Keeping Kosher

In Shmini, this week’s Torah portion, we read about the dietary laws. Being mindful of what you eat is challenging but it seems that there are many ways that we could and should be mindful of what we eat beyond the parameters of kashrut.  Is there any inherent value in keeping kosher?

As we read:

For I am the Lord your God; you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy; nor shall you defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. For I am the Lord that brings you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God, you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the Torah of the beasts, and of the bird, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps upon the earth. To differentiate between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.  (Leviticus 11: 44- 47)

From the text, it seems that the purpose of keeping kosher is to make us holy like God. In separating the clean from the unclean we can become divine.

In the modern practice of kashrut the only thing that gets separated is Jews from non-Jews. While keeping kosher might seem noble because it demands a lot of discipline, it is very socially awkward. In many ways I experience it as a fundamental challenge to joining the world. Eating is one of the best means of social joining.

Emunah, our 7-month-old,  knows that if she cries we will respond by some combination of holding her, feeding her, and/or changing her. Already I see in Yadid and Yishama, the 6 and 3-year-old, that they are able to control their basic needs to ask me if something is Kosher before they eat it. And they will not cry if I tell them that they cannot eat something because it is not kosher.  In the very moment of my most basic desires for food I am able to add Kedusha, holiness.  In keeping kosher I realize that I am very mindful of being Jewish.

On the heels of being liberated on and from Passover, I cannot help but realize how much I need to rethink how I think about food. So like so many others I have started my New Years resolution to lose weight, but for me  Nisan is the New Year.  Somehow, you are what you eat, and in showing restraint, you become like God. I would like to become a little more Godly and a little less Avi.


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