As we continue reading the Torah, this week we learn many of the kosher laws, specifically which animals we are allowed to eat and which are forbidden to us. The Torah explains that animals with split hooves that chew their cud are permissible. Permissible fish are those that have fins and scales (shellfish and many other items on the menu at Joe’s are not permissible…but hold on, don’t give up reading yet!). Interestingly enough, the Torah also teaches us which insects are permissible to eat! Anyone up for some fresh locusts, crickets or grasshopper?
What is the meaning and relevance of the kosher laws to us today? Certainly, there are some of us who observe these laws. We have found meaning and significance in them. However, many of us do not observe any of these dietary rules. They seem antiquated and prevent us from eating foods that we love, like some of the items on Joe’s menu.
I believe that the kosher laws are misunderstood by many Jews today – even those who observe them. To me, the laws were designed to make us stop before we eat and ask ourselves: “What am I putting into my body? Is it good for me? Is it going to fuel my body and soul in a healthy way?” During Torah times, it was determined, for various reasons, that animals that did not have split hooves (like camels) and/or did not chew their cud (like pigs) were considered unhealthy to eat. It was also determined that shellfish was off limits. These are just a few of the restrictions imposed by the kosher laws, restrictions that would evolve with the Jewish people over the centuries. Of course, most Jews who keep kosher traditionally still adhere to the biblical rules and refrain from eating non-kosher animals and fish – which makes it hard to dine well at Joe’s Stone Crab.
Today, there are various kosher standards – but, when it comes down to it, we must remember that kosher laws were created to insure that we think about what we are eating. Based upon this, I would urge every single one of us to embrace the essence of keeping kosher. In today’s society, we know that a lot of what we find on the grocery store shelves and at restaurants are processed foods that, over time, reek havoc on our bodies. At its core, keeping kosher means treating our bodies as sacred vessels and doing everything in our power to fill our sacred vessel with good stuff and not garbage! If you approach keeping kosher this way, I would imagine many more people would begin to appreciate the laws that we read about in this week’s Torah portion, even those among us who enjoy a good meal at Joe’s Stone Crab.
I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom – and a Shabbat of healthy eating!