Elevation and Purification

When Harav Yechiel Michel, the Zlotchover Maggid, zy”a, fell ill, his son Harav Mordechai traveled to Harav Pinchas of Koritz, zy”a, to ask him to daven on his father’s behalf.

Upon Reb Mordechai’s arrival, the Rebbe of Koritz greeted him and informed him: “I know why you came; it is because your father is ill. Tell your father to stop refraining from eating cheese and he will recover. This food complained against your father in Shamayim, saying that since he stopped eating cheese, there was no one in this world who was able to rectify it,” Harav Pinchas explained.

This week we learn about the types of birds, fish and animals that are permissible to consume and about those that are forbidden.

Chazal (Chullin 42a) state that Hakadosh Baruch Hu took hold, so to speak, of one of each species, showed it to Moshe Rabbeinu, and said to him, “This you may eat, and this you may not eat.” Why was it necessary for Hashem to show Moshe Rabbeinu each of the creatures? Would it not have sufficed to name them?

Up until the time of Noach, humans were prohibited from consuming meat. It was only after the Mabul that mankind was permitted to slaughter and consume kosher birds and animals.

The Arizal teaches the esoteric concept that the reason we eat meat is to elevate and rectify the sparks of holiness within this food. Adam Harishon had no need to eat in order to accomplish this purpose. It was Adam who gave each creature its name, and in doing so he was able to rectify and elevate the holiness within it.

After the sin of the Etz Hadaas, mankind lost the ability to elevate the foods even through eating. Noach, though not on the level of Adam Harishon before the sin and therefore unable to accomplish this task by stating the animals’ names, achieved the level of righteousness necessary to be able to rectify and elevate them through eating. However, this only applies to those animals and birds listed by the Torah as pure; the others are impure, and the good within them is minor. Therefore, not only is it impossible for us to elevate them through eating, but the impurities within them will cleave to whoever consumes them.

The Ben Ish Chai explains that this is the reason Hashem showed Moshe Rabbeinu each species rather than stating their names, for if Adam Harishon, a mere mortal, was able to elevate the holiness within them by stating their names, they would certainly have been rectified if Hashem had stated their names — and since there would no longer have been a reason for Bnei Yisrael to eat them, they would not have been permitted to do so. Hashem treasures the avodah of Bnei Yisrael and entrusted them with the sacred task of elevating the sparks of holiness within these meats.

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Of all the impure animals that are forbidden to us, the one that is presumably most repugnant to Jewish sensibilities is the chazir. Even referring to it by name is often avoided, and it is referred to as davar acher — the “other thing.”

The notion that a day will come when the chazir will be kosher would appear preposterous to many, yet there are authorities who state that in the future, after the coming of Moshiach, this creature will be purified.

Many explain this to mean that the impurities symbolized by the chazir will be rectified, and this is alluded to in the Midrash, as well as by Rabbeinu Bachyei on this week’s parashah. According to one explanation, this teaching doesn’t refer to the actual chazir but to the brain of a fish named shibuta, which Chazal (Chullin 109b) teach has the same taste as pork. The Midrash tells us that the fish, too, were exiled from Eretz Yisrael, and they all returned except the shibuta. When Moshiach comes, this fish will also return, and then it will be possible to consume a food with the identical taste.

However, Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh teaches that in the future a chazir will begin to chew its cud, and will then actually have both signs of a kosher animal. The Torah is eternal and the mitzvos will not change; only the physical characteristics of this creature will change, rendering it permissible to eat.

Chazal teach us that “there is no [creature] that is poorer than a dog or wealthier than a chazir.” The Pardes Yosef gives a very relevant and powerful explanation: The chazir symbolizes nonkosher food. Great effort and enormous resources are invested in ensuring the kashrus of what we put into our mouths. The dog symbolizes lashon hara and rechilus, as Chazal say that one who speaks lashon hara deserves to be thrown to the dogs. Relative to our efforts regarding kashrus, these transgressions are “poor” since far less emphasis is put on avoiding them.

May we merit to be careful about what we put into our mouths as well as what emerges from them.