosher?

Perhaps it is in this way that the midrash about pigs one day becoming kosher will actually come true.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Shabbos in a Pepper Shaker

Found this product recently. Interesting idea, but it also emphasizes one of the greatest incidental benefits from shabbos observance in modern times.

Sunday, June 07, 2015


So it's been 5 years and I'm finally finishing my residency in general surgery. Been a tough road and by far the most difficult and challenging thing I've done in my life. Here's a gem I made awhile back. Seems like a fitting way to commemorate.

Exodus 40:

You shall bring the Table and prepare its setting; bring the Menorah and kindle its lamps...

You shall place the gold altar for incense before the Ark of the Testimony...

and emplace the Curtain of the entrance to the Tabernacle.

You shall place the Laver between the Tent of Meeting and the Altar, and you shall put water there...

You shall take the anointment oil and anoint the Tabernacle and everything that is in it...

sanctify it and all its utensils...

You shall bring Aaron and his sons near to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and wash them with water...

You shall dress Aaron in the sacred vestments...and his sons you shall bring near and dress them in tunics...

...and they shall minister to eternal priesthood for their generations.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Is Belief a Jewish Notion?

Gary Gutting: You say you’re a naturalist and deny that there are any supernatural beings, yet you’re a practicing Jew and deny that you’re an atheist. What’s going on here? What’s a God that’s not a supernatural being?

Howard Wettstein: Let’s begin with a distinction between participation in a practice and the activity of theorizing, philosophically and otherwise, about the practice. Even an advanced and creative mathematician need not have views about, say, the metaphysical status of numbers. Richard Feynman, the great physicist, is rumored to have said that he lived among the numbers, that he was intimate with them. However, he had no views about their metaphysical status; he was highly skeptical about philosophers’ inquiries into such things. He had trouble, or so I imagine, understanding what was at stake in the question of whether the concept of existence had application to such abstractions. Feynman had no worries about whether he was really thinking about numbers. But “existence” was another thing.

It is this distinction between participation and theorizing that seems to me relevant to religious life.