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

Orthodox Judaism, instant messenger and cams!

With new technologies comes new issues.  The internet has been around for a while and the Orthodox world has taken two approaches to it:  adopt it and use it to educate- or completely ban it.  To help those who don’t want inappropriate viewing various filters are available (or just turn your parental control on in Norton etc) and there is even a Kosher search engine

One interesting discussion is over the usage of interactive messenging.  As a tool for keeping track of family around the world, being able to talk in real time, it is fantastic.  At the same time though, it is also a tool that can be heavily abused for illict interactions, especially once cam (cameras connected to your PC/Laptop for thise who don’t know) are utilised.  I talk to friends and family  around the world, I have fun seeing them and their kids- yet those of us using such tools also know the frequency with which we get spam and “invitations” to rather inappropriate material and liaisons!

Some communtiies go so far as to ban these interactions, others see the good they can do and encourage their usage- but caution responsibility.  I prefer the second option; as with anything we can always behave inappropriately; we don’t ban magazines or books because inappropriate material can be found, nor should we ban new technologies.  Of course the argument can be advanced that books and magazines don’t wander into our homes uninvited- spam and invitations on tools like Yahoo!messenger or windows Live messenger  frequently arrive unasked for.   On this note I would just say:  like everything else- no email should be opened from am unrecognised source; no invitation from someone you do not know should be accepted unless you recognise the person.  If they know you, let them send an email first and ask to connect.  As with everything on the interent- cauthion and safety are imperative!

 The argument against cam usage is stronger- interaction and teaching is possible with just text or voice, video is an unnecessary luxury.  Should we use IM?  Cam? Personally I think they can be very useful tools- both just for general communication and for teaching and we would be foolish to ignore the benefits because we fear the possible consequences of irresponsible usage.  I would thumb up IM, but remain neutral on Cam.  Limited usage when talking to family etc is of course fun and helps to keep those conenctions alive in a world where people are frequently continents apart; but for interaction with others- especially between a man and an unrelated woman in a private setting- there I would have to agree with the conservative approach and say to not use it.  Why invite temptation? Of course, I am hardly the posek hador- so as with anything I say- check with your Rav and go with his psak halachah.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Random, Torah | , , | Leave a comment