Low Costs, High Yield Investments
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch
Of the many guidelines the Torah gives regarding Kosher and non-Kosher
animals, we are told, "you shall not contaminate yourselves through any
crawling thing that creeps on the earth for I am Hashem who elevates you
from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you, you shall be holy for I am
holy." (Vayikra/Leviticus 11:44-45). Rashi, bothered by the language of "who
elevates", in contrast to the regular "who brought", quotes a clarification
offered in the Talmud (Bava Metzia 61b). The Talmud explains that even if
the Jewish people would only fulfill the command that they avoid
contamination from the consumption of creeping creatures, which other
nations do consume, that would be sufficient justification for their
elevation from Egypt. The spiritual elevation they would experience from
adhering to this charge is the elevation referenced by the verse.
But what is so special about this commandment? It is not as if the nations
of the world who do consume these creatures are doing anything wrong in
their actions (as they would be if they participated in illicit
relationships or idol worship), for they are not commanded to refrain from
eating these species. Similarly, there are some creeping creatures we are
permitted to eat and there is no spiritual detriment to those who eat them.
Furthermore, this is one of the easier commandments to observe, as many find
the consumption of creeping creatures most distasteful. If the entirety of
what is "wrong" in eating them is simply because of the commandment, and it
is an easily abided by commandment at that, why does this offer us such
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986; Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Mesivtha Tifereth
Jerusalem in New York City; the leading Halachic/Jewish legal decisor and
foremost leader of Jewry of his time) elucidates that this is the simple
beauty in observing a mitzvah (Divine command). No matter how distasteful
the prospect of eating one of these creatures may be, the ultimate reason
why we desist is simply because it is G-d's will. Even though much of our
initial motivation is our own revulsion, as long as the decisive factor is
G-d's preference and not our own, then we are elevated by our choice to
pursue G-d's Divine bidding, instead of our own mundane desires. As long as
the act was done for the purpose of the mitzvah, we are elevated as a
righteous person. And for those who make the same decision, but follow
personal motivations, there is no elevation.
The act is the same...the differences are the inspiration we invest and the
elevation we receive as dividends.
Have a good Shabbos!
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Pinchas Avruch and Project Genesis, Inc.
Kol HaKollel is a publication of the Milwaukee Kollel Center for Jewish
Studies 5007 West Keefe Avenue; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; 414-447-7999