Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Its a Bird, Its a Plane, Its a Pig That Chews Its Cud!

                                                                  Parashas Shmini
                                                               The Torah of Faith
                                                                 Rabbi David Katz

There is an aspect to Torah that can simply be considered a Torah [style of learning] of Emunah [faith]. Rebbe Nachman is one of the foremost influences in this field, a Chassidic master, such that this embodies the entire agenda of Chassidut, the inner dimension of the Torah that personifies the essence of the Zohar. If there was ever a map synonymous with Torah, then Chassidut is the key that teaches one to read the map; enter Rebbe Nachman, and you have a basis of learning a Torah with/from Emunah. The premise is straightforward and clear as to how this enigmatic system works: it's like downloading software [mochin/ingested intellect] and the body "runs the software" through the soul's interface. An example would be that if one wished to be a "Yehuda-ite/ish" – then he would/should/could learn the actual scriptures of Judah, meditate on them, ingest them, and with Emunah, he will begin to resemble the traits of Judah through the influence of servicing with Emunah. From this level, anything is possible, and the Torah is the mainframe that opens the soul to any Torah reality. So you know what – let's go and not eat a pig! –but why?! – To what intellect would there be in refraining from a pig? Interestingly enough, when we combine a bit of Emunah with a pig, the results are unbelievable, and through this practice, we may never view the mitzvoth the same way ever again.

The Parsha opens with the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, which by the way, one could surmise that they were very much connected to the concept of the Ger women in their demise based on various midrashim on the subject; however the meat [pun intended] of the parsha is the aftermath of the falling of Nadav and Avihu, as we immediately jump into Kashrut. As it is with Kashrut, some parts we are familiar with, while others not so much, or some make sense and some don't, or it could even be we agree with some elements yet struggle with some of the other concepts as to rationale or even the folklore involved with some of these prohibitions. Do we eat pigs, and if not why [really]? Do people really eat bugs – should we? Is the pig going to one day really going be magically Kosher [again]? There are a lot of these questions year after year, and as Noahides get involved with refinement through food, one would expect to receive an authoritative tradition that simplifies these concepts and even makes them palatable [sorry]. Yet maybe these questions and quandaries are somewhat ill-advised, in face of the real opportunity that we are faced with, and that is a Torah of Emunah. Did one ever think that by not eating pig we are literally doing something of an influence over ourselves, those around us, and even throughout the World? Just as Matzah on Passover is a food that is meant to spiritually work into our being as a refinement, so too the mitzvah of not eating pig can work the same benefits, and it happens with Emunah.

There are various animals and crawling things mentioned in our Parasha that one is to refrain from eating of; from scales and fins to hooves and cud chewing – the signs are clear and eternally proven if anything. The Midrash Rabbah however paints a beautiful picture that centers around four typical animals that convey a powerful message of eternal Emunah that sheds light to the nature of the proverbial, "why are we doing this again?" These fav four are none other than the camel, the hair, the rabbit [presumably two different species, or a subject of a lost tradition that clearly specifies the true nature of these two animals. Scripture's tradition of animals has come under much debate and scrutiny in contemporary times] and the pig. As one can easily envision, the key elements that are either missing or presented before us are the nature of the split hooves or lack thereof and cud chewing –likewise. The Midrash takes from these four and compares them to various topics in Torah, and the four exiles in specific. What sticks out the most however is the idea that the secrets of making Gerim are embedded in these animals! If nothing else, welcome to the Emunah of not eating to make Gerim!

The commentary of the animals and their relationships with the famous four exiles begins with our friend the camel while taking place in Bavel [Babylon]. The Midrash makes its comparisons of how the camel suits Bavel, and then offers a strange revelation, that since it raises its cud [chews], we can learn that Bavel was conducive to making Gerim, for the word for cud is the same word for Ger! Thus to "lift its 'Ger' is to make Gerim" – and as the Midrash paints this picture, this is depicted by the camel and in relation to Bavel. A striking revelation that not many are aware of, is that there are major views and opinions of the heritage of Daniel, and his roots as a Ger; for this the Talmud identifies Daniel as a Yehudah-ite as one who has rejected idolatry, for one of such character is labeled as a Judah-ite, regardless of birth affiliation. Thus by not eating camels, and through Emunah, we lift Gerim and rectify on many levels, ultimately causing Gerim to be lifted; both in the first exile, and onwards spiraling in time, making Gerim through Torah and Emunah.

Onwards in the Midrash we arrive to the two types of "rabbits" that have a similar fate, of not having split hooves yet chew their cud; they are compared to Persia and Greece [exiles]. The style of exegesis continues in uniform fashion, and again we learn about famous Gerim in Mordechai of Purim and Alexander the Great of Hanukah. Jewish people have a tradition of naming their children Alexander from what appears to be a remnant of Alexander having become a Ger under the guidance of Shimon the Righteous. The Purim story is filled with Gerim in between the lines, and it mentions the Nilviim who are called the associate Gerim who were there for the whole story. Much like we know about Purim on a revealed level, the deeper level, that of the complete redemption will yield sacred knowledge of who was really who not only then, but in all of history! The Midrash chose to point out Mordechai for this task, which although it is hard to understand, the Torah conveys a message similar to King David who famously said, "I am a Ger"; notice that Mordechai and Ester are in redeemer positions, which by nature involves Gerim, similar to Moses and Aaron before them and Messiah and Elijah who have yet to come [notice the synchronized "mem alef" combinations, for Gerim and Moshiach go hand in glove] And then there was Edom….he who is represented by the pig, one that does not chew his cud.

Before we get into the kishkas of the pig and Edom, one should be aware of an obscure teaching in kabbalah, and documented by the Ohr HaChaim in our Parasha concerning the pig and his lack of chewing his cud. It is said of the pig, that he loves to show off his hooves, as they are split and as if to say that he is kosher; while as for the lack of the cud, this is explained that this is only a temporary condition imposed on the pig, and that in the future he will return to chew his cud. It should be noted that the word for pig – chazir, means literally to return, or go back on self. Thus as its taught, one day the pig will resume chewing his cud, going nicely with his fancy split hooves. As much as this seems like a slight feel good story for the pig and those wishing to eat the pig, deep down, there is an amazing saga here that defines the Ger and making Gerim as only Moshiach would have it.

Our friend the pig as it is well documented does not chew his cud, or literally lift his Ger; and for this, signals that Edom is existentially different than the previous three exiles. Where the former lifted their Ger, making the righteous shine bright, Edom and the pig do not lift their Ger, and as the Midrash points out, we see no better proof than the slaying of Rebbe Akiva and his cronies. [Rebbe Akiva was a convert, but having come from Gerim] Thus the exile that we all know so well, the one that began in Rome and ends in Zion, is infamous for not making Gerim, in fact it is known for butchering them. However when we think of the Ohr HaChaim and the pig's promise, we can do a repair that forces the "pig" to take issue with "itself" once we apply the mitzvah and incorporate live Emunah. As a practice of not eating pig we are ingesting this intellect, of this entire system, one that is replete with a service of faith that is sure to bring redemption, elevate the righteous, and make Gerim.

The culmination of the concept and Torah of Emunah takes place through a second rendition of the four exiles in each relationship with the four animals, as each animal/kingdom is said to drag on its heels another kingdom, until, Edom, which has no successor of evil to note. Instead, the pig sings a different tune, and shifts course to the Prophet Ovadiah the Ger [not accidentally], who envisions saviors ascending Mount Zion, and thus finish all exile and detriment to Gerim. The conclusion, that concludes with the pig ironically, in the end, is the ultimate efforts of Gerim and making Gerim.

Simply put, many have answered the dietary laws as logical equations or bubba mysas to stay sane and healthy. But maybe now more than ever, the echoes of Chassidut, Rebbe Nachman, and the Zohar etc. are resonating loud and clear – that eating "clean" is a Torah of Emunah exercise! On Rosh Hashana we eat foods that are symbolic to spiritual bounty based on many areas of Pardes; this is called segulot – as they are half true and have tradition/superstition. Kashrut however is different, what we are learning, is that through Torah diet – we actually make Gerim and bring Moshiach through a Torah of Emunah. As we eat, we perfect the cud, i.e. the lifting of the Ger, and in difficult situations, even inspire a breach in nature for the sake of making Gerim! And all of this from the lowly pig who just wanted to show us his treifa hooves in spite of his not chewing his food with his mouth closed.

In truth, the Torah of Emunah is real and it is effective. There are laws of nature, and there are ways above nature. The pig and food etc. exist in nature, but through my free will I can choose to not eat a pig, and connect to the Mochin of what that does to my body and soul. If the not eating of a pig mitzvah can make Gerim by making the cud/ger real, and a real integral part of my physical/spiritual diet – imagine what the other mitzvoth can do for both Jews and Gerim! Every mitzvah we do has mochin, and with Emunah, we achieve ways to repair the world and in such a fashion that we shall behold Moshiach from it. With a Torah Universe that is filled with so much light, why remain in darkness; for this is the essence of the Midrash, where one sees exile and lowly animals – utter darkness, with a change of perspective in Emunah, we can connect to the lights of Redemption in the heights of angelic men – such that we will witness the coming of the righteous Messiah, the one who comes to redeem the Gerim. Impossible you say, well, just look with the light, we all have cud to finally chew – with Emunah anything is possible.

Class Tonite on Parasha In-Depth 11 P.M. Israel - we have not changed our clocks!


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