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KASHRUTH AND THE ALPS

by Rabbi Reuven Stein    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: These are the creatures that you will eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth. Everything among the animals that has a split hoof, which is completely separated into double hooves, and that brings up its cud - these you will eat" (Leviticus 11:2-3).

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"Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: These are the creatures that you will eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth. Everything among the animals that has a split hoof, which is completely separated into double hooves, and that brings up its cud - these you will eat" (Leviticus 11:2-3).

Is it a mitzvah to eat kosher? We certainly understand that there is a Torah prohibition to consume non-kosher food, but do we fulfill a specific mitzvah when we eat kosher food? In the first verse quoted above, the Torah commands us concerning the kosher animals that we may eat. Strangely, the next verse repeats the clause, "these you will eat". Why does the Torah repeat this point? Furthermore, the Torah first lists the animals which are permitted, and only then (later in the section) informs us of the animals which are prohibited. Is there anything significant about the order and the emphasis on the permitted animals?

Rabbi Shmuel Alter, a prominent rabbinic figure of the past generation, explains that by stressing "these you will eat", the Torah is hinting to us that it is a mitzvah to eat. The Talmud (Yerushalmi Tractate Kiddushin) explains that in the future, Hashem will hold us responsible if we do not enjoy the beautiful things He created in this world. The story is told that at the end of his life, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the great 19th century leader of German Jewry, traveled to Switzerland by foot. When his students tried to dissuade him from risking his health to travel, Rabbi Hirsch explained to them, "When I come before Hashem, I will have to answer for many things. But what will I tell Him when He asks me, 'Have you seen My Alps?'" The Torah is telling us that Hashem created kosher food for us to enjoy, and to enable us to serve Him in greater joy and gratitude for the blessing He has given us.

Often we view keeping kosher as a burden and feel restricted as to the items which we can consume. However, with today's technology, ingenuity, and creativity, the spread of kosher food available on the market is so vast that one can find kosher beef jerky, pareve cheese burgers, imitation shrimp, and microwave popcorn. Let us hope that the greater variety and availability of kosher products will lead us to grow in our service of Hashem.

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Rabbi Reuven Stein is the administrator of the Atlanta Kashruth Commission.

You are invited to read more Parshat Shemini articles.

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