(Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)
Girls whispering


Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Re’eh” (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), and in it we get a refresher on the rules of keeping kosher. Some have suggested that these laws prove that only God could have written the Torah.

As the Torah says: “These you shall not eat from among those that bring up their cud or have split hooves: the camel, the hare, and the hyrax, for they bring up their cud, but their hooves are not split — they are unclean to you; and the pig, for it has a split hoof, but it does not bring up their cud — it is unclean to you”

We have here four animals that possess only one of the two kosher signs required in order to be permissible. Hence, they may not be eaten. As the saying goes, even if it’s 99 percent kosher, it remains 100% non-kosher! Only something that is 100% kosher may be eaten. An animal must chew its cud and have split hooves in order to be kosher.

Some have suggested that these laws prove that only God could have written the Torah. This is because the Torah puts its credibility on the line by declaring that there are only four animals in the world that have only one of the kosher signs. Who else could have put their credibility on the line by declaring that there are only four –and will be only four—animals in the entire world, forever, that possess only one of the kosher signs. And indeed, thousands of years after the Torah was given, and with all the searching science has done for unknown species, no other such animal has been found.

These specific kosher laws also teach us how to relate to others. Notice how the verses telling us which animals are non-kosher begin by first telling us which of the kosher signs they do possess! Why is this? Why does the Torah even list the kosher signs at all? All we need to know is what sign it does not have in order to know that the animal is not kosher? Why the extra details?

It is explained that the Torah is trying to teach us that even when something (or someone!) is not kosher, we should try to find a way to say something praiseworthy first. Even something as abhorred as a pig deserves to get a nice word.

If the Torah goes out of its way to find something nice to say about non-kosher animals, how much more so should we go out of our way to find something nice to say about all human beings. Whether it’s your boss, employees, coworkers, neighbors or anyone else, you probably have no shortage of negative comments to make. Nevertheless, the Torah is teaching us that when referring to others, even if they may be difficult or “non-kosher,” we should first find something nice to say about them.

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah reading, click on the links below: