SHEMINI (Leviticus, 9:1-11:47) — “What Lovely Kosher Pig’s Feet You Have!”

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.  (For the record, the vernacular “Treif” is actually inaccurate.  The word “Treif” refers to a Kosher animal (such as a cow, chicken, giraffe, etc. that was killed improperly or is diseased.)

The problem is that the pig lacks one of the two requirements for Kosher mammals:

You may eat whatever has split hooves and chews its cud…The pig will be unclean to you although it has a split hoof, since it does not chew its cud. (Leviticus, 11:3,7)

The Midrash points out that there are some people who are like pigs.  When a pig sits on its haunches it stretches out its forelegs.  “Look at me,” it seems to be saying.  “I have split hooves!  I’m kosher!”

When people go out of their way to tell you how “Kosher” they are, one is tempted to ask what it is that they are trying to hide.  This message is especially true during a political season.  Every candidate makes it a point to tell us how wonderful he is.  (DISCLAIMER:  This should not be taken as an indictment or endorsement of any particular candidate.  It is an observation about human nature in general.)  The 9/11 hearings are more of the same.

“Look at me,” says the pig.  “I have split hooves!  I’m kosher!”  The Torah tells us not to be misled by superficial appearances.   Sure, he LOOKS kosher. He’s got split hooves.  But look on the inside.  He doesn’t chew his cud.  He’s a phony!

He doesn’t re-chew and swallow his words.   Neither should you!


The Ohr Hachaim says that the non-kosher status of the pig is only temporary.  He sees the Torah’s explanation of ”… since it does not chew its cud” as the reason that the pig is CURRENTLY non-Kosher.  However, he says, the pig (whose Hebrew name, “Chazir,” literally means “return”) will someday change to a cud-chewing animal whose meat will be permitted on the kosher table.

“Ridiculous!” you may say.  Preposterous!  Is G-d really going to miraculously change the whole digestive system of a pig?!  How likely is it that a pig will actually change the way that it eats?!

At least as likely as the chance that a politician will change the way that he speaks!  🙂

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.



“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


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


Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (  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 April 14, 2004 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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