With Pesach behind us, we are in our second week of our ascent from the depravity of Egypt to the heights of spiritual purity of Mount Sinai. In this state we are presented with this week’s Parsha, Shmini. Shmini introduces us to the laws governing which animals are permitted for us to eat and which are not. Regarding non-kosher mammals the Torah writes “These animals are unclean for you” . Regarding non-kosher fish the Torah writes “all fish that do not have fins and scales are detestable to you” regarding the non-kosher birds the Torah writes “The following birds are detestable to you”.

It is interesting to note that with respect to other forbidden foods such as chometz on Pesach, foods mixed with milk and meat, kosher animals that were not slaughtered properly and kosher animals that were found diseased the Torah simply states that we should not eat these items. The Torah does not call these forbidden foods detestable and unclean. Perhaps the Torah is indicating to us that the reason for the prohibition of these animals is due to their spiritually unclean and detestable nature. (The word used for unclean is tomei, which indicates an uncleanliness of a spiritual nature.)

In the summation of these laws the Torah writes “Because I am G.D who lifted you up from the land of Egypt to be your G.D. So be holy just as I am Holy”.

The Torah is stating the reason for her prohibiting us from eating these animals. It is because they are detestable and unclean. HaKadosh baruch Hu is telling us the reason for us not to eat these animals is because He has a mission for us. It is the mission that began with His lifting us up from Egypt. That mission is to be a holy people.

Behold! What we ingest affects the spiritual levels that we can attain. In fact, our Sages teach us that the path ascending to spiritual purity is not limited to our study of Torah and increased prayer. It must include the way we conduct ourselves in the most mundane areas of our life. The manner in which we do business, the way we relate to others, to our wife and to our children and even what we eat and our attitude towards the food we eat; everything impacts our mission.

How does this work? Why should my direction toward purity or otherwise depend on my attitude?

The Creator placed Man in the driver’s seat of the universe. He is the one who decides which direction the world should go. He created Man with many physical needs that must be met for him to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Therefore, Man’s partaking in these needs is purposeful and meaningful. It is the only way that Man will be able to accomplish his mission. However, if Man partakes in these needs for the purpose of self indulgence then he is defining the purpose of these needs as self serving. On the other hand, if Man partakes in these needs for the purpose of being capable to achieve his mission then he defines these needs as a means to serve G.D and others. All of our actions, mitzvos and non-mitzvos, are vehicles by which Man defines purpose and meaning.

How fortunate we are to have been given the controls of His world and how fortunate we are to have been given the instructions of how to use those controls!

Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Paysach Diskind