PARSHAS SHEMINI

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PARSHAS SHEMINI

There was once a king who desired an expert marksman to lead his team of archers. The king looked far and wide for the right man, but to no avail. One day, as the king was strolling through the forest, he saw a row of targets as far as the eye could see. Each one amazingly had an arrow directly in the bulls-eye. The king was in shock, and wanted to know who was able to accomplish such an amazing feat. To the king’s astonishment, the marksman was none other than an eight year old boy. The king rushed over to the boy and told him that he would be the new leader of the archery team in his army, and would begin immediately. The king’s men quickly dressed the boy in the proper uniform (the smallest one they could possibly find), and brought him to the archery team. The king told the men that this boy would be their new captain, and were to follow his orders. “Please teach them to shoot the way that you do” said the king to the boy. “That’s impossible” said the boy. “I’m a horrible archer. They won’t learn anything from me”. The king was perplexed. “Horrible archer, you made every bulls-eye! You’re the best archer I have ever seen”! The boy began laughing hysterically. “What’s so funny” demanded the king? “What’s funny” said the boy “is that you think I made all those bulls-eyes. I never did such a thing. What really happened is I shot the arrow, and then painted the bulls-eye around it”.

This is a parable given by the Dubno Maggid. It is very apropos for many things in life, but one in particular that is a common misconception. In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah elaborates about the animals, birds, and fish that the Jewish nation may eat or not eat. As is well known, the kosher symbol for an animal is having split hooves and chewing its cud, and for a fish is fins and scales. The Torah also lists off four specific animals that have only one of the two characteristics needed to be considered kosher, the most famous of them being the pig. Many have attempted to answer the reason for the Torah’s prerequisite for a kosher animal. Why split hooves and chewing cud? Why is one symbol not enough? There is one answer that seems to circulate to this day, about the nature of the kosher and non-kosher animals. It is said that the animals, fish, and birds that the Torah deems not kosher are all unhealthy and full of different toxins. Therefore, it must be that due to their unhealthy nature, the Torah forbade them. This is a huge misconception! The average person believes that the world existed, and the Torah was created as a guideline to an already existing world. However, this is not true. The Zohar tells us that the Almighty so to speak “looked into the Torah and created the world”. The Torah is not a rulebook for an already existent world, rather a blueprint for the world. The Torah is the “knowledge” of the Creator, and through it the entire universe was created. That means that before a pig was even willed into existence, it was already deemed not kosher. And that goes for everything else that exists (like the bulls-eye painted around the arrow). The Torah didn’t hit the bulls-eye, but created it.

So if the Torah is the blueprint of the world, and the kosher and non-kosher animals were predetermined, the question begs itself, why these specific animals? There is an unbelievable Chovos Halevavos (Duties of the Heart) that elaborates on this concept. The Chovos Halevavos in the “gate” Service to the Almighty, part 2, chapter 2, explains why there is a necessity to stimulate oneself for the service of the Almighty. He explains that the body and soul are in a war. The body wants physical pleasure, and the soul wants a connection with spirituality. This world is made with everything to fill the needs of the body, and nothing to fill the needs of the soul. It’s an unfair fight. In order to even the playing field, the Almighty gave the Jewish nation his holy Torah. The Torah gives guidelines how to prevent the body from indulgence, and give strength to the soul.  Through different laws that forbid certain foods and relationships (as well as other things), one takes away the indulgence from their body. And through certain obligations such as learning and praying, one gives strength to their soul.

The concept of the Chovos Halevavos is an eye opener. According to the Chovos Halevavos, the fact that one animal or fish is kosher and the other isn’t, is just an example for the nation of the Almighty to learn from. It really makes no difference if a cow is kosher and a pig non-kosher, or vice-versa. It’s all just there to teach the Jewish people a lesson not to indulge in physical pleasure. We’re here in this world to overcome the physical. It’s a monstrous challenge, but achievable. As long as this foundation is laid out, one can connect with the spiritual, and break free of shackles of this world. This world has so much to offer the physical body. The soul is crying for help. When one indulges is “kosher” pleasures, they’re missing the whole boat. True eating five sandwiches in one sitting is not a sin, but it’s the antithesis of what the Almighty wants from his people. The point of the pig being a non-kosher animal is to teach the Jewish people not to indulge in anything they want. One must limit their physical pleasure in order to connect to spirituality. When one can internalize the message of the Torah and refrain from giving in to the enticement of this world, then he’ll really hit the bulls-eye!

GOOD SHABBOS!

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