Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Re'eh) Food for Thought
Last week, a non Jewish employee at a health facility that I visit, stopped me and related the following: “I was out food shopping the other day with my young daughter and she asked me why Jewish people eat Kosher? I didn’t know what to answer. I wish I had your number to call.”
I then gave her a quick 101 explanation why we eat Kosher. In this week’s portion, the Torah commands the Kosher dietary laws. Which animals, fowl and fish are Kosher; the slaughter process of animals and fowl, the prohibition of ingesting the blood of animals and fowl, and the prohibition of cooking, eating, or deriving benefit from the mixture of milk and meat.
The Torah does not specify the reasons for these laws, however regarding these laws it does say, “You are a sanctified people.” G-d wishes that our food should be carefully monitored in accordance with the sanctified manner He prescribed.
There is another law of Kosher derived from this week’s portion and it applies to both Jew and non Jew. This is the law of not eating a piece of flesh taken from an animal while it was still alive. This flesh remains prohibited even after the animal dies. When and where were non-Jews commanded of this law?
G-d issued and instituted seven societal and personal laws to Adam, the first human being. They are referred to as the seven laws of Noach. They are: Not to worship idols; not to curse G-d; not to kill, steal or commit adultery; to set up a judicial system; and the prohibition of eating flesh taken from a live animal. There were a few additional laws given to Avraham and his children, such as circumcision and not to eat the sciatic nerve of an animal. These laws or traditions were passed down by all nationalities through an oral transmission until G-d’s Revelation at Mount Sinai.
At this event, 2448 years - 26 generation after Adam, the Jewish Nation accepted the mandate of the Torah, which includes 613 Mitzvos – commands and responsibilities. At the same time, G-d issued a binding command for the nations of the world to adhere to the seven laws of Noach.
Through the observance and faithfulness to these seven commandments of G-d, non-Jews have a relationship with G-d and can earn a portion of the World to Come.
Let’s examine the law of not eating flesh taken from a live animal. Kashrus is the prohibition of ingesting certain foods with properties that cause subtle impairment to one’s personality.
Jewish people have many laws, bringing their relationship with G-d to a high level, thus their laws of Kashrus are many, because this relationship can be impaired through food even subtly tainted.
Since non-Jews did not accept the totality of Torah, G-d allowed them to eat anything, without any restrictions of how it is prepared, except for eating flesh taken from a live animal, because by doing so, one takes the essential life of the animal and ingests it.
Mankind is unique in terms of his intellect and his ability to talk, which allow him to make proper decisions. When a piece of a live animal is ingested, its animalistic characteristics become part of man – and that is prohibited.
However once the animal is dead, G-d allowed its consumption because its animalistic nature will not affect the person adversely.
The Talmud struggles with the question why milk of an animal is permitted. After all it is taken from an animal while it is alive. One answer offered is since G-d refers to the Land of Israel as, “A land flowing with milk and honey,” milk must be permitted because G-d would not praise the land with something prohibited. Milk is permitted for us provided that it comes from a Kosher animal.
Rosh Hashana is approaching in a bit more than a month’s time. It is our universal custom to dip a sweet apple and Challah into bee’s honey. How is bee’s honey permitted? After all, a bee is not Kosher. The honey that the verse refers to in regards to the Land of Israel is actually date honey, so that cannot be the source to permit it.
The Talmud explains that the bee only acts as a processor of the nectar that it extracts from the pollen; the honey is not actually produced by the bee, therefore its honey is permitted.
However it is recommended to look for a kosher symbol even on honey for there may be non kosher ingredients added to the honey.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks