Friday August 30, 2019 – Av 29, 5779
Torah Portion Re’eh
Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos
Begin sounding the shofar daily on Sunday
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses mentions some very crucial mitzvahs for the Jewish people, among them our kosher dietary laws. Doesn’t get much more physical than that.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the National Jewish Retreat. I gave a cooking demonstration highlighting my new cookbook The Big Jewish Mama’s Cookbook. That was in the afternoon. In the evening I was part of another session for young college students who also attended the retreat.
They are the Sinai scholars, so named because they are, for the most part, secular students in university studying about Judaism in their respective Chabad houses. From each group, two students are chosen to come to the retreat, all expenses paid.
One of the sessions for the students was about ten different mitzvahs such as tefillin, mezuzah, family purity and the one I gave, kosher. The 150 students were divided into groups of 8 and they had 8 minutes at each station. If you do the math, that meant I spoke about keeping kosher eleven times. Part of my shpiel also included making something kosher that they could eat. We decided on hummus so…I made eleven batches of hummus, one every 8 minutes.
One of the messages I tried to impart to them was that you are what you eat. It’s not just a cliché, it’s the truth.
It’s also not random that the kosher laws lay out specific requirements. The Torah is telling us that we can learn different things from these laws.
If we take a look at the kinds of animals G-d deemed kosher, for example, deer, sheep and cows, we find that they are naturally timid, modest, non-predatory, quiet animals. The birds which are kosher are those which are not birds of prey. We see that at the simplest level the characteristics of kosher animals are those that we would seek to emulate — peaceful, modest, non-predatory, and civilized.
There are two signs to look for on a kosher animal: they chew their cud and have cloven hooves.
The lesson of chewing their cud, is as just an animal chews its cud over and over again, we don’t always have to say the first thing that comes to mind. I’m sure you all know someone with no filter. What they think they say. Wait, says the Torah. Chew it over before spitting it out, giving some consideration to the consequences of what we are about to say.
The cloven hooves have yet another message for us. A cloven hoof, which is split, is the lowest part of the animal, hitting the earth with every step. The earth represents our physical world, the separation in the hoof – the split – teaches us how we are to approach that world.
Yes, we have to be involved in the material, but we also always have to remember that there is another part – the spiritual, meaning that there is a higher dimension to everything in our material world.
As I told the students, much of our life revolves around food. It’s the same message as in my cookbook. You’re going to eat anyway, the food literally becomes a part of you, you’re a Jew, so try to eat kosher.
It’s not always easy, but the feeling of pride at even trying to follow one of the mitzvahs that
G-d bestowed upon us makes one feel somehow very connected.
Here’s the link to my cookbook. It’s for sale and I’m ready to get out there, speaking and doing cooking demos.
Here's the link to the podcast:
Listen yourself or share it with someone else.