Parshas Shemini: Kosher and Kedushah

Over Peysekh, we traditionally study special Torah readings, but in order to reach my goal of writing a chiddush on each Parsha, I have instead chosen to write about Parshas Shemini, which I feel is one of the most complex and beautiful Parshos.

Parshas Shemini features a stark contrast. After reading about the sacrifices in great detail, seemingly for weeks upon weeks, we’re presented with the laws of Kashrus. It’s initially hard to find a connection. On one level, both topics discuss food in one form or another- the offering of an animal, or the laws of animal consumption. But nonetheless, this is a somewhat tenuous link, and we know from experience that when the Torah places two subjects close together like this, it is to teach us an important lesson. So what’s the connection?

Last week, I discussed how we can make sacrifices to G-d in lieu of the offerings, and drew upon Rabbi Wolf’s solution to this problem, which presented tefillah as an alternative. But Parshas Shemini offers yet another answer. The laws of kashrus are parallel to the sacrifices- and this is why they are placed together in the Sedra.

When we offered sacrifices, we were taking everyday things- grain, and animals, and salt- and elevating their status by offering them to G-d. When we presented them to Him, they were turned from mere flesh and bones into something Holy- a representation of our love for Hashem, and our fear of Him. It may feel as if we can’t do this anymore, as there are no longer sacrifices- but in fact we can, and that is where Kosher comes in.

Kashrus actually follows the same principles as the sacrifices. We’re taking the most mundane thing of all, namely food- something basic which we need to survive- and we’re turning it into something Holy. Something beautiful. Something which, just like the offerings, represents love and fear and also dedication to G-d and to following his word.

Particularly around Peysekh, when Kashrus is especially hard,  it’s easy to dismiss it as a mundane mitzvah. But it’s not. Rather, it’s our very own, 21st-century equivalent of the offerings and sacrifices.

 

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5 thoughts on “Parshas Shemini: Kosher and Kedushah

  1. When people ask me what drew me to Judaism, they’re usually surprised when I say it was studying kosher laws. To many, those laws seem like something more likely to drive people away from Judaism than attract them. I saw something beautiful in kashrus, though. When I first began reading about how to keep a kosher kitchen, it reminded me of mindfulness exercises or moving meditation. When you have to put so much thought into what you are cooking, where your ingredients come from, and, if you keep 6 hours between meat and milk, what you will eat in a day, it removes mindless eating and elevates the act of nourishing the body. Then, add to that the intention behind it and the necessary blessings while eating and it’s like a constant way during the day to reorient oneself from selfish consumption to service to Hashem.

    I found it beautiful how an act that can all too often be associated with selfish indulgence could instead be used as a way to constantly point back to the Creator in gratitude and how being careful with what was in what we were eating was a way of teaching us to be careful in other aspects of life, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a vegetarian I never dealt with the six hours thing, and although it made teshuva a fair bit easier, I’m now feeling like I missed out! I’m so glad to hear this, by the way- it shows such a beautiful and deep connection to Judaism. Gut Shabbes!

      Liked by 1 person

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