January 19, 2021

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Pandemic cooking and Jewish foods rituals supply comfort and ease in times of illness

From our early morning routines to our cultural and religious traditions, the COVID-19 pandemic has...

From our early morning routines to our cultural and religious traditions, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensely highlighted our want for rituals. Rituals, recognized as “a strategic way of performing in social circumstances,” are performative functions that comply with a approved sequence of steps.



a cat that is lying down in the dark: Preparing food is an important ritual in providing care and comfort.


© (Shutterstock)
Planning meals is an important ritual in furnishing treatment and ease and comfort.

Most scholarship understands rituals to be an inversion of frequent conduct that set an action aside from mundane pursuits.

Not all rituals are religious, but spiritual experiments scholar Catherine M. Bell has described how virtually any ceremony, conventional clothes and various traditions can be considered ritual-like pursuits. From time to time such actions reflect a memory of an before custom, these kinds of as Thanksgiving meal. Other moments, substance merchandise, such as a flag or scriptures, evoke a ritualistic context. Rituals give connections with the past, belonging to a neighborhood and a sense of continuity.

When every thing else is altering, partaking with routines that “we have constantly accomplished” can give consolation. Rituals have develop into frequent in information media as equally a casualty and one thing that has benefited from COVID-19. Numerous persons miss entry to their regular rituals owing to the pandemic’s disruption of normal routines and traditions.

There is also evidence that some have made new rituals, specifically in the context of their residence. One particular intriguing craze that has surfaced in the course of this pandemic is pandemic baking. Men and women have turned to cooking and baking as a signifies of coping all through these hoping occasions.

Rituals of the normal

Though historic Jewish texts commonly refer to illnesses, rarely do the authors mention professional medical specialists. These texts replicate an historical globe the place there were being other strategies to deal with diseases. Cooking, even for the ill, can be understood as a ritual-like exercise. By checking out foods rituals in the context of disease, we will display how regular and normally changeless rituals give consolation in changing social situations.

Read through more: How the ancient Israelites dealt with epidemics — the Bible tells of prophecy and rituals

Handful of scholars have viewed as the routines of normal individuals as a ritual, since they so usually tumble exterior of what scholarship has considered as ritual. Sociologist Susan Starr Sered and anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff have talked over mundane residence rituals as reflections of “domestic faith.”

Sered, who analyzed elderly immigrant ladies in Israel, argues that, inside of the context of a “male-oriented religion,” ladies set up their possess rituals in purchase to construct “a meaningful religious lifestyle.” These include nurturing and feeding their cherished types and having duty for the very poor and needy. Sered has termed these actions as “sacralizing,” since it permits persons to relate their life “meaningfully to God.”

Sered demonstrates how food stuff preparation can be a sacred ritual due to the fact it will make the intangible factors of culture and religion tangible. This sort of a link is especially powerful in the kashrut, the Jewish program of foodstuff guidelines, which elevates food planning from getting a each day mundane action “to a spiritual ritual par excellence.”

Historical authors have been aware of the significance of foods for basic nicely-getting, and the strategy that food stuff strengthens the specific is outlined in many Biblical texts.

For illustration, King David’s males feed an Egyptian who has not eaten for 3 days and the text statements that “his spirit revived.” The writer does not only emphasize bodily properly-remaining in this verse, but the return of his spirit (ruah) which makes him living suggests that food items is not only a suggests to fulfill a primary human want. It is feasible that food items was recognized in more complicated methods.

Feeding the sick as ritual

In some contexts, food stuff might signify a home ritual as a response to illness. An case in point of this takes place in the Testament of Career, an early Jewish creating that expands the Biblical Book of Task and envisions Job’s ultimate times. In this narrative, God gives Satan permission to inflict Job’s physique with plagues.

The creator narrates how Job’s wife Sitis cared for him all through his illness by furnishing him bread to consume. Pushed to slavery, Sitis turns to Satan, pondering he was a male, and begs for bread. Considering that they were being very poor, Sitis has almost nothing but her hair to give as payment and she sells her hair to Satan to buy some bread for Task.

The textual content suggests that this episode is not basically about an awareness of the value of having, mainly because soon after bringing the bread to Work, the textual content includes a lamentation. Sitis laments her misfortunes that have resulted from Job’s disease: the poverty, the loss of content belongings and her hair. Pursuing Sitis’ lament, Career reveals the male as Satan who declares himself defeated and ultimately leaves Occupation in peace. Task then recovers from his illness.

Many details of the Testomony of Task narrative propose connections with rituals. Most notably, unique laments that describe the existing suffering and ask for for enable may well have been performed ritualistically. Biblical scholar Carol Meyers has argued that in ancient Jewish texts, women of all ages are identified for doing laments.

As some laments of the Hebrew Bible precisely talk about ailment, they may have been composed to deal with the health issues in hopes that the deity would intervene and recover the unwell. This kind of terms are preserved, for instance, in Psalm 102:3-4:

“For my times go absent like smoke, and my bones melt away like a furnace. My heart is stricken and withered like grass I am also wasted to try to eat my bread.”

Bread appears in many accounts that refer to struggling. A element of ancient (and also modern) burial rituals provides the so-known as mourner’s bread to the mourners. In 2 Samuel 3, King David who is mourning performs a lamentation and persons offer him bread.



a group of people in a canyon: A fresco by Jesuit Benedetto da Marone (1550-1565) showing King David receiving the holy bread from Ahimelech the Priest.


© (Shutterstock)
A fresco by Jesuit Benedetto da Marone (1550-1565) displaying King David getting the holy bread from Ahimelech the Priest.

In a comparable vein, in 2 Samuel 13, the narrative of Tamar’s rape by her brother Amnon, implies an being familiar with of foods over and above mere sustenance. Tamar ready cakes for Amnon, who pretended to be sick.

Biblical scholar Tikva Frymer Kensky clarifies that the cakes Tamar gives Amnon are identified as “biryah,” a word which implies either a heart-formed cake or foods that “enheartens” the ill human being. As a result, the cakes that Tamar prepares in 2 Samuel 13 have been not meant to be made available to the ill only to have him eat “something” — there was some thing vital in the procedure of making ready this specific foods and its visual appeal.

Link with symbolic therapeutic ability of meals is notably emphasised in 2 Kings 20:7, where the prophet Isaiah advises the sick King Hezekiah to location a fig cake on his boil. Food stuff is recommended to mend even devoid of getting consumed.

In this text, the cakes, as a compound, are noticed as acquiring some sort of therapeutic electricity due to the fact, after subsequent the prophet’s assistance, King Hezekiah recovers.

Comfort in odd occasions

Very similar to ancient texts that depict rituals linked to meals, in our existing context, meals is both comfort and symbol. For occasion, bread has innumerable symbolic connotations. Foods and rituals similar to it give connections with other people, even when it has grow to be exceedingly hard to hook up with people today.

By subsequent traditions, 1 connects with the earlier. And by sharing foodstuff, we can achieve out to our communities.

This article is republished from The Discussion underneath a Creative Commons license. Go through the original article.

Hanna Tervanotko gets funding from Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters Centre for Innovative Review.

Katharine Fitzgerald receives funding from Mitacs Investigation Education Award and McMaster College.