SHEMINI (Leviticus, 9:1-11:47)/Parah — “Kosher Cardiology”

 

PARSHAS PARAH

This Shabbos we will take out two Torah scrolls.  In the first, we will read “Shemini”, the regularly scheduled weekly Portion. Next, we will read, from a second Torah scroll, the section of “Parah Adumah,” the Red Heifer.

The Red Heifer is a Mitzvah that is, in all due respect, totally illogical. (At least it’s illogical to humans. The great King Solomon himself couldn’t figure out the deep meaning that G-d had invested into this apparently contradictory Mitzvah.)

The ashes of the Red Heifer were used for purification.  If a person had come in contact with a corpse, either by direct contact (e.g., a doctor) or having entered a cemetery, he would be considered “Tamei,” ritually defiled.  Such a person would not be permitted to enter the Temple or eat “sacred foods,” such as the Korban Pesach, the Passover Offering of roasted lamb at the Seder.  Part of the purification process involved being sprinkled with a solution that included, among other things, the ashes of a totally red heifer.

The reason for this additional Torah Reading is that with Passover right around the corner, we are busy preparing our homes for the coming Yom Tov.  We need to remember the Mitzvah of the Red Heifer because it is supposed to be part and parcel of our Passover preparations.  Every year at the Seder, we conclude our meal with a “dessert” of Matzah called Afikoman. The Afikoman serves as an interim replacement for the Passover Offering that may only be offered when the Temple is standing.  When the Temple is rebuilt, hopefully soon, we will have to participate in the Red Heifer purification ceremony.  That way, we will be able to replace our Matzah Afikoman with a savory desert of roasted lamb, as required by the Torah.

You can read more about the Red Heifer by clicking here , here, or here.

 

“Kosher Cardiology”

 

These are the animals you may eat… But this you may not eat…Do not make yourselves abominable … lest you become contaminated through them. (Leviticus, 11:2, 4, 43)

… lest you become contaminated through them. Consumption of non-Kosher food contaminates you.  That is why even young children, who are exempt from such essential commandments as Sabbath observance, fasting on Yom Kippur, and eating Matzah on Passover, must refrain from eating non-Kosher food.  We must give them Kosher formula and Kosher baby food.  We don’t want to contaminate our children.

There is nothing wrong with pork and shellfish per se.  These are appropriate foods that G-d has given to the Children of Noah for consumption.

But the Children of Israel have a different responsibility:

For I am G-d who elevates you from the Land of Egypt to be a G-d to you; you shall be holy, for I am holy. (Ibid, verse 45)

Usually, when discussing the Exodus from Egypt, the Torah says “… I am G-d who brought you out of Egypt…” Here, He is G-d who elevates you from the Land of Egypt

The Commentaries state that the point of the Kosher laws is to elevate us.  By refraining from forbidden foods we uplift ourselves spiritually and become closer to G-d.

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

I don’t know if the individual animals are the point of it all.  G-d expects us to engage in self-control.  We can’t just live a life of excess, helping ourselves to any and every physical pleasure that entices us.

The Talmud offers an alternative translation to … lest you become contaminated through them. It can also be understood to mean … lest you become dulled through them. Consumption of non-kosher food is said to cause a “dulling of the heart.”  A person who ignores the Kosher laws desensitizes himself to the nuances of spirituality.  Somehow, when you eat Treif you “harden your spiritual arteries”, and, as a result, find it more difficult to serve G-d.

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.

That’s why we make sure our children only eat strictly Kosher.  We want to start them off right.  We want to elevate their souls and open their hearts to holiness.

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Yes, you are what you eat.  You are also what you see, what you read, and what you hear.

I watched a lot of T.V. when I was a kid.  (That’s one of the reasons I made sure not to have one in my home when I became an adult!)  I sometimes find myself humming theme songs from some of the silly shows I used to watch.  FROM 40+ YEARS AGO!!!

Now, one could make the argument that there was nothing “Treif” about “Leave it to Beaver” and “Get Smart.”  (One could also argue the other way, but I won’t go there right now.)  But many of today’s television programs even have titles that I’d be embarrassed to write on this page!  What subtle (and not-so-subtle!) influence does our exposure to all this junk have on our spiritual well-being?

And what, of course, about the Internet?  Yes, there are many wonderful things we can do with this valuable tool.  There is also unbridled filth that is available to our children (and ourselves!) with a few simple clicks.

It can contaminate you.  It can dull you.  It can make you spiritually sick.  It can lower you to a level where you are totally out of sync with, and unfazed by, the holy teachings of the Torah.

Keep Kosher.  Keep Kosher in thought, word, and deed.  It will uplift you.  It will inspire you.  It will make you holy.

 

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

“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 on March 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

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