Parshat Shemini contains a listing of kosher animals and the bright line tests for kosher mammals and fish. The Torah goes to some effort to identify a few creatures that have certain kosher characteristics, but not others.
We hear of (a) the camel that chews its cud, but does not have truly split hooves, (b) the hyrax and the hare that only appear to be chewing cud, but do not have split hooves, and (c) the much maligned pig that does truly have split hooves, but does not chew its cud.
We actually learn a couple principles for this. First, things are not always what they seem and before you take something into your body (the ultimate internalization), you should try to fully understand it. Second, the Torah identifies the kosher characteristics of the creature along with the non-kosher to teach us that we must see the good in everyone in addition to the not so good.
It is also interesting to note how it is that the pig became the ultimate symbol of treif. Many Jews who do not strictly or routinely follow dietary laws will not eat pork, even though pork is just one kind of non-kosher creature. Perhaps it is because our enemies through history used the pig to desecrate our temples or test or humiliate our people. Nevertheless, the Torah mentions the pig only twice, yet so many of us do observe that restriction though perhaps not much else. Hey, it is all good and we are all on a journey. Just saying…
The Rabbis point out though that the Torah tells us many more times to watch our speech in order to avoid gossip or other hurtful speech. The Torah wants us to be as concerned about what comes out of our mouths as what goes into our mouths.
The fact that we are commanded so frequently about speech vs. our eating does not necessarily mean that the rules of speech are more important than dietary laws. It could also mean that the Torah understands the governing our speech and what comes out of our mouths is far more difficult than monitoring what we eat (especially if others are cooking for us).
Some may quibble with that, but think about it. Do we talk more or eat more? Should we do less of each? The Torah certainly wants us to think more before doing each. Could saying a blessing before eating help us avoid eating the wrong things? What is the blessing before eating lobster anyway? Could thinking before speaking do the same? Do you like the saying that God gave us each two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we speak?
The fact that this is also Shabbat Parah signals the time to begin Passover preparations in earnest. The coming Passover rituals will give us the opportunity for both proper eating and speaking.
If we are what we eat, how do the laws of kashrut and our Passover chametz free menu help us? If we are to be careful in our speech, what Passover rituals help us?
This Shabbat we learn with Ruth Bergman at 9:45 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.
P.S. This Shabbat Rabbi Shere and yoga instructor Mindy Eisenberg will be leading our Soulful Yoga and including a text study with yoga designed to help rid internal chametz. Maybe give that a try too. There are many paths. Whichever path you are on, Adat Shalom is in the right direction.