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July 26, 2005



Interesting. Is there a basis for a hashkafah in which we return to earlier, more Bible-like and (from a modern standpoint, less relativistic) perspective for certain items? Obviously, there are benign substances to which we would never want to think that way so getting to the definition of toxics is crucial. On the other hand, who knows what the “safe” level of a carcinogen is? The categories of tamei and tahorah when applied to Priestly rituals seem problematic when applied to our lives, but perhaps the kind of culture that supported those categories should have some relevance to our lives.

Ron Citro

The gentile girl was probably sickly to begin with...case history doesn't equal proof. May she rest in peace.


Terrific point, Anonymous1. The challenge isn't merely one of proper toxicology, we need a hashqafah (world view) and culture that supports a better approach to industry. If the approach needs to be more "precautionary", the Europeans are well ahead of the U.S.

I doubt the task at hand involves only the definition of toxics. Nowadays, the presumption (khazaqah) is that industry can use/emit pollutants up until the levels set by govt. As long as the burden of proof is on regulators [for good historical and legal reasons], we'll forever be poisoning our own nests.

As you say, the purity categories (tamei/tahor) may give us insight into the hashqafah problem. Other halakhic categories are also available, as I suggested in the Sin and Synergy post. Furthermore, the rabbis worked hard to try to harmonize and coordinate the various category schemes. (hmmm... I'll try to post on this pt.)

What features of Bible-like or rabbinic culture do you think would be useful? (You mention "less relativistic", but not sure what you have in mind. Do we need moral or epistemological absolutes in order to defend regulatory absolutes, like the old Delaney clause?)

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