Parshas Shemini 2018: You Can’t Understand If You “Can’t” Understand
Shemini is the first place in the Torah where we find the laws of Kashrus (keeping kosher) as it pertains to specific species. Listing them by name, the Torah spells out exactly which animals are OK to eat and from which we should refrain.
Back in Parshas Mishpatim we were taught the prohibition of “cooking a calf in its mother’s milk” whereas, this week the physical identification markings are given as well as a list of creatures permitted. Hashem’s laws of kashrus are to prevent us from eating impure products and only allow those with unique marks.
The kosher identification signs include split hooves and chewing cud for animals, while fish must have fins and scales. Birds on the other hand, need to be specifically from the list mentioned in the parsha (and cannot be birds of prey).
Taking this along with the previous prohibition of mixing milk with meat, we start to understand what it means to keep kosher and live on an elevated spiritual plateau.
We are taught when one chooses to eat food that is not kosher he dulls his ability to comprehend holiness. Compared to someone who over-exposes himself to loud music will lose the ability to hear fine sounds, so too one who eat impure foods loses the ability to understand and relate to holiness. The worst part of this reality is, one doesn’t even know what he’s lost!!
In fact, the Torah uses the word “tumah” - spiritually impure. The harm caused by eating non-kosher is not physical, it’s spiritual.
There might be something to be said for the colloquialism, “You are what you eat”.
Rashi (11:2) comments, that our goal in life is to become close to the Ultimate source of life, Hashem, He Himself told us that eating forbidden animals (food that is not kosher) will consequently inhibit ourselves from attaining that goal. Why would we ever consider following our lusts and eat what we please?
The laws of keeping kosher are extremely important and a fundamental part of being Jewish -many Jewish people are lost. They have no spiritual drive or connection when it comes to fulfilling the commandments of the Torah. The opportunity for spirituality and closeness to Hashem sits right in front of them and yet they are not only unaware, they “can’t” even be aware because of the way Hashem engineered this mitzvah.
We need to understand how lofty we become when we follow the laws of kashrus. We need to be steadfast in our practice of it. Whereas, those of us who have not yet taken on the mitzvah of keeping kosher, should set their sights on it and move in that direction expeditiously because holiness and closeness to Hashem are the cost.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters