Parshas Shemini | The Kollel Connection
April 17, 2015 – Candle lighting 7:22 pm, Shabbos Ends 8:31 pm
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This week we read Parshas Shemini. In Parshas Shemini, the basic laws of kosher are given. We are told that for an animal to be kosher, it must have two signs: it must chew its cud, and have split feet (hooves). Rav Moshe Sternbach explains that the two signs of an animal being kosher represent two types of behavior: Chewing the cud is internal. By looking at the animal from the outside, one can’t tell if it chews its cud or it doesn’t. This represents the actions a person does internally, that no one sees. Having split hooves, on the other hand, is external. By looking at the animal from the outside one sees right away whether the animal has split hooves or not. This represents the actions that a person does externally, that everyone sees. With the signs of what makes an animal kosher, the Torah teaches us that we must act like good Jews both on the inside and on the outside. If a person acts like a Jew, but their heart is far from Hashem, that is unacceptable. So too, if a person feels that they have a “Jewish heart”- but they are reluctant to act like a Jew on the outside, that is unacceptable. They have just rendered themselves as a “non-kosher” being. We have to serve Hashem both on the inside – in our hearts, and in our recognizable external deeds.
In the classic work mesillas yeshorim, the author explains that in one way the prohibitions regarding food are more severe than all other prohibitions. He explains that this is because the food we eat actually becomes part of us. If there is something wrong with it, it changes our very essence. Just as no sane human being would eat poison, so too no thinking person would eat something not kosher, that will alter his or her very being on such a bad way. He goes on to say, that even when one has a doubt whether something is kosher they must stay away from it – just as they would if they were not sure if there was poison in it.
The medrash brings out this point in a most amazing way, with a lesson that can alter our eating habits forever. The medrash tells us that when Abraham and Sarah were celebrating the birth of Isaac, there were those who doubted whether Sarah was really the mother of this baby. After all, she was already 90 years old! In order to test her, they each brought their own infant and challenged Sarah – this 90 year old woman – to see if she could nurse them. Sarah did, and they accepted the miracle that at her advanced age she had given birth to Isaac. The medrash says that the children who nursed from Sarah all ended up converting to Judaism, and if we find someone today who converts and becomes a Jew, he or she is a descendant from those who nursed from Sarah.
The obvious point is, not only does bad food that we eat have a destructive force upon us. The food that we eat as a mitzvah, with a properly said blessing, with positive focus – intent to be healthy and serve Hashem, then we actually can grow from the experience of eating. Unlike an animal that simply eats to exist, we can become elevated and closer to our Creator by eating the food that he provides us.
Wishing you and your family a Great Shabbos!!!!!!!!
Rabbi Moshe Travitsky
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