Each week Jews are asked to study a portion, or Parsha, of the Torah. For centuries Rabbis and others have presented their thoughts about the week’s Parsha. Each Thursday I share a Parsha discussion that speaks to me.
This week’s Parsha ends with spelling out the Rules Related to Keeping Kosher. The most common explanations for these rules include: because God said so, to build community, and to teach compassion. Many who no longer keep Kosher tend to believe the rules relate to the sanitary conditions of the time and no longer manner.
I keep Kosher to remember compassion and do find myself leaning more and more toward a vegetarian diet. Rabbi Eli Scheller thoughts about this week’s Parsah focus on the idea that the primary reason is to build compassion.
Shmini (Leviticus 9-11)
These shall you abominate from among the birds, they may not be eaten – they are an abomination: the Chassidah. (Lev. 11:13)
Kind To All Kinds
The chassidah – the stork. It is called chassidah because it displays kindness (chessed) toward others of its species by sharing food with them. According to the Ramban, the reason why the non-kosher birds are not kosher is because of their cruel nature. If so, the chassidah should have been a kosher bird – after all, it bestows kindness upon its companions!
Man finds it easy to love his fellow man if they are similar. If he learns in my school, if he dresses like I do, then I love him and I’ll try to assist him whenever the need arises. If he’s not like me, then I have no business with him and have no interest in helping him. However, the kosher form of chessed is to bestow kindness equally on all people, regardless of how similar they are to us. The chassidah acts kindly toward its companions, but only towards its companions. It does not act kindly towards anyone else. To Jews, that is not an admirable characteristic.
Many great people were known for their love and care for every single Jew, whether they wore a black hat, white kippah or no kippah. Being kind to just your own kind is not kosher!
I believe that more deeply we understand the beliefs and ways of all, the more likely we are to find common ground for moving the world toward peace. It is for this reason I share on Torah Thursday.
I understand that many have turned away from religion or from a belief in God. I believe many doing so destroy the possibility of finding peace for all. How? By seeing only bad theology, and not the wisdom that can be found in all religions.
As always thank you for all you do. Share and care as it is one of the few paths to peace for all.