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Eat your cud

Friday, 1 April, 2016 - 1:15 pm

“I can’t eat that, I’m vegan.”

It wasn’t always this way, but now it’s perfectly acceptable to maintain a specific restrictive diet. Especially in California.

Kosher too - today it’s easy to explain “I keep kosher,” and usually they’ll respectfully appreciate your response. Which definitely makes keeping kosher and explaining our dietary restrictions quite simple.

But keeping kosher is much more than a particular diet or type of food. Keeping kosher is a spiritual diet. And it not only nourishes our body, it also nourishes our soul. In fact, it even guides us in how to interact with the world around us in a healthy and productive manner.

Think about the two signs of Kosher animals that are instructed in this week’s Torah portion - chewing the cud and having split hooves.

An animal that chews its cud is because it eats foods that are difficult to digest, like leaves and grass. Its food then has to go through a much more thorough digestive process in order to break it down so that the animal is able to transform it into energy.

Hooves protect an animal from the rough ground they tread upon. Split hooves are more dexterous and not only protect but also provide them the means to escape a potentially harmful situation.

Whether you choose to eat meat or not is up to you - I have no stake (or is it steak?) in the matter; but we can all learn a thing or two from the kosher signs.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and a responsibility to the world at large. And in order to be effective in our work we need to employ these two elements: Chewing the cud and split hooves.

Our responsibility to ourselves is to refine and elevate our own natural tendencies. Our responsibility to the world at large is to refine the coarseness of the world and help bring a greater realization of Hashem’s presence to humanity. In other words, whether working internally or globally, we need to  “chew the cud” i.e. refine the coarseness that we encounter.

But in the course of our refinement work we can often discover treacherous things; the hooves remind us of the need to distance ourselves from negative influences. And sometimes in a hurry, hence the split hooves.

It’s not enough to eat Kosher, we need to be Kosher ourselves, having a positive influence on surroundings in the process.

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