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Ki Tetzei 5764

Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   In this day and age, most Jews do not keep Kosher. Why not? Is it because we are more knowledgeable than our forbearers the past 3,000 years? Do we know what they knew, and have we weighed the information and concluded that keeping Kosher is out? Or, was it a slide away from observance over the years and over the generations due to getting along in a modern world? I am betting that 99.9% of us will answer - if we are truthful - that it's the latter case. We don't know what our ancestors knew and we are comfortable doing what we are doing.

What could possibly motivate us to keep Kosher? Well, if we really knew that there is a God who gave us the Torah and that we have a covenant with Him to keep the Torah (which includes Kashruth!) - it would probably motivate some people. Then again, I can hear the response - "What? You want me to buy new dishes, pots and pans ... and two sets? Are you nuts? Do you realize how difficult it would be to keep Kosher? The changes to my kitchen and to my lifestyle?" Everything in life has a cost. The only question is if one believes that the payoff is worth the investment. A person is going to do what a person wants to do.

What if keeping Kosher would help ensure that your children marry someone Jewish and that you would have Jewish grandchildren? Would that be motivating? What if it were healthier, enhanced spirituality, increased personal discipline, inculcated moral values? Would that intrigue you to look further? Perhaps the following benefits and understandings of keeping Kosher will be food for thought:

  1. Hygienic: There are many laws that promote health. The Torah forbids eating animals that died without both proper slaughter and the draining of the blood (which is a medium for the growth of bacteria). It also forbids eating animals that have abscesses in their lungs or other health problems.

    Shellfish, mollusks, lobsters (and yes, stone crabs) which have spread
    typhoid and are a source for urticara (a neurotic skin affliction) are not
    on the diet. Milk and meat digest at an unequal rate and are difficult for
    the body; they are forbidden to be eaten together. Birds of prey are not
    Kosher - tension and hormones produced might make the meat unhealthy.

  2. Moral Lessons: We are taught a sensitivity to feelings - even to the feelings of animals. A mother and her young are forbidden to be slaughtered on the same day and "a kid (goat) is not to be seethed in its mother's milk." We are also instructed to forbid cruelty to animals. The Torah forbids removing the limb of an animal while it is still alive (a common practice before refrigeration). When we slaughter an animal, it must be done with the least possible pain; there is a special knife that is so sharp that even the slightest nick in the blade renders it forbidden to be used. This prevents pain to the animal. And we are reminded not to be vicious by the prohibition to eat birds of prey which are vicious.

  3. National Reasons: We are a unique people, with a mission of Tikun Olom, personal responsibility for perfecting the world. We have a special diet to remind us of our mission and to keep us together as a people to fulfill it. Keeping Kosher puts up a barrier. It is hard to intermarry when you have to take your non-Jewish date to a Kosher restaurant or if you go to a prospective mother-in-law's home and you won't eat her food.... Keeping Kosher is also a reminder of our gratitude to the Almighty for taking us out of Egypt (Leviticus 11:45); it's a part of the covenant between us and God:

    "For I am the Lord your God - you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy for I am holy; and you shall not contaminate your souls with all that creeps on the earth ..." (Lev. 11:44).

  4. Mystical: The Torah calls us a Holy People and prescribes a holy diet (Deuteronomy 14:2-4). You are what you eat. Kosher is God's diet for spirituality. Jewish mysticism teaches that non-kosher food blocks the spiritual potential of the soul. Kosher animals properly slaughtered and prepared have more "sparks of holiness" (according to the Kabbalah) which are incorporated in our being.

  5. Discipline: If one can discipline himself in what and when he eats, he can discipline himself in other areas of life. Kashruth requires that one must wait after eating meat before eating milk products and may not eat certain animals or combinations of foods.

If you disagree with these understandings and benefits, you would likely be able to find in history some great rabbi who was on your side. But that same rabbi would agree with every other great rabbi that the real reason we eat Kosher is because God gave the Jewish people the Torah. We, the Jewish people, bound ourselves to the Almighty in a covenant to keep the commandments of the Torah.

If you are curious to understanding why we believe in God and why we believe that God gave us the same Torah as we have now, I suggest Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive by Lawrence Keleman. If you want to know more about Kashruth, I recommend The Kosher Kitchen by Rabbi Ze'ev Greenwald; it is a user-friendly, practical and illustrated guide that eliminates the mystery and confusion. All three books are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.

Starting September 1, the Shulchan Aruch Project begins a 3 month course on "How to Make Your Kitchen Kosher ... and Keep it that Way!" For details and to sign up, go to (mention Aish and get a 1/3 discount).

The prime directive of the Torah is that the Almighty does not want us to become neurotics. If one wants to upgrade his observance of the Torah, he must do it in intelligent, calculated steps. Just as a parent loves the first steps of his toddler, the Almighty treasures our steps towards fulfilling his Torah. Do what you can do with thoughts of doing even more. This is the sane approach in coming closer to the Almighty and fulfilling his commandments.

Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tetzei

Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.


Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"You shall surely send away the mother bird, and the fledglings take for yourself, in order that it shall be good for you and you shall live a long life." (Deuteronomy 22:7)

Why does the Torah promise a good and long life for fulfilling this mitzvah (commandment)?

The Ramban (Moshe Nachmanides) explains that this mitzvah will implant in a person the attribute of empathy and compassion. Acting in a compassionate manner will enable you to feel empathy.

The Ksav Sofer (Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Sofer) notes that the Sages in the Talmud (Pesachim 113b) teach that three kinds of people are not considered as really living: (1) those without a strong degree of compassion, (2) those who constantly become angry, and (3) those who are finicky.

Rabbi Sofer elucidates: When someone empathizes strongly with the pain and suffering of others, he will suffer himself whenever he hears about the suffering of others, especially when he is unable to do anything to alleviate the other person's suffering, as is frequently the case. Therefore, after the Almighty commands us to have compassion on birds in order that we should grow in this trait, He guarantees that through this we will still live a good and long life. For many years you will be able to help a larger number of people and this will increase your days instead of shortening them. The more you feel for others, the more elevated you become.

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It is not our abilities that show
who we truly are, but our choices.
J.K. Rowling

With Gratitude to the Almighty
For our Family and Friends
Paul, Meri, Alexandra
& Parker Zidel

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