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What My Son's Excema Taught Me about Kashrut

Monday, 23 March, 2020 - 11:39 am

 About 3 years ago, we had my son Levi tested to see what was causing his eczema rashes. Gluten turned out to be the culprit. He’s been off of it since and it has thank G-d made a tremendous difference. What I found incredible was not just the physical improvement, but the emotional one as well. He no longer seemed irritable and anxious.

Food is a pretty big deal in our lives, don’t you think?! Its effect on our physical and emotional health is tremendous. Hence the saying: “You are what you eat”. Just ask the person suffering from celiac. The nutritionist who helps the child cut back on their sugar intake and sees amazing results in their behavior. The football player who has a strict diet regimen to ensure maximum weight gain, strength, and health.

Well then, it doesn’t seem to be too far a stretch to say that food has a tremendous impact on our spiritual health as well.

In fact, the great Maimonides was once in Yemen and came into contact with an extraordinary Torah scholar. Their friendship developed and this great scholar would write to Maimonides with many Torah questions to which the latter would send responsa.

One day, the Yemenite Rav wrote a letter to the Rambam (Maimonides) asking a certain philosophical question with which he was struggling. After some time, the Rambam wrote back: “Investigate your shochet (the one who slaughters and koshers your meat).

Shocked at having received this response, the Yemenite Rav immediately investigated his shochet and found that he had been feeding the community non-kosher meat for the past thirteen years!

It is interesting to note that the Rambam (Maimonides) was not known as a mystic; he is best known as a great Rabbi and Royal Doctor, known for his logical, legal, and rational approach to Torah.  Yet, he sensed that someone of the Yemenite Rav’s caliber of Torah learning could only ask such a question if a seed was implanted within him that went contrary to Torah beliefs. When the Rambam thought about it, the only conclusion was that he was unknowingly eating non-kosher food.

Wow! That’s a pretty powerful idea! The kosher status of the food we eat has a tremendous impact on our spiritual sensitivity.

Now to explain: What does spiritual sensitivity mean?

We all have a holy soul; a Divine Spark bequeathed to us by G-d at birth. Given to us regardless of anything we do right or wrong. It’s our birthright.

But the soul is in a physical body, living in a mundane world, which by very definition masks the G-dliness in all of Creation. How fine- tuned the soul will be to its inherent connection to G-d, how easily it will be able to sense and appreciate itself, the soul of others, and the soul of the world will very much depend on its sensitivity to Kedusha- holiness. And there are many ways to nurture and develop that sensitivity. Kosher food is a biggie.

And before you dismiss spiritual sensitivity as a beautiful and lofty goal but not one of the items you feel the need to work on in the immediate future… Spiritual sensitivity actually plays a greater role in our lives than we may realize. Just think of some of the character traits you may be working to improve in right now. Perhaps some of the areas you find yourself working on are: Forgiveness, Judging others favorably, Seeing past your own struggles to help another in need, Appreciating the Light, Joy, and Purpose in a world that often feels so dark, and many others.

Guess What? With a fine- tuned spiritual antennae, these labor-intensive perspectives become so much easier to attain. It’s like donning a new pair of glasses, “soul lenses” that color the way you look at yourself, others, and the world in a whole new light.

I’d love to hear (in the Comments section below this article) from those of you whose homes have been koshered over the past years. Who bravely took the plunge. And some of you that koshered your homes are amazing cooks and have a real appreciation for good food! Please tell us what it was like for you.

Ultimately, we don’t know the reason for the Mitzvah of Kosher; as opposed to Mitzvahs like giving charity or visiting the sick, which are not too hard to rationalize. Kosher is the type of Mitzvah called a Chok. We accept them as Divine Decrees given to us by G-d despite their incomprehensibility to our finite human brains. (Similar to when your husband picks up his socks from the floor simply because you asked him to do so, even though it is completely incomprehensible to him as to why it would be meaningful to you:😊) But we trust that the Creator and Designer of Life itself does know best. The One Who created food, created my body, and created my soul. I’m pretty sure He knows how they are meant to be used. Just as I’d trust Steve Jobs to explain to me the best way to use all the functions that an Apple device can offer; I’d feel pretty confident that he knows what He’s talking about😊.

So the impact that eating Kosher food has on our spiritual health is NOT the sole REASON behind the Mitzvah. But it is a true benefit, a very powerful effect that it has. And a glimpse into its impact on our spiritual sensitivity helps us appreciate the Mitzvah just a little more. 

OK, so having said all that, and because the words “going kosher” can evoke feelings of intimidation and overwhelm, I am going to briefly break it up into four steps here. Its easier to digest when you see the steps involved. And remember: Its not an all or nothing proposition. It can be taken one baby step at a time, letting the process evolve.  (And for those of you that already keep kosher, let me know if you’d like suggestions on how to “upgrade” your level of kashrut to the next level.)

 

Stage One:

• Buy only kosher meat.

• Avoid eating meat together with milk.

Stage Two:

• Buy only products that bear reliable kosher certification. You’ll be surprised how many items on the grocery store shelves are kosher.

• Divide your pots, pans, and cutlery into “meat” and “milk” groupings, even though you previously may have used the newly designated “milk” spoon for “meat.” (You may want to mark your utensils with their new designations, so that you do not mix them up.) This is good practice for what’s yet to come—practice that will help minimize mess-ups once your kitchen is kosher.

Stage Three:

• Invite a rabbi to your home to survey the kitchen. He’ll advise you on how best to divide the “milk” and “meat” sections. He will also help you determine which utensils can be made kosher, and which will have to be replaced.

· The big day: The sinks, oven and utensils are koshered.

Stage 4

YOU DID IT!!! Enjoy your new Kosher kitchen. Call your local Chabad Rabbi anytime with questions as they arise!

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