Torah Fax

Friday,April 1, 2005 - 21 Adar II, 5765

Torah Reading: Shemini (Leviticus  9:1 - 11:47)
Candle Lighting time: 6:02 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:04 PM
Parshat Parah
 
Not By Bread Alone
 
Kashrut (Jewish dietary law) represents a multifaceted are in Jewish thought. This week's Parshah of Shemini features the laws concerning species that are kosher and those that are not. In an earlier Parshah we were informed of the Mitzvah prohibiting the mixing of milk and meat.
 
Elsewhere, the Torah exhorts us to slaughter animals in a specific way, "As I have commanded you," referring to the detailed laws of kosher slaughter laid out in the Oral Torah. We have also learned in earlier Torah portions of the prohibitions regarding Neveilah (an animal which was not ritually slaughtered) and Treifah (an animal containing any number of maladies to internal organs). In addition, the Torah forbids us to eat the blood of an animal as well as many of its fats.
 
This list of prohibitions regarding meat would not be complete without mentioning the prohibitions of eating the sciatic nerve and of eating meat from a live animal.
 
(The restrictions on vegetation are too many to list here. Allow a few examples to suffice: Orlah - the prohibition against eating the fruit of a tree for the first three years. Kilayim - the prohibition regarding mixing grapes with grain while planting.)
 
The question that begs to be asked is, why does the Torah impose so many restrictions on the food that we eat? It seems that a large percentage of the Torah's commandments center on this seemingly mundane act?
 
The answer lies in understanding the dynamics of eating, from the Jewish perspective.
We can divide most of the actions we do into two categories: those tasks that we do because we have no other choice and those things that we do because we view them as constructive and worthwhile pursuits. When dealing with the matters from the first category, we generally try and do those things merely to get them done with, because we have no other choice. They are done in the most perfunctory manner, while spending as little time and resources on them as possible.
 
In the latter category, however, when we are dealing with matters that are important to us, we tend to spend considerably more time and energy and we enjoy the time spent involved in those activities.
 
While we might all have different ideas about what we would put into categories a and b, almost all would agree that eating clearly falls into the second category After all, eating is one of the basic pleasures of life. Eating is a central ritual in many American homes and it has spun off huge multi-billion dollar industries catering to every palate, life-style and culture.
 
Let us explain the importance of food from a more spiritual perspective. Chassidic thought teaches that there is great spiritual power within food. The Torah says that "not by bread alone" do we survive, but rather, "on all that emerges from G‑d's mouth." The Arizal explains this to mean that there is a divine spark of energy contained in our food. In fact, he notes, the divine energy in food is so great - it surpasses the level of divine energy in humans. For this reason, we cannot survive on the level of energy with which G‑d created us, we need food to give us that higher level of energy. When we eat food, we are not only getting physical energy from it, we also receive intense spiritual energy for our soul. This, Chassidic thought explains, is why people have such a strong connection with food, it reflects our strong yearning for spiritual energy.
 
But there is a catch to all of this. The spiritual energy that is hidden in food cannot be extracted unless the food is kosher. When the food is not kosher, the divine spark within is inaccessible to us. In Hebrew, food which is forbidden is called "assur," which can also be translated as "imprisoned." The divine spark in non-kosher food cannot be released when eating it -so no divine energy would be acquired through its consumption.
 
Conversely, permitted food is known as "muttar," which can also be translated as "released." When we eat kosher food, we release the divine spark in it and we get the energy to make ourselves and our surroundings that much more holy.
 
Thus, the process of eating is more than a culinary experience, it is a powerful way for us to tap into G‑dly energy, making eating a truly G‑dly experience. Ultimately, through eating kosher food, we will have the energy to transform the entire world into a G‑dly place, with the coming of Moshiach.
 
Moshiach Matters
 
The ultimate promise [of Redemption] is not to Israel alone. The Redemption of the Jew is closely linked to the emancipation of all humanity as well as the destruction of evil and tyranny. It is the first step in man's return to G‑d, where all mankind will be united into "a single band" to fulfill G‑d's purpose. This is the Kingdom of the Almighty in the Messianic Age. (The Real Messiah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan)
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com
 
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