Weekly Torah Commentary — Shemini March 21, 2014

Shemini Leviticus/Vayikra 9:1 – 11:47

This week’s reading focuses a considerable number of verses on the issue of the kinds of foods God instructs us to eat, and those we are told to avoid. This is far from a ‘To Do’ list vs a ‘To Not Do’ list.

God’s instructions about our eating habits tell us 1) God cares about our physical well being and 2) since He is the Creator of all, He, and He alone, truly knows what is best for our ongoing health. Our obedience to His instructions in this arena yields great benefits to us – a healthy body for a long life in the physical realm; and spiritual merit for submitting to His directives.

The first thing we need to understand is this: The food we eat does affect our spiritual progress. Obviously the food ingested has an effect on both our physical and mental health, but also on our spiritual health. (How spiritually alive do you feel after a big holiday dinner???)

The ability to focus and to think clearly and insightfully are not only needed in order to concentrate during focused spiritual practices like prayer and meditation, but also in every moment of daily life. Therefore, foods that are natural and wholesome increase mental clarity, garnering vitality and vibrant mental and physical health. As the Creator of all, God knew that wholesome natural foods create harmonious balance supplying vital energy for the body, the mind and the spirit. He also knew which specific foods most directly benefit the human beings He created.

Fast foods, cheap antibiotic and hormone laden meats, foods that are processed and empty of nutritional value have been shown to create physical and mental illness thereby directly affecting one’s spiritual progress. Medical science has given ample testimony that certain foods are actually detrimental to every area of man’s health.

But are the kosher commandments given to the children of Israel only and simply a matter of good health?

No, far more than that.

We human beings have a strong tendency to cling to our own opinions, likes and dislikes. We also resist being told what to do. And when it comes to matters of eating….well, we can be fiercely stubborn, can’t we? Patients with severe medical problems have been told by their doctors to refrain from certain foods if they wish to continue living. Some do…and, amazingly, some don’t. When it comes to what we eat, we are vigorously independent!! “Don’t tell me I can’t have……” (you fill in the blanks).

The ability to submit to God with regard to our diet is a huge issue! And that, my friends, is at the very heart of what eating kosher is all about. It’s an exercise in spiritual discipline, a means of bringing under control the very human tendency to “do as I please.”

The plethora of diets with new ones being advertised nearly every week testifies to our driving need to want to satisfy our appetites while at the same time, still proclaiming we want to lose weight, get fit, etc. It’s a billion dollar industry with by lines like one I heard just today: “You can lose weight and still have your cake.” Really???

Eating according to the Torah’s guidelines will not guarantee you a slim physique necessarily. You can overeat on kosher foods as well! But….choosing to follow God’s instructions in WHAT we may eat does help us develop a growing sense of discipline which in itself is profitable in every area of life.
And most importantly, our way of eating becomes yet another avenue of demonstrating our devotion to our heavenly Father.

In Tune with Torah this week = ask yourself: Am I really committed to honoring God in every part of my life, including the way I eat and what I eat?

Shabbat Shalom

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