Thought for Shabbat – August 10, 2018
When one reads the Torah portion of Re’eh, one can become confused. Moses tells the people that it is ok to eat the meat from certain designated animals and not from the others. He further tells them that they should slaughter the animal as they have been instructed. Yet there is no mention at all in that portion or anyplace else in the Torah as to what those instructions are except for the fact that there is an additional requirement that no blood of any animal be eaten. The rules of slaughter were later codified by rabbis after the Torah.
For those of you who don’t keep kosher but are continuing to read, I appreciate it. I did not begin to write this because I thought that I could inspire people to keep kosher. However, I did want to point out that even for those who do not keep kosher, the act of eating is a holy act. But it is also an act that many of us take for granted by either failing to say appropriate blessings before and after, or by throwing away leftovers that could be eaten either by yourselves or by others.
When it comes to Kashrut, Jews walk a tightrope. On the one hand, we do not want to cause undue pain to an animal, yet on the other hand we want to have a ritualized way to kill the animal we will eat. There is also a division among a few rabbis about whether it is appropriate to recite blessings before and after the eating of even non-kosher food. The majority view is that we do not recite those blessings. Some of us keep strictly kosher while others have a modified observance and others have no observance at all.
But no matter how you view kashrut, it must be recognized that food is the way we most often engage God on a daily basis. Whether we eat meat, or live on a vegetarian or vegan diet, every morsel we eat comes from God in one way or another. And it is with food that we can regularly make an impact on those who don’t have it either by providing the food or the means with which to get it. Food is a way to reach out to those who are in mourning. Food is a way we celebrate special and holy events for which we are grateful.
For animals, eating food is a simple and thoughtless act. For humans it is much more. It is a way to engage with God by acknowledging God’s gifts and being ethical in food matters. It is a way to engage in acts of loving-kindness with other human beings. And finally, it is a reminder that even the smallest act we do has the potential to be holy, if we are just mindful enough in our daily lives to take the time to think about what we are doing.
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer