Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Shimini) The Tallest Man I Knew (A Special Tribute-See Below)

Many people are under the impression that the laws of Kosher were established because of health issues, such as to protect from disease or because of the lack of cleanliness of certain species. If one follows this line of thinking, one may say that once these concerns are no longer relevant due to FDA regulations and the like, the laws of Kosher don’t apply any longer.

A very different reason becomes apparent with a simple reading of the Torah text. After describing which species of animal, fowl and fish are permitted and which are not permitted to eat, the Torah says, “I give you these laws because you are a sanctified nation,” and because of this special status, “I command you to have a special diet.”

Just as a king is served specially prepared foods, so too, when our ancestors accepted the Torah, G-d called us, “A Kingly and Priestly nation.” The Kosher diet was commanded specifically to fit the spiritual kingliness of the Jewish nation.

We all know that there are a host of foods that should be avoided by people with certain medical conditions, so too, for a Jew, the Kosher diet is the way to connect to our spiritual potential.

The Torah, refers to non-kosher as ‘Tamai’ – a term that is associated with ritual impurities rather than physical restraints.

The Baal Hatanya writes that all forbidden foods receive their vitality from the lowest, most evil forces in creation. They are completely imprisoned and bound (assur) by the forces of negativity and for this reason our Sages called non-Kosher – Ma’acholos Assuros – forbidden (bound) foods.

Thus, if one ingests these foods, even having the intent to provide him with strength to serve his Maker – nevertheless the vitality they contain is entrapped by evil and they can make no contribution toward energizing man in his search for spirituality.

Our Sages refer to permitted foods as Devarim Mutarim – Items that are permitted (unleashed), for their vitality is unbound and unleashed (muter), in order to propel man in his quest upward.

In this week’s Parsha the Torah also discusses the laws of the purification of vessels that came in contact with ritual impurities and require immersion into Mikveh.

A Mikveh is a gathering of water with the many Halachic requirements that enable it to effect purity on that which is immersed in it. A gathering of water connected to a fresh wellspring is in a special class.

During Rabbi Yonoson Steiff’s Rabinical tenure in Budapest, Hungary, a Mikveh was being constructed. Rabbi Steiff insisted that the Mikveh be fed through a wellspring. People were skeptical about digging and finding a well in the midst of Budapest. The project was delayed until they finally struck a well.

Years later, when the Nazi’s invaded Hungary, Rabbi Steiff’s home was one of the houses the Jews were assigned to live in. The Nazi’s shut the water supply so that disease would set into the overcrowded lodging. However, because the Mikveh’s source came through a well, those in its proximity had access to fresh water and were able to thwart the Nazi’s plan!

Wishing you a most restful, uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks

This past Sunday night, just as the Holiday of Purim ebbed away, a very dear uncle of mine, Mr. Israel Lefkowitz passed away in New York.

The Tallest man I knew

As the iron gate was slowly lowered at El Al’s cargo area, separating us from the bier of my dear uncle Mr. Yisroel Lefkowitz, prior to his burial in Israel, torrents of tears began flowing down our cheeks. The thought that came to mind was, “It’s so hard to see you go.”

Since my uncle’s passing, we are intermittently overcome by waves of grief and sadness.

We weren’t stirred by the eulogies. because there weren’t any as per his wishes. It wasn’t because we felt bad for him, because he had been very open and straightforward with expressing his preparedness with death.
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