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Parshas Shemini

Sheep, Pigs and Camels
By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner

This week’s parsha, Shmini, teaches the dietary laws of which animals can and can't be eaten. “These are the animals that can be eaten from amongst all of the animals of the land. All those that have split-hooves and chew their cud . . . [11:2-3]”

These kashrus laws apply and affect us on both a physical and spiritual level. Whenever someone takes issue, claiming there’s no evidence that these foods cause any physical harm, I invariably counter that I am, in fact, much older than I look. I was actually born B.C.­ before cholesterol . . . In those years, people had never heard of cholesterol. It wasn't found on a single supermarket label. It wasn't recognized as the number one cause of heart attacks. So much for what science knows as of today. We all know that twenty-five years from now we'll be looking back on the antiquated ideas, understandings and methods of the year 2003.

The same way that the physical composition of the food affects us in a physical sense, the spiritual make-up of the food affects us in a spiritual sense. Though we have some knowledge of the physical, how different things would impact upon us spiritually is clearly out of our league. Our only hope is to follow the directives of the Master Healer outlined in His Torah.

An interesting comparison is drawn between different nations and the animals that represent them. Yisroel is compared to a sheep, Esav {the modern western world} is compared to a pig and Yishmael {the Middle Eastern world} is compared to a camel.

(An interesting side point is that these animals are the staple foods of their respective nations. The Jews eat lamb but not pig or camel. The western world eats pig as one of its staples. The Moslem, Arab world doesn't eat pig but eat camel.)

Sheep have both of the necessary attributes in order to be kosher­they chew their cud and have split-hooves. Pigs have split-hooves but don't chew their cud, while camels chew their cud but don't have split-hooves.

The hooves have to do with travel. That idea of always moving forward is exemplified by the western world. A father is termed “the old man.” Technology renders yesterday’s wonders obsolete. With the theory of evolution, there’s not much of a basis to respect the earlier generations who are simply a few steps closer to having been apes. The movement is forward, forward, forward with hardly a look behind. Having split-hooves but not chewing the cud.

Chewing the cud is a regurgitation of the past. The Middle Eastern world looks back on the success and glory of their history. Developments in mathematics and science are no longer their domain. Even their present is backward, a regurgitation of the past, indicating a fairly bleak future. Chewing the cud but not having split-hooves.

The sheep and other kosher animals both chew their cud and have split-hooves. Yisroel is manifested by a deep respect and reverence for the past­those that are generations closer to Adam HaRishon {the first man} and to those that stood at Sinai­and a confident faith and hope in the future and glory that it holds.

“Do not become defiled with these because I am Hashem, your G-d, sanctify yourselves because I am holy. . . [11:43-44]”

It is this commitment to the laws of kashrus that will help bring about that glorious future.

Good Shabbos,

Yisroel Ciner


Copyright © 2003 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.

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