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Shemini: Three Gems from the Parsha

Published on Thursday March 28th, 2019

This week's Parsha enumerates a list of animals allowed and banned for consumption.

To Each His Own Rules

If the Jewish people are the people of Hashem, why on earth do they need to observe this restriction regarding the consumption of animals, while other nations can consume all kinds of animals to their hearts’ desire?

Let’s quote an example to clarify this issue: two friends who live in the same village contract the same disease.  The village doctor, not knowing how to treat them, decides to call a specialist in the field. The doctor advises the first patient to eat all kinds of food, without restraint, basically, to eat whatever he craves for. As for the second patient, he recommends treatment of very specific foods and adds another list of strictly forbidden foods.  

The second patient is very surprised and asks the doctor, "Why didn’t you restrict my friend when we suffer from the same disease? "

The doctor replied, "Your friend's health is deteriorating. Unfortunately, he will die within a few days. That's why I advised him to eat whatever he wants. However, your health is likely to improve, and you may live many more years if you follow my instructions ... "

Likewise, Hashem promised the people of Israel a world to come, much different from the afterlife promised to non-Jews. The prohibition to consume certain animals is not part of the seven Noahide laws that non-Jews must observe to merit their own afterlife. That's why they are allowed to eat whatever they want..

On the other hand, God gave 613 laws to the Jewish People, including a mitzvah to limit their consumption of food, so they may merit a share in the world to come!

The Danger of Habituation

"Do not defile your souls with these rampant creatures ..." (Vayikra, 11, 43)

Our Sages teach: " Faults make man’s heart impure". This is especially true for men who consume foods forbidden by the Torah. Their hearts are adulterated and they become insensitive to the words of the Torah.

In order to better understand the above, the Chafetz Chaim suggests the following example:

A perfumer who went bankrupt decided to open a dry cleaning shop. At first, he could not stand the smell of chemicals, but over time he grew accustomed to working in his store day and night. He even forgot that he was once a perfumer ...

Likewise, when a person grows accustomed to eating non-Kosher food, he eventually fails to notice any problem with it and he becomes completely immune to this serious fault. It is then very difficult to change his ways ...

The Impact of Eating Kosher

"Do not defile your souls with these rampant creatures ..." (Vayikra, 11, 43)

The Midrash recounts that Elisha ben Abuya (the master of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness) was a great Torah Sage. He was an outstanding scholar in his time and knew all the secrets of the Torah. However, he became a heretic for a while. How is it possible?

Some say that when his mother was pregnant, she was seduced by the tantalizing smell of a non-Kosher dish being served at an idolatrous eatery. Unable to resist the temptation, she had a taste of this unkosher dish.

This tiny bite, which a priori was insignificant, infiltrated into her embryo, eventually causing this great Torah giant to stray from the right path.

On the other hand, Hashem performed a miracle, allowing Sarah Imenu to breastfeed hundreds of children, proving to all that she was not sterile and that Yitzchak was indeed her son. The Midrash says that all these children later converted to Judaism ...

These two stories show us the far-reaching influence food exerts on our soul. Let's be vigilant regarding Kashrut!


Shabbat Shalom!

Rav Mordékhai STEBOUN - © Torah-Box Account

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