SHEMINI (Leviticus, 9:1-11:47) — “What a Nice Pig!”

The Torah gives us guidelines as to what we may and may not eat. We may eat animals that are “Tahor” – clean (whatever that means). We may not eat animals that are “Tamei” – unclean (whatever THAT means). (For the record, let me once again point out that the “cleanliness” referred to here has nothing to do with physical cleanliness. A pig is no cleaner than a cow, sheep or giraffe. [Yes, giraffe!] And having grown up on a chicken farm, I can tell you that a chicken’s Kosher status is most definitely based upon its immaculate lifestyle!)

The Torah tells us that in order for a mammal to be Kosher, it must have split hooves and chew its cud. (Leviticus, 11:3) These two traits, for whatever reason, are considered signs of “Purity” that render them acceptable for consumption on a Kosher table. There is something positive about these characteristics that make them acceptable. Why these two? I don’t know.

The Torah goes on to explain that in order to be Kosher, an animal must have BOTH attributes; either one by itself is unacceptable: …the camel, since it chews its cud, and doesn’t have a split hoof, is unclean . . . the pig, since it has a split hoof and doesn’t chew its cud, is unclean . . . (Ibid. verses 4 and 7)

This is actually a strange wording. The Torah already told us that one attribute alone is insufficient to be considered “clean“; you have to have both. Why does the Torah then detail the traits of the camel and the pig? Why not just say that an animal is not Kosher unless it has both attributes and then list those that don’t?

I once heard a beautiful explanation from Rabbi Yissochar Frand. (He was quoting someone else; I don’t remember whom.) The Torah, in discussing animals, is teaching us an essential message on how to think about PEOPLE.

A camel is not Kosher. There’s nothing we can do about it. But, it chews its cud, and doesn’t have a split hoof. IT CHEWS ITS CUD! It’s got SOMETHING going for it. A pig is in the same situation. It has a split hoof and doesn’t chew its cud.  IT HAS A SPLIT HOOF! It’s not all bad!

These animals do not qualify for Kashrus; they don’t satisfy both requirements. But give them SOME credit. They’re halfway there!

Let’s face it. A camel doesn’t care how you describe it, and a pig doesn’t object to being non-Kosher. (If anything, they should be relieved. At least in OUR neighborhoods, they’re safe! 🙂 But there’s a lesson in sensitivity to be learned here.

The Torah doesn’t tell us, “don’t eat camel because it doesn’t have split hooves.” Rather, it says, “true, a camel chews its cud; it DOES have one Kosher requirement fulfilled. However, its lack of split hooves prevents it from being considered Kosher. A pig does have split hooves; it too has a Kosher trait. The problem is that it doesn’t chew its cud.”

The Torah makes it a point to look for the positive in non-Kosher animals. It emphasizes what is “Kosher” about a non-Kosher animal.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we made it a point to do the same thing when we judge people?

(For another thought on “kosher” pigs, see “What Lovely Kosher Pig’s Feet You Have!”)

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

“Kosher Cardiology” (2011)

What is it about some foods that causes them to lift us up, while others bring us down?  …are chickens and trout holier than pigs and swordfish?  … does beef lift me up while clams bring me down?

…You are what you eat.  You can’t spend a lifetime eating junk food and expect to maintain perfect teeth, weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol.  The poison takes its toll…

Read more

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“Silence Is Golden” (2010)

. … Aaron, the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, must have been devastated.  His sons, his disciples, his fellow Priests, were following in their father’s footsteps in serving as Kohanim in the Temple.  How painful it must have been for him to see the tragic deaths of these two young men … A man so full of feeling must have overflowed with emotion in eulogizing his precious sons.  What words of grief, mourning, or consolation did he utter?  The Torah records for us what is perhaps the most eloquent and moving eulogy in history …

Read more

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“Aaron’s Students” (2007)

Some Mitzvahs are easy to fulfill.  Some take a little more work.

It is easy to be happy on Purim.  A little wine, a little singing, and you are well on your way to enjoying an uplifting experience….  It’s easy to be happy when you are happy.

Even some unhappy Mitzvahs are relatively easy…

When a loved one passes away, there is a Mitzvah to mourn.  It is “easy” to be sad, when you are sad.

The hard part is when G-d expects us to be happy when we are inclined to be sad, and to be sad when we are inclined to be happy…

Read more

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“Kosher Legs = Kosher Eggs” (2005)

… About a year ago, I received a phone call from the Mashgiach – Kosher supervisor – in the retirement home where I work.  “Rabbi,” he asked, can we serve eggs today?”

I didn’t understand the question.  Why is this night (day) different from all other nights?  He explained that there had been a whole ruckus in his Yeshiva that morning due to the new “Shailah” – religious question – about whether eggs were Kosher.

“What in the world are you talking about?” I demanded.

“I don’t know, Rabbi.  All I can tell you is that they’ve stopped serving eggs in my Yeshiva.”

I did some quick research…

Read more

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“What Lovely Kosher Pig’s Feet You Have!”  (2004)

What is as Treif as a pig?

Everyone knows that religious Jews don’t eat pork.  Even those who are not aware of the intricacies of Kosher Law know that the pig is not Kosher.  It is the quintessential “unclean” animal  … The Midrash points out that there are some people who are like pigs…

Read more

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“What a Nice Pig!” (2003)

… The Torah tells us that in order for a mammal to be Kosher, it must have split hooves and chew its cud… The Torah goes on to explain that in order to be Kosher, an animal must have BOTH attributes; either one by itself is unacceptable:

…the camel, since it chews its cud, and doesn’t have a split hoof, is unclean . . . the pig, since it has a split hoof and doesn’t chew its cud, is unclean . . .

This is actually a strange wording. The Torah already told us that one attribute alone is insufficient to be considered “clean”; you have to have both. Why does the Torah then detail the traits of the camel and the pig? Why not just say that an animal is not Kosher unless it has both attributes and then list those that don’t?…

Read more

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 27, 2003 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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