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Torah Portion

Home > Torah Portion > Summary for Parshas Ki Sisa

Rabbi Stephen M Wylen
April 20, 2001 27 Nisan, 5761

These are the living things that you may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Whatever has a split hoof and is wholly cloven-footed, and chews the cud, that you may eat from among the beasts ..... For I am Ad-nai who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God; you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (Lev. 11:2 - 11:45)

"These are the living things of which you may eat" - because Israel is attached to life, as RaShI says. [What does keeping kosher have to do with the fact that God brought us out of slavery in Egypt?] The fact that it is God who brought us out is of more importance than the Exodus itself. There is a lower level of redemption, which is redemption from a place of distress into a place without distress. And then there is a higher level of redemption, which is a redemption into the opportunity to serve God in freedom. Therefore we should not eat those foods which enslave the soul within the body.
Safat Emet, the Gerer Rebbe, in The Language of Truth, ed. Arthur Green

Most modern-day Jews would not agree with the Gerer Rebbe that non-kosher food is materially different from kosher food in its physical effect upon body and soul. The proteins, carbohydrates and fats in one food are metabolized pretty much as they are in any other food, from the point of view of the science of nutrition. We may not agree with the Rebbe's point of fact, and so we may look elsewhere for our rationale for the laws of keeping kosher, but we can still understand and appreciate the Rebbe's message. Accepting the discipline of living under God is a higher freedom than merely being free of the yoke of the oppressor. The laws of keeping kosher represent that discipline, the willingness to submit to God's rule. In our recent observance of the festival of Passover we related our exodus from slavery in Egypt to political freedom, a message that American Jews can easily relate to in terms of our own exodus from enslavement to the Russian Czar into the freedom of democratic America. In our Passover celebration did we also celebrate the "higher redemption", which is the opportunity that now presents itself for us to serve God willingly? Now that we are free to do whatever we want with our lives, will we live Jewishly? That is the higher redemption.



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