Am I Kosher?
There is a debate whether the signs of the Kosher animal, chewing its cud and having split hooves, are the cause that deem the animal “pure” thereby qualifying it for consumption or whether these signs are merely an indication that the animals are “pure”.
There are multiple indications in Jewish law that the former is true, it is the signs that cause the animal to be “pure”. There is an indication for this in the text of this week’s Torah portion as well.
When the Torah lists animals that have only one of the two signs but lack the other, the Torah says about the camel, for example, that it may not be eaten “because it chews its cud but does not have a completely split hoof”, indicating that the lack of the split hoof is the reason and the cause for its impurity and is thus not kosher for consumption.
The Torah commands the Jewish people to be a holy people and therefore we should only consume animals that are considered “pure”. What is it about these two signs, split hooves and chewing the cud, that cause “purity” and what lesson can we learn from these signs to help us reach purity?
The foot is our closest body part to the ground which symbolizes earthliness and worldliness. We must leave a gap in our “hoof” to allow room for spirituality and G-dliness to reach the “ground”, our earthly and worldly matters as well. (This sheds light on the idea that the hoof of a Kosher animal must be completely split through and through from the top to the bottom.)
The chewing of the cud indicates that when approaching physical and worldly matters we must constantly be checking and asking ourselves, Is this appropriate? Is it a step in the right direction? Is this strengthening my connection with Hashem? Etc.
Another idea that split hooves indicate is that both in Chinuch (education) and outreach we must have split hooves, two facets “Yemin M’Karevet U’Smol Doche” (the right hand draws near and the left hand pushes away). We must draw people closer with warmth and love but we must do this without compromising on our Torah and Jewish values.
Rabbi Peretz Laine
High School Judaics Teacher