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Why Shouldn’t We Eat Whatever We Want?

August 9, 2022 | by Rabbi Daniel Bortz

Understanding the spirituality of eating kosher.

From McDonalds to Omakase sushi, Taco Bell to the finest seafood, for many, the biggest struggle of the day is choosing which restaurant to visit or order in from.

But for the Jewish people, it’s not so straightforward. We know that one of the more challenging commandments of the Torah to observe is eating kosher. Why can’t we just eat whatever we want to?

The mystics teach that every mitzvah (Torah commandment) is, in essence, simply the will of
G-d, beyond comprehension. At the same time, they teach that every mitzvah contains within it both hidden and revealed reasons for why we observe them.

So why kosher? Is it just a law in place to test our loyalty? Maybe Jews were meant to spend more time together? Or perhaps it’s based on the most famous theory, that kosher is an issue of living a healthier life?

I once learned a beautiful and profound idea on this from a favorite book of mine, Worldmask by Rabbi Akiva Tatz. Many of us look at things backwards. We humans tend to see this universe as the beginning of reality. By doing this, we forget that a higher, spiritual reality precedes and supersedes this physical plane. A deeper wisdom that infinitely transcends ours, caused this existence to be, and that wisdom can be found within the events and commandments of the Torah.

Many may see the commandment to consume only kosher as being developed by wise human beings to provide us with a healthier way of living: Bacteria inhaling crustaceans and fatty pork isn't exactly paradise for our cholesterol levels. But while it's true that some kosher animals may be healthier, and that kosher animals are never predators but are herbivores, these are not the defining reasons for why they are kosher. They’re actually outcomes of being kosher.

What does that mean?

It’s not being unhealthy that makes animals not kosher. It’s because in a higher reality before this world came to be, G-d deemed these future beings as unfit for human consumption. This divine decision is what caused them to manifest as unhealthy in this physical world!

This means that the sea creatures that live at the bottom of the seabed eating the worst things and the pigs that roll in the dirty mud, do so as a byproduct of the Divine will that they be unkosher. The Torah, as a blueprint for the creation of the world, caused that particular animals exist in a state of impurity - both spiritually and physically.

This fundamental Torah principle of spiritual reality underlying our physical one can be found in everything. The reason why parents instinctively love their children is because G-d loves his children. The reason a seed must be nurtured in earth for a long period to become a tree which can bear fruit, and a human seed must be nurtured in a womb for a long period of time in order to become a human being who can bear knew children, is rooted in the fact that the masculine spiritual faculty of new insight (known as hochmah) must be nurtured at length by the feminine faculty of comprehension (binah) in order to ultimately give birth to emotions like love and awe for something greater.

The next time we scroll Uber Eats, let’s remember that for the Jewish people there are very high reasons for connecting ourselves to kosher products only. We’re not being deprived. It’s just that these items are simply not on your level, unworthy of your soul and body.

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