3 min read
What’s the big deal about Jews not eating pork? It’s actually more healthy than the chopped liver and pastrami that you find in a Jewish delicatessen. So what’s the problem?
The one Jewish law that everyone in the world seems to know is that a Jew is not allowed to eat ham, pork or anything else derived from a pig. Interestingly, there is nothing in the Torah that seems to make this prohibition more stringent than others. In fact, there is no difference in Judaism between eating pork or catfish or a chocolate-covered ant. Why then have we singled out this prohibition against the pig?
One reason you may have heard for not eating pork is that prior to the advent of refrigeration, pork was a primary cause of the disease trichinosis. This is not the reason that the Torah gives, and ascribing this as "the reason" for not eating pork is dangerous because it implies that nowadays – since trichinosis is no longer a problem – pork should therefore be permitted.
This is totally incorrect reasoning. The laws of the Torah are eternal and immutable. Of course, there can be many practical side benefits. But the Torah forbids a Jew to eat pork, and that's the bottom line.
Having said that, we can try to examine some of the philosophical underpinnings of this mitzvah.
The Torah tells us (Leviticus 11:7) – and zoologists concur – that the pig is the only animal in the world possessing the outward symbol of kosher (split hooves), but not the inward symbol (chewing cud). The pig therefore represents that which is kosher in outward appearance, but is in fact unclean on the inside. This type of hypocrisy is described the Talmud as one of the categories of behavior that God detests. For that moral reason, the pig is universally viewed as reprehensible to the Jew.
Interestingly, the Midrash compares the arch-enemy of the Jewish people – Esav (Edom) to a pig. Because just as a pig puts forth its hoof as if to say: "See, I am Kosher," so too does the Empire of Edom boast as it commits violence and robbery, under the guise of executing justice. (Midrash Rabba – Leviticus 13:5)
Maybe that's what King Solomon meant when he said, "Better the anger of a friend than the kiss of an enemy." At least you know what you're getting.