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 Shemini 5769- And you will be Holy

IN this weeks parsha the laws relating to Kashrut are given.  The laws start out with the statement “Speak to Moses and to Aaron”  and then in the next verse goes on to say “Speak to the childrenof Israel to say”.  Rashi states that the first verse was to show the merit of Aaron and his sons who remained silent and did not blame G-d for the death of Ndab  and Abiayu- thet they all merited to teach these laws to Bnei Yisrael.  The next verse is to show that it is not just the Kohanim that need ot obey these laws- but all of Bnei Yisrael.

With the Kosher laws, the most common question is:  Why?  Why restrict ourselves in such a fashion?  Rashi gives an answer based on these first two verses.  HE compares it to a physician that visits two patients- one who is incurable and one who can get well.  To the incurable patient he forbids nothing; after all, what would be the point, he may as well enjoy what he can while he can.  To the patient that can get well, he forbids certain things- saying frink this, eat that.  The same applies to Kashrut- to the non-Jew with the seven Noachide laws, the aim of the laws of Kashrut would be meaningless- they are akin to the patient that cannot get well in the sense that they should enjoy the fruits of this world, as their place in the world to come will be limited.  To Bnei Yisrael, with their Holy mission, their future place in the world to come has far more potential- thus like the patient who can recover they are told how to limit themselves so they will “get better” and improve themselves.

This is further reinforced by the latter statement “כִּי אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה הַמַּעֲלֶה אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לִהְיֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים וִהְיִיתֶם קְדֹשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אָנִי:” For I am the Lord Who has brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus, you shall be holy, because I am holy.”  We keep kosher not because it is healthy for us physically- but for our spiritual health!  The sickness in this case is not physical, but the impurities of this world as it comes into our body.  Essentially G-d is telling us “You are what you eat.”   Eat as I told you, and you will be spiritually healthy; neglect to do so and you are the patient who refuses to follow the advice of their doctor and gets sicker.

As I write this, we are all preparing for Pesach.  The chometz is sold, the houses cleaned.  We are all ready to do the search for chametz tonight.  And, again, we see the link between spirituality and food.  If our normal diet is not restricted enough- along comes Pesach and restricts us even further!  Out with the chometz, all the leaven- and many tasty foods along the way.  Spiritualy we are told that chometz represents hubris, pride- the swelling of our egos that leads to sin.  As we are being redeemed from Egypt, this is not the time for pride, but to realise how much we owe to Hashem, how much we are reliant upon him.  Thus, once again we are told how to change our diet to let this awareness filter through to our souls.  And this commandment is backed up by the statement that failure to perform it will be punishable by kares- spiritual excission, the worst possible punishment that any soul can experience!  Overkill for having a slice of bread or cake?  Not when you look at the implications- we are what we eat.  The laws of Kashrut are to make us holy, the lack of chametz to teach us humility and service to G-d.  When we ignore thta, when we eat chametz on Pesach- we reject that Holiness, we bury ourselves in the mundane and profane- even more, we place ourselves alongside Hashem.  No longer are we saying that it is solely with the mighty hand and outstretched arm of Hashem that we were redeemed from slavery, but that we had some part in it!  We reject the message of that first Korban Pesach- the explicit negation of idoltary and worship of other gods by placing ourselves alongside Hashem.

A Chag Kosher v’Sameach to all reading this

Note:  As always I welcome criticisms, comments, corrections or additions.

April 7, 2009 Posted by | Chagim, Parshah, Torah | , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Jews4Jesus, Messianic Judaism and Kashrut

So, like many communities in the world we get the “messianic jews” and Jews for Jesus bothering us from time to time.  Not as much as in some parts of the world- but we have had a recent blitz from them.  Bus shelter advertiements and intensified campaigns of them appearing in predominantly Jewish areas handing out pamphlets and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Most of the time they don’t even get a glance or noticed much, but a recent incident left me very amused.

A local shopping centre in a very Jewish area is getting frequent visits from the Jews4 Jesus bunch.   Easily recognisable in their blue T-Shirts with rip off sof the Microsoft logo with “Jesus made me Kosher” on the back, you see them, sigh, and hope they will just ignore you since it gets irritating having to glare at people all the time!  Anyways- there I am walking into the shopping center, and there are a bunch of our local Jews4Jesus recruiters drinking coffee at a coffee shop- a non-Kosher one (and yep- there are kosher alternatives in this center).  Well- at least they weren’t up and handing out pamphlets so one bonus- but then I heard it.  A friend of one of my kids (in Grade 2) with his mother saw these guys, looked at his mother and said “How can they say they are Kosher if they are eating in an un-Kosher place?”  From the mouth’s of babes…

Of course their lack of Kashrut is far beyond the mere obvious of them eating treif (non-Kosher foods).  But to the mind of an eight year old the thing about them wasn’t their belief in Jesus (Going to a Yeshivah school the name is probably one he has never heard before and chances are he does not know what it implies)- but the fact that he knows that Jews can’t be Kosher and eat at a non-Kosher restaurant.  As adults we tend to focus on the big issues- we engage the missionaries when necessary to save other Jews from their influence through showing why we disagree with their proofs, how Christianity is not compatible with Judaism, how the Torah and Tanakh (yeah, I know the Torah is part of the Tanakh) should be understood- but this friend of my son’s observation illustrated something else- a dichotomy between belief’s and actions.  You can take on a mantle of Judaism, you can adopt the terminology, you can even mimic our behaviour, prayers, rituals and beliefs- but in the end, if the actions do not fit with the Torah, you are not Kosher.

Perhaps we can use the allegory of Kashrut to discuss the various Christian movements looking to convert Jews:   Jews4Jesus is blatantly not Jewish- their dress, behavior, rituals etc do not look Jewish or sound Jewish.  In essence they are the obvious non-Kosher group- just as it is obvious that dog, cat, horse etc is not kosher because it does not have a resemblance to a Kosher animal.  When it comes to “messianic judaism”, we have a different scenario- they look Jewish.  They adopt Jewish customs, Jewish prayers, Jewish rituals.  They use Hebrew and make their services look as Jewish as possible.  But they are not Kosher- on the inside they miss the belief’s, the driving force behind Judaism, the truth of the Torah and the law that G-d gave us for all eternity- they are like the pig when it comes to Kashrut- Kosher on the outside, treif on the inside.  And we see how the pig is villified- it is considered deceitful, pretending to be something it is not- trying to pass itself off as something Kosher.  So do Jews view “messianic judaism”- a deceitful movement trying to pass itself off as something it is not in order to attack the souls of the Jews.

So, Mazel Tov to those in groups like Jews for Judaism that do such fantastic work in helping to bring back lured in by the missionaries of these movements and to prevent others from making such an error.

January 21, 2009 Posted by | Messianic, Random, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , | 36 Comments