A Taste of Torah – Parshas Shmini

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

Is it Kosher?

In this week’s Torah portion, Shmini, the laws of kashrut (dietary laws) are discussed. The Parsha states that two signs are required for an animal to be kosher. One, the animal must have split hooves, and two it must chew its cud.

Rav Hirsch, a great Torah luminary in the 1800’s, questions the significance of these two signs. Overall, the laws of kashrut are a chok, laws which do not have a reason behind them.  However, even so, Rav Hirsch provides insight into what we can learn from why these two signs were chosen.

Through observation one can see that animals containing these two physical traits are not overly aggressive, but rather more on the tame side. Rav Hirsch points out that G-d, in His infinite wisdom, is sending us a message – you are what you eat, so to speak.  As Jews, we are obligated to adhere to a moral and ethical code in all parts of our lives. However, we are only human, and as such, we need constant reminders to identify with things that are less aggressive in nature. As we constantly work on refining our character, even the food we eat can help reinforce this character trait as well.

As parents, we are responsible to establish a framework for our children to help guide them to become Torah Jews with sound character, treating others in an appropriate manner. The Torah when it discusses the signs of a kosher animal is once again emphasizing the type of person we should be and adds one more item to the “instruction manual” to assist us in raising our children.