Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Parshat Shemini - What is Kashrut?
Parshat Shemini deals with the laws of Kashrut in Jewish law. The Jewish people were commanded with a unique set of dietary laws which they are required to follow in today's times as much as they followed them in years gone by.
The world say you are what you eat - and the Torah stresses the point that the food we put into our bodies actually becomes a part of our very flesh and blood. Depending upon what we eat, so does this change our very personalities! It's amazing how so many people in the world are compassionate to the needs of vegetarians, vegans and others who espouse diets which claim to be healthier as well as preventing the death of animals - yet so often, these same people will laugh at those who wish to follow a kosher diet.
The truth is that we do not understand any of the laws of Kashrut. The Torah describes in great detail what makes food kosher. Some examples include that a fish should have both scales and fins, only certain birds (fitting in with the domesticated type) are kosher, only certain animals (namely domesticated animals) are kosher, an animal must have split hooves and chew the cud to be kosher, one may not mix meat and milk together, derive benefit from the mixture or eat the forbidden mixture.
Then there are laws that deal with the permissibility of eating fruits from trees not yet three years old, or eating these same fruits if various portions given to the Kohanim and other are not yet removed. In fact the laws of kashrut are exceptionally complex! There are laws that relate to the way cooking is actually done. There are a host of additional laws for food over the Pesach (Passover) holiday. There are even laws attached to cutlery and crockery - which are "merely" the items which the food is cooked in and placed upon!
Though we do not understand these laws, we must keep in mind that the fact that we are commanded to keep them, means that these foods are not only going to be healthiest for us (when eaten in a healthy diet framework!) but that they will keep the soul in best working order together with the body too.
Here is Rabbi Chaim Vogleman in an introductory Shiur, sharing a little about the origins of Kashrut and what it's all about!