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Parshas Shimini

Parshas Shimini

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Parshas Shmini

Once, a friend of mine gave me a couch, so I went to rent a U-haul truck to move it to my house. When it came time to fill up for gas, I assumed that the truck would use diesel, and so I promptly filled up the tank with diesel gas. For those of you who know, and I found out pretty fast, regular U-haul trucks actually use regular gas, not diesel. After a whole schlep, including pumping out the diesel gas, the truck was just about able to be used again, with minimal damage to the engine.

A different time, I went with a relative of mine on a trip and we had to stop to fill up on gas. As he was filling up I noticed that he was using the premium gas (the one which is $0.20 – $0.30 more than the standard gas). Surprised I asked him why. And he said that if you want this car to run smoothly, you need to use a more refined gas, (He drove a luxury car which he was really proud of).

Its then that I realized that if you want to get the best results; you need to think about what you put in. whether it is fuel for the car or truck, or even fuel for the body.

In this week’s Torah portion of Shemini we learn about the kosher dietary laws. The Torah tells us which animals, fish and birds to eat and which ones we shouldn’t eat. Although the Torah doesn’t give us a clear reason for why to keep this diet, there is an explanation presented by the commentaries and expounded in the Kabbalah. We all know that ‘you are what you eat.’ Depending on the food choices that you make, that will affect what kind of body you end up with. But this doesn’t just apply to our physical health and physique. The same is true with our spiritual and moral health.

The food that we eat has a big impact on the eidelkeit – refinement of our soul. The Torah’s diet of avoiding wild animals, birds that prey, blood and the like is a way to ensure that negative and aggressive traits do not take hold in our psyche. By eating more eidel and refined animals, birds and fish we help to foster a more refined identity. Whether this works in a psychological sense, or in a metaphysical sense or both, it works just the same. We are what we eat, both physically and spiritually.

So keeping kosher gives us a leg up in our journey of developing ourselves into a refined and moral human being; in addition to the communal benefits of a kosher diet, and the obvious religious benefits in that we are following a mitzvah in the Torah.

One important thing to bear in mind is that the laws of kosher are actually a composite of many mitzvos. There are many other mitzvos that affect kosher food. Slaughtering the animal in a special way (shechita), salting the meat to drain the blood, not mixing meat and milk, avoiding insects and a host of other laws. So if you are not ready to take on the full kosher diet, start with one part of it. Don’t think that it is all or nothing; there is great value in keeping even one part of the kosher laws on its own.

For example, when shopping for food, check if you favorite brands have a kosher symbol on them. If not, switch to the ketchup and mustard that do have a kosher symbol. (Some of the common and reliable kosher symbols are ‘OU’ ‘OK’, ‘star K’ and ‘chof K’).

Just as your car has the specific fuels and fluids that it thrives on, so does our body and soul. The soul of a Jew thrives on a kosher diet.

So who’s up for the kosher challenge?

Shabbat shalom

 

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