Writing at the intersection of religion, food, film, and feminism.
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Photo by ‏🌸🙌 في عین الله on Unsplash

Religion has always had an extremely close relationship with food. Whether it is the prohibition of alcohol in Buddhism or the abstention of pork in Judaism, a major ‘othering’ framework of Western cultural Christianity is within the context of diet.

In Islam, foods can be considered either halal or haram. For instance, Halal animals must be slaughtered in a precise way to be considered pure to consume. But as the Earth warms and obesity rates increase in wealthy nations, many young people have advocated for lifestyle changes in regards to waste and food.

We know the meat industry is one of the largest pollutants of both the Earth and the body. But what about the spirit? From an Islamic perspective, can an argument be made in favor of practicing a plant-based lifestyle? …


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Photo by Rumman Amin on Unsplash

In Murata and Chittick’s introductory Islam book, The Vision of Islam, they make the claim that Muslims are less concerned with the origins of their religion than the practice of it. In this short piece, I will address whether or not I agree with this very claim.

A brief disclaimer: I am not Muslim, but have spent quite a bit of time with Muslims and nearly have a Bachelors's degree in Religious Studies. My opinions on this particular topic stem from a class I’ve taken on Islamic thought and practice. With that in order, I will say that to some extent, I would have to agree with Murata and Chittick’s statement. …


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Courtesy of New York University Press.

The Radical Feminist movement that grew in the 1960s to 1970s was not monolithic, especially amongst its disproportionately Jewish activists. While secular Radical Feminists fought for change in governmental policy, such as the Equal Rights Amendment, religiously-identifying Jews sought to reform institutionalized Judaism, with goals including the ordaining women as rabbis.

Some of these women considered being Jewish their most salient identity, while others considered their womanhood to supersede this ethnic and religious heritage. Many were motivated by the deep patriarchy that controlled their Jewish identities, seeking a way to participate in this process. …


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Photo Courtesy of Grace Untold.

The Book of Esther explores the themes of diaspora, femininity, and metropolitanism in a way that resonates with contemporary Western Jews. In this narrative, which can be found in the Ketuvim, Esther becomes queen after the Persian King divorces his previous wife.

Curiously, Esther does not appear traditionally Jewish in nearly any capacity. For all intents and purposes, she appears assimilated to Persian culture. Kirsh aptly points out, “Esther is never condemned for eating non-kosher food, or for sleeping with [the king] before marriage, or for marrying a non-Jew” (34).

It seems that any of those details matter little compared to the big work that God has planned for her. Esther’s story comes at a crucial height in anti-Semitism within the Persian empire, where the Israelites were moved to after the first destruction of the Temple of Solomon. …


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Jael and Sisera by Artemisia Gentileschi. Courtesy of Fine Arts America.

Situated in the Book of Judges, the Biblical heroine Deborah serves an unprecedented role as both Israeli political leader and prophetess. Deborah serves as an example of gender reversal, commanding other men, yet keenly self-aware of her unique position. In Chapter 4, she is introduced thus:

“Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was a prophetess; she led Israel at that time. She used to sit under the Palm of Deborah… and the Israelites would come to her for decisions.” Judges 4:4–5, Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation

Although she is introduced as a ‘wife’ before anything else, her husband’s character is never expanded upon. This posed such an issue to some rabbinic commentators that they conflated this ‘Lappidoth’ with Barak’s entering male character, whom Deborah summons and instructs to lead an army to the top of a mountain (Bronner 172). But if indeed, Barak were her husband, he’d appear to be quite a nonassertive one, reporting to his wife rather than his wife serving him. …


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Painting of Eve, the first Biblical woman. Courtesy of Fine Art America.

There are few Biblical characters as controversial as Eve. In the Torah, Eve was the first woman created by God, created alongside Adam, the first man. She was tasked with providing companionship and facilitating the multiplication of the human race (Genesis 1:28).

While she acts as an archetype for women in general, her story has often been used as a framework for dos and don’ts for women (Bronner 22). She possessed a dangerous, creative energy that, to many, is interpreted as spelling out the destruction of humanity altogether.

In the written Torah, two creation stories are given for Eve. …


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Courtesy of MovieWeb.

Pixar’s Soul was released on Christmas Day, 2020, exclusively on the Disney+ streaming service. It’s a masterpiece. The visuals are stunning, the music was soothing, and the story felt actually meaningful. IMBD describes the plot of Soul in this way:

A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.

This is a film equally focused on death and life, metaphysics, and the spiritual. Instead of focusing on the classic dualistic model that pits ‘good’ and ‘evil’ against one another, Soul is more concerned with understanding oneself and practicing compassion than almost any other film I’ve seen this year. …


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A young Jewish woman prays into her Torah near the Western Wall. Courtesy of IMB.

Judaism is a patriarchal religion. For about 3800 years, the male-centric overtones of Judaism have curbed women’s roles in public life and often relegated them to inferior social and political roles within Hebrew culture. Within the oldest Jewish scrolls, the Torah, it is the men who are the bulk of the protagonists, heroes, lawmakers, and prophets.

But this does not mean that there have not been cases of exceptional women who have broken through these boundaries. Women like Deborah and Esther break out as political leaders, and figures such as Eve and Serah bat Asher are animated in Rabbinic Midrash. Such women have served as models for contemporary women who have reimagined both Judaism and Western society at large, envisioning a non-patriarchal world. …


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Painting by Mahmoud Said (Egyptian, 1897–1964).

Sufism is a mystical religious sect of Islam that emphasizes the divine connection within the self. Although Sufism has, in some form, existed since the early days of Islam, the Sufi ‘canon’ became more or less established in the medieval time period, along with a formalization of the tradition altogether.

It was in this time period that Sufi poetry emerged, including the works of Rumi and Kabir. The Sufi emphasis on the divine within the self has created conflict with traditional Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, including entire governments, like Turkey, which ban the Sufi practice altogether. The pressing question for Sufis and traditional Muslims alike is: can Sufism operate within normative Islam, or must it operate outside of it? …


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Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

Tell Me What’s Left. is a Medium publication founded to curate smart articles at the intersection of Leftist thought. We publish pieces on Economics, Feminism, Environmentalism, and everything in-between.

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