In this week’s Torah portion there is a listing of four animals that are non-kosher, but have one aspect of a kosher sign. You see, in order for an animal to be Kosher (in the words of unforgettable Uncle Moishy) “all the animals that we eat, must chew their cud and have split feet…”
Four fellers have one, but not the other. The camel and two species of the rabbit clan do chew their cuds but don’t have split hooves. The pig, on the other hand, goes trotting about showing off split hooves, but doesn’t chew its cud.
This week’s portion is one of the proofs used for the Divine origin of the Torah (as per the Rambam). For, was Moshe a zoologist, expert in every single species of animals throughout the world that he was able to say definitively thousands of years ago that only four types of animals have one of these traits and not the other? He knew with certainty through Divine Revelation (read G-d-given Torah) that at no time in the future would a new animal be discovered in a rainforest hidden away with split hooves and not chewing its cud or vice versa. And yes, zoology concurs with the Torah. Duh – of course, because Torah is from the Creator of the world, Designer of the animals. To date, only the pig has split hooves and doesn’t chew its cud.
When talking of these non-Kosher animals, the Torah first states the “Kosher” aspect these non-Kosher animals possess and then relates the aspect of the Kosher trait they are missing. So, for example, by the pig, the verse acknowledges first that the pig does have split hooves…and then says, “its cud it doesn’t chew.” (11:7). The question then arises as to why its Kosher trait should be mentioned. It would be sufficient to tell us that the hog is off-limits because it doesn’t chew cud, why must we know it does have split hooves?
The Klee Yakar tells us that this teaches us that these animals’ aspect of “Kosherness” is also an aspect of non-Kosherness. I know, that sounded complicated, so let us break it down. A Chazir/piggie is and always remains a piggie. Even its dainty aspect of showing its hooves is part of its piggish nature. What would be “kosher” for some other creature, when incorporated in a non-Kosher creature, becomes as vulgar as the non-Kosher traits of that animal.
Let us take this to its natural conclusion. There is a photo of some horrid human being accused of disgusting attacks against children. He wears a very pious getup, this twisted animal. We don’t say, oh, that side of him is so kosher. We say, even that is a sign of his impurity. For in a non-kosher creature, the kosher signs themselves become unacceptable.
Which leads me to an old Chassidic tale. Once, many years ago when medicine was still primitive, a young girl was deathly ill. The doctor told her parents that eating pork would help her heal, but the very religious girl was wanting none of that. Off to the rabbi they went, and he explained to the girl that the Torah requires her to eat the pork to save her life. After much persuasion she agreed, but with a condition. She wanted the local Shochet to ritually slaughter the pig, so that at least that much would be in place. To humor her, the rabbi had the Shochet do so. Ah, but then a problem arose. The Shochet found a questionable lesion on the lung of the pig and ran to the rabbi to ask if the pig was Kosher. The rabbi’s eyebrows shot up. “There is no way I can declare a pig Kosher,” he thundered to the Shochet, “no matter how glatt your shechting of that pig might have been!”
Certain things will be always non-Kosher and off-limits. Certain lifestyle choices. And those who indulge in it, even were they to wrap themselves up in fifty sets of Tefillin, will be as impure and disgusting as that piggie.