Kosher Animals and Kosher People

    May 2008            
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Kosher Animals and Kosher Jews


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Opinion & Society


Kosher Animals and Kosher People

By Nachum Mohl

It is well known that the Torah requires Jews to eat kosher animals, but can we understand any reason or rationale for this. Also can we say that there is any connection between animals and people that would cause the Torah to require us to eat only these animals and forbid others?

Let us look at what the Torah requires and forbids: Kosher animals have two signs, they have cloven hoofs and they chew their cud. These requirements are written in the Torah (Leviticus 11:2-7):

    "These are the animals that you may eat among all of the animals that are on the earth: That which divides the hoof and is cloven footed and also chews the cud. Among the beasts only these may you eat. But you shall not eat of these that chew the cud or those that divide the hoof: The camel because he chews the cud, but does not divide the hoof; he is unclean to you. The [coney] rabbit because he chews the cud but does not divide the hoof; he is unclean to you. The hare because she chews the cud but does not part the hoof, she is unclean unto you. And the pig who has divided hoofs, but does not chew the cud; he is unclean to you."

It is very remarkable that although the Torah was given some 3300 plus years ago, when man had little knowledge of the world about him, many land areas and continents had not been discovered yet the Torah declared that there were only four groups of animals with only one of the two characteristics. In the subsequent years of discovery, another group of animals that have only one of these characteristics has never been found. How did the Torah know in advance that even after the discovery of the rest of the world, no new animal with only one sign would be discovered? Simply because the Torah was written by the Creator of the World, who certainly knew what he did create and did not create.

The two signs of kosher animals are important. To be a kosher animal, the animal must possess both signs. Possession of only one sign is as non-kosher as possession of no signs.

What are the importances of these two signs? What can they tell us about the animal that possesses such signs?

First there is the aspect of chewing the cud. In order for an animal to chew its cud, it must have more than one stomach. The animal eats the food and the food enters into the first stomach, but it is not immediately digested there. After the animal eats his food, generally grass or straw, he goes somewhere where he can rest and he then he brings up what is called the 'cud'. The cud is a ball of this food which he now chews properly and re-enters into his stomach. He repeats this process several times until the process of digestion is complete.

The aspect of the cloven hoof (Hebrew: parsah) which is split into two toes distinguishes it from the animals that walk on the ground with their paws. The hoofs are like hardened fingernails that separate (Hebrew: parsah) the animal slightly from the ground and elevate him.

We can draw a parallel to the kosher man from these two signs.

The chewing of the cud takes place in the head of the animal. In the man, there is also an aspect of chewing the cud. Generally when a person thinks, to understand something properly, he must re-hash his thinking in order to reach the correct understanding. Although he took into his head a concept, to really fathom the concept properly it is not enough for him to merely put it into his head; rather he must re-evaluate his ideas and revise his values. This is like the chewing of the cud.

Secondly, although man lives in the physical world and must deal with the physical reality in his every day life, still, the physicality must be separated (Hebrew: parsah) from him slightly if he is to reach his true purpose. When a person is totally immersed in the physicality of the world, he can not possibly actuate his spiritual side.

The animals that G-d has told us to eat are beneficial for us, both for physical health as well as spiritual growth. When a person eats foods that are not kosher he dulls his ability to perceive of the spiritual side. It therefore should not come as a shock to us to see Jews who can deny the existence of G-d. This is because they have indulged themselves with un-kosher foods that cause damage to the ability of the G-dly soul to connect with the source of all holiness, G-d.

Therefore for a Jew to strive to excel in this world, both in the physical and spiritual realm, the eating of kosher meat is a must.


from the May 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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