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Perashat Shemini

Dedicated L'ilui Nishmat Yosef Ben Hanina by the Aizer Family

Perashat Shemini This week’s Perashah is Shemini, and it includes some of the most intriguing commandments we have and one of the most important and dramatic proofs that Hashem is the indisputable author of our Torah. We find in our Kashrut laws evidence that Hashem created the world and is the only being that could have written our holy Torah! In 11:4-6 we read: Ach et zeh lo toch'lu...et hagamal...upharsahenenu maphris... v'et hashafan...upharsah lo yafris...v'et ha-arnevet...upharsah lo hifrisah... "This is what you should not eat, the camel but its hoof is not split; the hyrax, its hoof will not split; the hare, its hoof was not split." As we can see, the Torah is describing the three animals we are not permitted to eat because they do not have a cloven hoof. What does it mean when the Torah presents this injunction very subtly using the Present, Future and Past tense's? How does this relate to us and what lesson can we learn from this? In Rabbi Twersky’s book on the Humash he quotes Rav Yisrael of Salant, the founder of the Mussar movement, who says that this teaches us about our relationships with one another. As objectionable as a person’s present behavior may be, if he has decent people of good character in his family's past, we should realize that he has those traits of fine character within him which can eventually be nurtured and exposed. He always has the opportunity to make Teshuvah even if he's the most sidetracked individual. There are countless instances of people who have made drastic lifestyle changes in their lives. In theory, we would be able to reject someone if their past, present and future were all devoid of any redeeming features. But in fact, that is never the case, and therefore there are never grounds for dismissing and giving up on anyone! He continues to say that if you have to push away someone, you should do so with the left (weaker) hand but at the same time you must use the right (stronger) hand to attract someone and draw them in. In Sotah 16a we read that the force of attraction should always exceed the force of rejection, and that “we must never despair of a Jewish Neshamah!" As for the four animals that the Torah prohibits us from eating, we find some very interesting wording, for it says, "Everything among the animals that has a split hoof, which is completely split and separated into double hooves, and that brings up its cud, that one you may eat. This is what you shall not eat from among those that bring up their cud, or that have split hooves: the camel, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split: it is unclean to you; the hyrax, for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split: it is unclean to you; the hare for it brings up its cud, but its hoof is not split: it is unclean to you; the pig, for its hoof is split and is completely separated, but it does not chew its cud: it is unclean to you. You shall not eat of their flesh nor shall you touch their carcass: they are unclean to you." The K'li Yakar says that in listing the non-kosher animals, the Torah first gives the characteristics of what is considered kosher, instead of simply explaining that the animal is not kosher because of the characteristics it lacks. This suggests that the presence of one kosher characteristic can actually make something worse, as when people who make no real effort to behave well make a point of publicizing their occasional good deeds or traits, instead of concentrating on getting rid of their deficiencies. This dishonesty labels them as non-kosher! It is amazing that no other animal has ever been found that fits this description of the pig – having a split hoof but not chewing its cud! Pigs also stand out in another way. Of the four animals who are not kosher due to one characteristic, the pig is the only one that has a split hoof. Pigs can symbolize the outward appearance versus the inner self, for they will often stick out their leg, as if displaying the cloven hoof, and this may fool people into thinking that the pig is kosher, even though pigs do not chew their cud. Its not enough to have the outward appearance of an admirable person, our inner life is what really matters. Our Torah values and the accomplishments that we strive to achieve in our lives with our family's and our community is what makes us who we really are. In addition, pigs have an unusually efficient, fast digestive system and this means that they have the ability to digest extremely toxic and poisonous food without getting sick; they can basically digest anything, and that is why they can eat garbage. The poisons that they consume are not filtered out of the body but are wrapped with fat and remain inside the body. So anyone who eats pig, will consume all those poisons and toxins, from this we know that eating pig has caused deadly trichinosis. Kosher animals on the other hand are herbivores that eat only grass, which they digest slowly, and therefore they must avoid poisons and toxins. Lobster and shellfish, which are also not kosher, roam the ocean seabed and they too consume the refuse that lies there. Studies have shown that contaminated shellfish have caused almost instant death in countless cases. What we may not be aware of is that these non-kosher animals, if eaten will also have an effect on us spiritually as well as physically. Eating unkosher foods can have a very negative effect on our Neshamah that will dull our senses in this world and in the world to come. Because of this, eating forbidden foods also prevents us from learning Torah. Apart from the health reasons that benefit us physically, our Rabbis teach us that our Kashrut laws are primarily there to benefit our spiritual well-being. By observing the laws of Kashrut, a Jew can pull himself up the ladder of Kedusha, but if he ignores them, he will contaminate himself and eventually he will build up a barrier that blocks his spiritual growth; this is called "Timtum Halev", the dulling or polluting of the heart! Rashi explains that the reason various animals are forbidden to Jews is that our spiritual mission is to attach ourselves to the ultimate source of spiritual life which comes from Hashem. We learn throughout our Torah that Hashem elevated us to be a separate and special people so we can be close to Him above the other nations of the world. So the question we can ask today is why do so many Jews choose to lower themselves to follow the other nations by following their ways and eating their non-kosher foods? Our community on the other hand, has been blessed because of the Zechut of our fathers, grandfathers and the previous generations that forged a path for us to follow. Dining has always been a very social event, but our forefathers taught us that social and other types of assimilation will prevent us from keeping our families a holy nation unto Hashem. A famous story is told, that the great Rambam received a letter from someone in another town who was complaining that he was having trouble pursuing his Torah learning. The Rambam, who was a physician as well as a great Torah scholar and philosopher, asked him to describe his symptoms and the man replied that he suffered from an inability to focus and similar symptoms that affected his wellbeing and concentration. The Rambam told him to go and check on the kashrut of the local butcher in his town. Sure enough, it was discovered that the butcher was cutting corners and feeding the towns people non-kosher meat. May we all strive to keep the kashrut laws as its written in our holy Torah because Hashem gave those laws to the Jewish nation in order to elevate us. May we realize that by keeping kosher to the level that we should, whether it be in our homes or traveling on the road, our kashrut laws are for our own benefit which will stimulate our spiritual growth and benefit us in many other ways that we may not even be aware of! Amen! Shabbat Shalom! Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal