Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Re’eh 5770: The disgusting pig

Parshas Hashavuah Question: The laws of Kashrut are revised in this weeks parsha- what is it about the pig that makes it be singled out for such revulsion? Other animals are listed- yet it is universally the pig that is seen as the symbol of an unkosher animal.

This weeks Parsha is Re’eh Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17


The reason for the especial revulsion felt towards the pig is the manner in which it portrays itself as Kosher on the outside, but is unkosher on the inside. The Meforshim compare this to a perosn who misrepresents themselves, the one who puts themselves forward as being holy while sinning privately. Thus the pig becomes symbolic of the misbehaviour of people- the misleading of others in order to gain an advantage.

It is no coincedence that the rehash of the laws of Kashrus are directly before the Torah repeats forbidding worshipping as the Canaanites did, followed by the warning against the false prophet, meized (the one who entices people to convert secretly) and the city which resorts to idol worship. In essence, here we see the same priniciples as with the laws of Kashrus. First you have the blatant act- the obviously unkosher- worshipping in the same manner as the Canaanites had done, copying their worship.

With Kashrut, next comes the animals that chew the cud but are not kosher- they have a semblance of being kosher, but they display their non-kosher status openly. This is analogous to the false prophet- he appears to be a real prophet, performing signs and wonders, having his prophecies be fulfilled- but he shows his credentials fo being false by calling for a change in the Torah or in the halachah (Jewish law). He is openly showing that he is not Jewish as he tries to abrogate part, or all, of what G-d has commanded.

The laws of Kashrut then go on to discuss the pig, the animal which portrays dishonesty, pretending to be something it is not, trying to join a community to which it does not belong, to get others to accept it. Analogous to this is the meizid, the enticer. The Torah explicitly states that this is someone close to you, someone that to all intents and purposes looks and sounds Jewish. Someone, that because of their closeness, you would inherently trust. Yet this person abuses that relationship, they pretend to be something they are not and to try and get the person close to them to convert and to go after other religions!

Here we see the particular revulsion for the pig and the meizid highlighted even further. Just as the pig has been singled out as a paritcularly devious creature; so too the meizid had been singled out as being particularly devious. While the corpse of any treifah conveys tumah, this is emphasised with the pig where no matter how it dies, its corpse conveys Tumah. Where does the Torah convey its especial dislike and scorn for the meizid? When it tells us how to deal with the meizid it states in Devarim Chapter 13 v9: You shall not desire him, and you shall not hearken to him; neither shall you pity him, have mercy upon him, nor shield him.

This is emphasised in the Talmud where it has the meizid as the only case in which the witnesses may be hidden and no prior warning is give! (For a fuller treatment of this subject, see my post here) It is for this reason that you find Jews have an especial dislike for the antics of the “messianic jews”. They are the classic meizid, posing as a friend, as family, as a member of the community- and then enticing others to leave Judaism. Like the pig, they often appear kosher on the outside, taking on all the trappings of Judaism to pose as being Jewish. In truth, they are as unkosher as the pig, hiding their true nature to entice people.

In the modern era we may not have a Sanhedrin or court that can act against them- but we have the ability to reach out and to communicate in an unprecedented way. Just as the enticer’s can use the internet and other technologies to try and convert the uneducated- so we can use them to educate and innoculate people against the meizid, the dishonest missionaries that pose as Jews to destroy Jewish souls.

Note (added after Shabbos Parshas Re’eh)
After giving this drosha this morning one of the community memebrs asked the question: Haven’t I mixed things around? The laws about the various types of people trying to get us to leave idol worship are in chapter 13, and the laws relating to Kosher animals are in Chapter 14- yet I stated that the revision of the laws of Kashrut come first!

Their is an interestng split here- the laws relating to Kashrut actually start in Chapter 12 where the prohibition against the eating of blood is given- but it deviates from there to discussing how we offer some sacrifices while emphasising what we are NOT allowed to emulate- fromt here it goes into the issue of the various people trying to convert us and the city of idol worshippers- returning to the laws of Kashrut. So, yes, the laws relating to the specific animals come after- but the start of the revision of the laws of Kashrut comes first- deviating to highlight the exceptionally important laws relating to rejecting idolatry. Why would you have this sudden veering away only to return to it? Lets ask a question- when dealing with two crimes, one punishable by death and the other only by flogging, which is the ore important one to teach? Obviously the one where death and seperation form G-d is the reult- thus we learn about idolatry and its effects before we learn about the treif animals.

Another question raised on this was why I did not tie the city that converts into the laws of Kashrut. The answer is not that I w s lazy- but rather in the fact that the other categories deal with individuals and individual behaviour- not with a group. Since the follow on drosha to this later was related to Rosh Chodesh Elul that starts this week, I was relating it to individual responsibility and actions rather than that of a group

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Messianic, Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Parshas Shlach 5769- Intention directs the deed!

This weeks parsha contains the famous incident with the spies:  Hashem tells Moshe to send out spies into the land of Israel, to see that the land is good and to investigate it prior to their conquering of it.  Hashem specifies to Moshe that the spies should be princes of the tribes.  the spies go out, and when they come back, ten give a fear filled negative report while Caleb and Yehoshua praise the land, its bounty and call for the nation to immediately descend to conquer it.  The other ten incote the people, they come close to killing Caleb and Yehoshua, Moshe and Aharon pray to deflect the nation.  The result- Hashem wants to destroy the nation and begin again with Moshe- Moshe gets Hashem to forgive the nation- but all the men over the age of 20, with the exclusion of Caleb and Yehoshua, or sentenced to die in the desert without entering the land of Israel.

Ramban raises a question on this and rashi’s comment on the incident, that merely sending spies was sinful.  After all, if it was sinful, then why would Hashem have commanded it?  Later on in sefer Devarim we read that the people had approached Moshe, he had then prayed and ask hashem if he should send spies, to which he was told the start of this parshah “Send spies for YOURSELF”.  it is that last word that Rashi sees as being a sign that this was not according to Hashem’s wishes, but rather something he allowed, but did not approve of.  Ramban takes a different stance- he sees this command as coming from Hashem, as Hashem wished the peopel to see the bounty of the land, to confirm that he was true to his promise to bring them to a land of prosperity, one flowing with milk and honey.  That is why the Torah emphasises they came there during the harvesting of the grapes, and mentions other produce of the land.

Another indication that the spies were according to the will of Hashem comes from the Midrash where it says that it was at thos point that Iyov died and, as a great and rich man, the citizens of Canaan were all mourning him and the cities were open, with many people travelling between them eulogising him, so twelve strangers, the Jewish spies, went unremarked.  Furthermore, there is a principle that we do not rely on miracles:  In war generals will send spies to see routes, roads, what targets ill be easiest to attack first- and these spies then act as guides later on. 

So, what went wrong?  The spies were sent according to Hashem’s wishes, they are learned men, princes of the tribes who learned directly from Moshe and acted as judges.  There report, and Hashem’s reaction to it gives us an indication as to where they erred- they saw the physical might of the inhabitants and decided it would be too difficult.  Hashem’s reactrion is:  “after all the signs and wonders I did in taking them out of egypt, the plagues, the splitting of the sea, the gicing of the Torah, they still have doubts?  when will this nation understand that physical might is meaningless in respect to spiritual might?”  The midrash gives an alternative expanation:  The Jews in the desert had it easy.  They were clothed by Hashem, they were fed by Hashem, the clouds that surrounded them protected them from danger- in short, after centuries of hard work and oppresion, they were now living the easy life.  They knew that once they entered in israel this easy life would end- there would be battles, wars, land to farm, clothes to weave etc.  They wanted an excuse to continue the easy life.

Thus we see the factor of intention enter into the deeds.  Moshe did not sin in sending the spies- his intentions were pure.  Like Hashem, he wanted the spies to confirm that everything promised to them was true.  He wanted the spies to help plan the conquering of the land, to learn what was necessary to wage a war.  His intentions were good- as were those of calen and Yehoshua.  On the other hand, the intentions of the other spies were not.  Thus although they, Caleb and Yehoshuah all did the same actions- their intentions made the results very different!  In the end, intentions corrupted the good that could have come from their actions.

We need to learn a lesson from this:  when we perform an action- be it a mitzvah or anything else, what is our intention behind it?  Do we do actions with a good heart and pure intention, or do we abrogate any good that could come from an action by having impure intentions?

Perhaps one of the best examples of good actions with corrupt intentions are thos of the Messianic Jews.  many of them love to claim they perform more mitzvot and keep more Torah commandments than jews in the liberal movements.  they claim this to try and claim legitmacy.  After all, if they follow the Torah how can anyone say they are not Jewish?  It all comes down to intention.  By inserting Paganistic concepts, by worshiping in a manner that ius outside of Judaism- their intention is impure.  Any good they may achieve through performing Mitzvot and obeying the Torah is abrogated- turned into dust by an intention that is incorrect.  The end of the parshah emphasises this- it is the command to wear tzitzit, the last paragraph of the Shema that is so familiar to us all.- to wear tzitit, to see them to remember all the mitzvot.  it is pointed out that the word tzitzit is equal to the number 600, and with the 5 knots and 8 threads, we see 613 on each corner- the mitzvot of the Torah.

June 19, 2009 Posted by | Torah | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A reply to some of the emails from Messianic Jews received…

I was pleasantly surprised that the one Messianic Jew that responded publicly in the comments did not launch into a rant or try to post missionary tracts online- for that I thanks him- we may have debated, but at least it was polite and not filled with any personal attacks or rants.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for those that decided to rather contact me via email- yes, there were some that were polite, spoke nicely etc but there were the others, particularly those who sought to tell me what Jewish law was and that I was ignorant.  Hmm, and then there was just the blatant hate mail.  Ahh, the joys of the world wide web!

One of the main attacks they tend to base there defense of “Messianic Jews remain Jewish, regardless of there later actions.  Heres a simple reply to that- we do not deny that.  However, we say that they are OUTSIDE the community- for the practical ramifications of this see my earlier post on this

This weeks Parshah actually reinforces this expulsion of those who convert to other religions.  When it comes to the Korban Pesach it tells us who can, and who cannot partake of it.  The list of people who can encompasses everyone who is remotely Jewish:  Those men born Jewish and circumcised, Jewish women, children, converts and slaves that had been circumcised and immersed in the mikveh (and thereafter had the status of a semi-Jew only required to observe non-time bound mitzvot).  One the exceptions are non-Jews and “estranged” Jews.  Who are  considered “estranged”?  Simply put- Jews who follow other religions- i.e. those who convert to other religions such as Christianity.  So there we have it, a direct Torah commandment that shows that Jews that convert to other religions are considered outside of the community and cannot partake of communal activities- even one that is so important!

Anyways- shavuah Tov to all and a post more around this weeks parahs (Parshas Bo) later this week.

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Messianic, Other Torah, Parshah, Torah | , , , , , | Leave a comment