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    David Goldberg
    bumps into
    somebody in the
    street who looks
    like his old friend

    “Jack,” he says. “You’ve put on weight
    and your hair has turned gray. You seem
    a few inches shorter than I recall and
    your cheeks are puffy. Plus, you’re
    walking differently and even sound
    different. Jack, what’s happened to
    “I’m not Jack,” the other gentleman tells
    him. “My name is Sam!”
    “Wow! You even changed your name,”
    David says.
    Two Signs
    Land animals that are permitted, or
    kosher, for Jews to consume are
    identified in this week’s parsha by two
    distinct characteristics.
    Firstly, the animal must bring up its cud

    and chew it. This means that after
    swallowing its food, the animal must
    regurgitate it from the first stomach to
    the mouth to be chewed again. This
    regurgitated food is called “cud.”
    Second, the animal must have completely
    cloven hooves.
    For example, the cow, goat, sheep, and
    gazelle possess both these characteristics
    and are thus kosher. The donkey and the
    horse, on the other hand, which lack both

    of these features, are defined as non-
    kosher animals. The pig, which has split

    hooves but does not chew its cud, and
    the camel, which chews its cud but has
    no split hooves, are non-kosher animals.
    Why do these particular characteristics
    cause an animal to become kosher?
    The Power of Food
    Judaism teaches that the physical
    attributes of an animal reflect the distinct
    psychological and spiritual qualities of
    its soul.

    Another point expounded by
    Judaism is that the food a person
    consumes has a profound effect
    on one’s psyche. When a
    person eats the flesh of a
    particular animal, the
    “personality” of this
    animal affects, to some degree,
    the identity of the human
    The split hooves and the chewing
    of the cud represent two qualities
    of the soul of these animals that are
    crucially necessary for the healthy
    development of the human character.
    When the Jew consumes the substance
    of these animals, he becomes a more
    “kosher” and refined human being.
    Moral Self-Discipline
    Cloven hooves — the division existing in
    the coverings on an animal’s feet — are
    symbolic of the notion that one’s
    movement in life (reflected by the
    moving legs) is governed by a division
    between “right” and “left,”
    between right and wrong, between
    the permissible and the prohibited. A
    split hoof represents the human
    capacity to accept that there are
    things to be embraced and things to
    be rebuffed.
    This process of moral self-discipline
    is the hallmark of living a wholesome
    life, physically, psychologically, and
    spiritually. A violin can produce its
    exquisite music only when its cords
    are tied, not when they are loose and
    “free.” Similarly, a human being who
    allows himself to do whatever he
    wants, whenever he wants, wherever
    he wants and with whomever he
    wants, robs himself of the opportunity
    to experience the inner music of his
    And when we have no clear
    differentiation between right and
    wrong, in a short time we tend to lose
    the very foundation of civil life.
    Nothing is a given, nothing is
    important, nothing is sacred, because
    nothing is even real. We end up in an
    endless wasteland, trying to numb
    our pain and anxiety through every
    possible distraction. The very core of
    the “I” gets lost in world where

    nothing matters besides the fact that
    nothing matters. Semantics, rather than
    conviction, becomes the stuff our soul is
    carved of.
    Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel-Shteinsaltz
    (1937-2020), one of the luminaries of
    our generation, once shared a story about
    a philosophy professor in Israel who
    asked one of his students to make a
    presentation. The student began by
    saying, “I speculate that …” The
    professor interrupted him: “Please,
    before you continue, define the meaning
    of the word ‘I.” The student attempted
    thrice to define the word “I,” but the
    teacher refuted every definition. The
    student gave up and sat down.
    The professor stood up and said: “How
    many times did I instruct you guys not to
    use terms which you cannot define?!”
    Challenge Yourself
    The second quality that characterizes a
    “kosher” human being is that he or she
    always chews their cud.
    Even after a person “swallows” and
    integrates into his life certain values,
    attitudes, and behaviors, he must never
    become totally self-assured and smug
    about them. The spiritual human being
    needs to continually regurgitate his ideas
    to be chewed and reflected upon again.
    Man must never allow himself to become
    fully content in his own orbit.
    Contentment breeds smugness;
    smugness breeds boredom, arrogance,
    and judgementalism. A person ought
    always – till his last breath – challenge
    himself, examine his behavior, and refine
    his character.
    Or as Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel–
    Shteinsaltz once said: How do you know
    if you are alive or dead? If something
    hurts you, it means you are alive.