In this week’s Parsha, we read the section that deals with the dietary laws based on specific anatomical features. The Torah outlines which animals, birds, and fish are permissible for consumption and which ones are forbidden. An animal with both characteristics “chews its cud” and has “split hooves” is deemed “Kosher” for consumption.
It is interesting that the Talmud Shabbat 105b refers to an individual of exceptionally fine character as being an “אדם כשר” – a “Kosher” person. At first glance, this designation seems out of place. This term is used almost exclusively to describe an animal fit for consumption. Why does the Talmud use that same word to describe a person who obviously will not be consumed by another?
Rav Avraham Pam zt”l suggests a profound insight. The two kosher signs, which much be present in every kosher animal, represent the two dimensions of our religious service. These two anatomical traits are symbolic of our conduct בין אדם למקום between man and G-d and our conduct בין אדם לחבירו between man and man. The trait of chewing the cud, which occurs inside the animal’s body, hidden from public display, represents the relationship between man and God. This relationship exists primarily within the heart and mind of the person. While others may detect clues that reveal one’s commitment, it is ultimately a relationship that transcends the public eye and remains private. The trait of split hooves, on the other hand, represents the dimension of בין אדם לחבירו between man and man. Just as this feature of the animal’s anatomy is readily visible to all, it is virtually impossible to fulfill one’s obligations towards another in complete and total seclusion. This mode of one’s service of G-d exists in the public arena, visible and noted by those around, often making it necessary to reveal acts of goodness that one does for another.
Rav Pam suggests that an אדם כשר a “Kosher” person refers to an individual who possesses both traits. One who is balanced in his Avodat Hashem, cultivating and developing one’s relationship with his Creator while remaining mindful of the ever-changing needs of those around him.
Some people maintain a steadfast commitment to their relationship with G-d yet struggle to demonstrate that same devotion to others. At the same time, some individuals are constantly aware of others and compassionate towards their needs yet fail to devote time and attention to their personal spiritual growth adequately.
Eating Kosher is one thing, remaining Kosher in one’s service of G-d with a healthy balance is a goal we constantly strive towards.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay