Hi… It’s me. Benny.
Moshe turned to Bnei Yisrael with an important message, “You are the children of HaShem. Do not do anything to damage your bodies. Do not make any cuts to your skin or pull out your hair and make yourselves bald. It’s something that idol worshipers do, especially after the passing of their relatives.”
“Well, isn’t it a good thing to show how bad we feel about the loss of our loved ones?”
“Of course it’s good to mourn, cry and feel sad for one’s loss. But going overboard and actually damaging oneself is not a good thing. It’s as if you’re saying that HaShem is not in control of the world. And besides, you can’t do whatever you want to your body. It doesn’t belong to you. It’s on loan from HaShem, so take good care of it!”
“Wow! I never thought of it this way.”
Remember,” Moshe continued, “not only are you HaShem’s children, you are His holy people – separated from all other nations – chosen from amongst all the nations of the world.”
“I have a feeling of what’s coming next…”
“What is it?”
“I think it’s that one Mitzvah that we keep every single day of the week!”
“I give up. Tell me already!
“It’s probably the laws of Kosher. After all, what Mitzvah can be better than Kosher to keep us separated from the nations?”
“I have a feeling you’re right… well, let’s see for ourselves.”
“Now let’s review Kosher,” Moshe said.
“Hey! You’re right! How did you know?”
“Elementary, my dear Watsonovsky. If you’ve been listening carefully till now, Moshe has been telling us, again and again and again (and again) all about the dangers of Avodah Zarah… what better way than a restricted food diet is there to keep us away from those who serve idols?!”
“Hmmm… never thought about it that way.”
“Come to think of it, that Kosher food diet, more than any other Mitzvah, will prevent us from mixing and marrying with those idol-worshippers.”
“Yeah, I heard there are some amazing non-Kosher restaurants in the Land of Canaan. Keeping Kosher will surely help us keep our distance from the corrupt Cana’anim.”
Moshe continued, “Kosher is a Mitzvah you have been keeping ever since Matan Torah, but it has been quite simple for you to keep. After all, your daily Mann food is Kosher, and there is not much of a choice of other foods. Yet, you will soon be coming into a land where there will be a lot more species… some Kosher, but many non-Kosher.”
From the words of our Parsha it seems clear that the Mitzvah of Kosher helps us stay away from any sort of idol worship. Yet, back in Parshas Shemini we find several other reasons for Kosher suggested by the all-time great Torah commentaries, and not one of them mentions this!
This has bothered the Shazak investigation team, and after extensive research, we finally found a source, none other than the Rambam, who writes:
“I have decided to divide my book (Mishneh Torah) into 14 books…
Book 1 – The Book of Mada (“Knowledge”) – I will include the Mitzvos that are basic to the faith of a Jew…
Book 2 – The Book of Ahavah (“Love”) – I will include the constant Mitzvos that help a Jew to love HaShem, for example, reciting Shema, prayer, Tefillin, and blessings…
Book 3 – The Book of Zmanim (“Times”) – I will include the Mitzvos that are in a specific time, such as Shabbos and Jewish Holidays.
Book 4 – The Book of Nashim (“Women”) – I will include the Mitzvos that relate to women, such as marriage, divorce, Yibum and Chalitzah.
Book 5 – The Book of Kedushah (“Holiness” or “Separation”) – I will include the details of those whom it is forbidden to get married to, and the food forbidden to eat. Because both of these Mitzvos make us holy and separate us from the nations of the world. And regarding both Mitzvos the Pasuk says, “I will separate you from the nations.”
(Now the Rambam finishes his description of the rest of his 14 books.)
So, it’s quite clear! The simple reason for Kosher is because, “it makes us holy and separate from the nations.”
Now we can understand many other Kosher restrictions instituted by the Sages of old. Here are a few examples:
Bishul Yisrael (Cooked by a Jew): In their efforts to ensure that Jews do not mix with idol worshippers and end up marrying them, they declared that it is forbidden to eat food cooked entirely by a non-Jew, even if all the ingredients are Kosher.
Pas Yisrael (Baked by a Jew): Similarly, they declared all goods baked by a non-Jew should not be eaten.
Yayin Nesech (Wine used for idol worship): Regarding wine produced or handled by a non-Jew, there is an additional concern: it was possible that the idol worshipper used the wine in the service of his idol. Although, nowadays we no longer have idol worshippers around, the Sages still forbade wine that has been handled by non-Jews (it’s called Stam Yainam).
Bottom Line… Keeping Kosher keeps the Jewish Nation alive and well!
“Elementary, my dear Watson.” These are the words of the famous English detective Sherlock Holmes who would supposedly say to his amazed companion, Dr. Watson, as he explained his brilliant reasoning in solving a crime. Here in Shazak, we took the liberty to make his name sound Jewish – Watsonovsky (we were thinking of Watsonovskashlivovits, but it was too hard to pronounce).
To explain the Parsha in a fun and interesting way, Shazak adds comments from the people listening to Moshe. Of course, we have no idea whether or not they commented and what exactly they said. So please take this with a “grain of salt” … or shall we say, “a pound of salt.”
When a person passes away, it is normal (and healthy) for those who loved him or her to be very sad. However, “extreme mourning,” by damaging one’s body, such as the idol worshippers did, is certainly not the Torah way.
Instead, our Sages, in their great wisdom, tell us of stages for mourning. These stages are set up to gradually help a person get through their challenging times:
The first three days after a loved one’s passing are reserved for crying and feeling awfully sad.
Shivah is the 7-day period reserved for talking about the departed with friends and relatives.
Shloshim is the 30-day period, when the mourner focuses less on their own enjoyment, by not buying new clothes, not having a haircut, or even enjoying music. (For the loss of a parent, these restrictions extend for a full year.)
During the year after the passing, the mourner recites the Kadish prayer in Shul. This, our Sages tell us, helps raise the soul of the departed to high heavenly levels. There’s another benefit… in case he wasn’t in the past, the mourner would become a regular-Shul-goer, which is always a good thing (and will hopefully continue even after the year is up.)
Mourning the loss of a loved one is sad, no two ways about it. But HaShem designed the best way of mourning, because He knows best.