Torah for the Times  

Friday, April 5 - Nissan 25, 5773 

Torah Reading: Shemini (Leviticus  9:1 - 11:47)
Candle Lighting Time: 7:07 PM

Shabbat ends: 8:08 PM  


Double Duality

The Two Signs: Identification or Determination?

The two characteristics that identify an animal as kosher are split hooves and cud-chewing.  Any animal that does not possess both of these traits, such as the pig or the camel, is not kosher and may not be eaten.

The Rebbe discusses the complex halachic query about these kosher signs. Do these two traits merely identify those species which are kosher or do they actually determine their kosher status?

If the latter approach is true, we have to understand what is it about these two physical characteristics that contributes to the kosher status of an animal.

The Rebbe goes a step further. Even if we are to conclude that these signs are merely for purposes of identification, they must also have some symbolic significance, inasmuch as everything that happens - and the intersection of any two events or concepts - is by Divine providence and orchestration. If G‑d, in His infinite wisdom, specifically chose to make these animals kosher, we must say that there is a connection between these traits and the animal’s kosher status.

Let the Light Shine!

The Rebbe explains that the split hoof is a sign that the animal’s connection with the earth is not absolute.  That is to say, the split hoof allows the light to shine through its hoof. This tells us that our connection to material existence must not be absolute. We must allow a ray of spiritual light to interrupt our connection to the physical.

The chewing of the cud, the Rebbe explains, is suggestive of the need to rethink those of our actions that involve the animal within us. Before engaging with the material aspects of the world, we must reflect carefully and consider whether that action is warranted and not do things impulsively.

Chida, the great Sephardic sage of the nineteenth century, cites the commentary of Rabbi Ephraim that the split hooves represent the two worlds that we inherit, this world and Olam Haba: the World-to-Come. By the same token, the chewing of the cud, the “reconsuming” of the animal’s food, also represents the reward we derive from our Mitzvah observance in this world and the much greater reward we will receive in the World-to-Come.

The question can be asked, why the need for both signs?  Do they not both allude to the two worlds to which we are entitled due to our Mitzvah observance? Furthermore, why are these two worlds hinted at in the signs for a kosher animal?

Two Versions of The World-to-Come

One way of distinguishing between the two references to the two worlds is to recognize the difference between the nature of the duality expressed through the split hoof and the duality that is expressed by the chewing of the cud.

To better grasp the above, a brief introduction is in order:

When our Talmudic Sages mention the term Olam Haba - the World-to-Come - they are generally referring to two distinct scenarios for the future. The first is a reference to the life of the soul after it has completed its years of giving vitality to the physical body. Having completed its mission down here, it returns to Paradise, Gan Eden, where itl is given the opportunity to bask in G‑d’s light. The degree to which the soul can enjoy this spiritually blissful state, and rise to higher levels of consciousness, is commensurate with its achievements in this world. The more, quantitatively and qualitatively, one studies Torah and performs the Mitzvos in the here and now, the more the soul will be rewarded in the Afterlife. 

There is however a second understanding of Olam Haba, which relates to the Messianic Age and the Resurrection of the Dead. This scenario involves life in the future, when all physical existence will be transformed to a utopian life on this world. In that time, the world will reach a state of perfection. The Beis Hamikdash, the Holy Temple, will be rebuilt and G‑d’s presence will be felt throughout the world. Our ability to perform the Mitzvos and study Torah will be greatly enhanced.

It may be suggested that the two signs, with their message of duality, parallel the two meanings of the term “World-to-Come.”

Two Sides of the Same Hoof

The split hoof is really one hoof that is split into two. This alludes to the fact that the two worlds are not two distinct worlds but one is a mirror reflection of the other. This means that whatever we accomplish in this world, we will reap its benefits in the next world. In this context, the meaning of Olam Haba is the world of the soul after it separates from the body. In the Afterlife there is no new dynamic; we are “merely” reaping the spiritual benefits of our accomplishments in this life. Concerning this period the Talmud states: “Happy is the person who comes here with his learning in hand.” One receives in the next world only that which one has enabled in this world.

Repetition to Perfection

The second metaphor for the two worlds—chewing of the cud—is about repeating a process in the pursuit of perfection. The animal chews its cud to facilitate proper digestion of the food it consumes. Without the repetition of the process, the animal’s ingestion of nutrients would be compromised.

This metaphor can be said to allude to the Messianic Age. That era will mark the culmination of this world’s mission and realization of the objective to make our world a dwelling place for G‑d. The world in the present is, by definition, deficient. Our study of Torah is compromised due to our exile and we suffer from the distractions and obstacles that exile conditions impose. Similarly, our ability to observe the Mitzvohs is seriously curtailed. Of the 613 commandments in the Torah, we can fulfill only about a third. The other two-thirds require conditions that presently do not exist, such as the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash and the ingathering of the entire Jewish nation to the Land of Israel.

Hence, the Messianic Age will be the culmination of the process of “digestion” of all our spiritual energies, which are presently seriously lacking.

Kosher Catalyst

A question still remains: How does the reference to two sets of two worlds have anything to do with the laws of kashrus?  The answer is fundamental: eating kosher contributes to both versions of the World-to-Come.

One of the primary impediments to the soul’s ability to reap the benefits of Paradise and feel its connectedness to G‑d is the desensitization that occurs from consuming non-kosher food. Our Sages speak of how non-kosher food dulls the mind and heart and makes one less receptive to spiritual stimuli.  In contrast, eating kosher food refines the soul, arguably more than any other Jewish practice, and allows it unfettered access to the Divine feast that the soul will enjoy in the afterlife.

In addition, keeping kosher prepares us for the future Redemption in ways that are more pronounced than in any other Jewish practice. Whenever we perform a Mitzvah that involves a physical object, we generate spiritual energy that the soul could not achieve on its own.  This is so because all physical objects and functions contain within them powerful spiritual energy that the soul itself does not possess.

Orderly Chaos

Kabbalah teaches us that there are “sparks” of holiness embedded in all physical objects.  These sparks originate in the spiritual realm of Tohu, the World of Chaos. This world is characterized by a mismatch between the “light” and the “vessels” or instruments that are intended to contain and channel that light. The light is powerful, but the vessels are miniscule and inadequate. As a result, the vessels are overwhelmed and shatter.  The sparks from the energy that could not be contained shower down onto our world and embed themselves in physical objects. 

Our world is the inverse of the world of Tohu. Our world, the world of Tikkun - Repaired - enjoys ample vessels but minimal light.

The objective of our Mitzvah observances is to fuse these two worlds. When we perform a Mitzvah that involves physical action and physical objects, we liberate their sparks, causing the powerful and abundant light of Tohu to flow into the ample and broad vessels of Tikkun. We then enjoy, literally, the best of both worlds: the merging of the lights of the World of Tohu into the vessels of the World of Tikkun. When that occurs, the world enters into the perfected state of existence—the Messianic Age.

While this is true with the performance of any Mitzvah, it is especially true with regard to eating kosher.  This truth is hinted at in the very word “kosher” itself.

Finding the Abundant Spoils

The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, explains that kosher is actually an acronym for the words in Psalm 119: “k’motzei shalal rav - like one who finds abundant spoils.” This alludes to the notion that when we eat kosher food we liberate and “capture” the powerful sparks that are hidden within the food. This process of liberating the sparks of holiness embedded in physical objects, particularly in our food, is key to refining the world and preparing it for the future Redemption by eliciting the most powerful of Divine light.

 Moshiach Matters 

The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe declared, "All that remains is to 'polish the buttons' of our uniforms so that we will be ready to go out and greet our Righteous Moshiach."

On this, the Rebbe, commented: "At any time clothes are merely an external supplement; how much more so here, where we are speaking of a garment that is needed not for protection against the cold but only to glorify the appearance of official garb. Moreover, we are speaking only of a superficial detail — buttons, which merely add tidiness to the appearance. And even these finishing touches, the "buttons," are also in place already. All that remains is to polish them, to give them the beauty of an added mitzva."

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