Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Parsha: Shemini, "Olam Chesed Yiboneh"


Another D'var Torah from Cantor Wolberg--
Shalom,
RRW

---------------------------------------
There's a verse in Parshat Shemini (Lev. 11:13) which states: "These shall you abominate from among the birds, they may not be eaten; they are an abomination..." In other words, fowl that are cruel are not eligible to be kosher. One will not always find cruel fowl necessarily exercising cruelty (we see this in the human species as well). It would therefore have been impractical and impossible to have positively identified a specific bird as being unfit. Therefore, the Torah must list all the fowl that are unsuitable for eating.

There is an overriding concept in the laws of kashruth that the characteristics of what we eat somehow have a great influence on the way we behave. The old saying: "You are what you eat." We do not want to associate ourselves for instance with cruelty, therefore we are forbidden to eat cruel animals, and in this case, some species of fowl. Among the fowl that are listed as being non kosher is the chasidah, the white stork. You may ask what cruel character trait does the stork possess. Rashi mentions that the reason it is called a "chasidah" is because it does chesed only with its friends regarding the food it finds. On the surface this seems strange. If the stork acts kindly with its food, why is it disqualified as being kosher?

A beautiful explanation to this difficulty has been given by the Chidushei Harim, in which he explains the nature of the stork. He says that the fact the stork only shows its kindness with its friends defines its cruelty. A fowl who is not in the circle of the stork's good buddies is excluded from getting any help from the stork in finding food. In other words, the stork is very selective in its kindness. This type of kindness is misleading. We, as Jews, are commanded even to help our foes. If we come across someone we dislike intensely who needs help, we are commanded to help. The stork, on the other hand, helps only his inner circle of friends. It is this character trait of differentiating between close friends and others when it comes to providing food that makes the stork non-kosher.

Chesed means reaching out altruistically, with love and generosity to all. The process of maturing involves developing our sense of caring for others. This is crucial for spiritual health. The Talmud likens someone who doesn't give to others as the "walking dead." A non-giving soul is malnourished and withered. It is only through unconditional love that our successful future will be built. In the words of King David (Psalm 89:3): Olam chesed yiboneh - "the world is built on kindness." The more this kindness dissipates and degenerates, the more danger of the foundation collapsing.

- Cantor Wolberg

No comments:

Post a Comment