In this week’s parsha we learn about the kosher laws or kashrut. Keeping kosher is a way of making the everyday actions of eating into a holy act. Actually, it is quite easy to be kosher. For example, I have never eaten a chameleon, mole, ostrich or flying insect that has four legs. All of these are forbidden by this parsha and, if you wish to keep kosher, you will not eat them either. Nonetheless, as with many things in Jewish life, keeping kosher is much more detailed than just a few easy-to-avoid foods.
As modern Jews, we recognize that kashrut has meaning for many Jews but is a somewhat extreme understanding of bringing holiness to everyday life. Judaism evolves and the thoughts of rabbis long ago is not as applicable in today’s world of modernity and medical science. The concept of holiness, however, is one that we should never lose. Kadosh is the word for ‘holy’ in Hebrew and it is not a scientific term – it is beyond science. Stopping to consider an act to be holy before doing it, a pause in time to reflect on the act, helps to bring holiness into your life.
A kosher life is one that recognizes what is pure and impure about life. We are often told to not make judgments, but the Torah tells us that judgments are an important part of a holy life. How else can we tell what is pure or impure? Being honest rather than deceitful is a step toward purity versus impurity in life. Respecting all people rather than just your group should be a step toward holiness. Striving for personal improvement rather than just getting by each day can bring something holy to each day. For some it may be the food they eat, but for others bringing holiness to everyday existence is based on a different style of bringing the sacred to life.
Choose life – a kosher life – for every day.