The Spiritual Aspect of Food

This week’s Torah reading dictates laws pertaining to the Kosher diet; which animals we may eat and which we may not eat. The Abarbanel explains that the reason the Torah prohibits certain foods is because they have a detrimental effect on a person’s neshama (soul). The Mogen Avrohom (6:4) teaches us, that a person’s neshama is nourished from the spiritual aspect of food, just as the physical body is nourished from the physical aspect. A Jew must keep a diet which is healthy, not only for his physical body, but for his neshama as well. The Torah therefore prohibits us from eating foods which can contaminate and corrupt the purity of the Jewish neshama. Keeping the holiness and purity of the Jewish neshama intact is critical for a Jew’s mission in life of serving God properly.

Kosher as a Spiritual Diet

Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Grossman was once approached by a stewardess who said, “My name is Miriam. Although I’m Jewish, I don’t know much about Judaism. Is there anything you can recommend that I do to feel more Jewish?” “You see the kosher meal I have ordered?” replied Rabbi Grossman, “I suggest you make sure to order kosher meals for yourself as well. This should help you feel more like a Jew.” This was a new concept for Miriam, as she never knew eating kosher was a Torah concept, she always assumed it was a matter of personal choice. After contemplating the new commitment, the stewardess said to the rabbi, “I’ll try to order kosher meals for myself going forward. Would you be able to explain to me what is kosher diet about?”

What is a Kosher Diet?

The Rabbi offered the following explanation: “Most trucks run on diesel, while most cars run on gasoline. Diesel is more economical, but a car cannot run on diesel. Cars are built differently, and if they are fueled with diesel, the engine will be ruined. The same holds true with people. Gentiles, who are not bound by a commitment to the Torah, are intended to be focused primarily on developing the physical world and to improve it. For their mission in life, they can eat and drink almost anything they want. Their “engines” can be fueled with almost anything. Jews, on the other hand, were created for their spiritual role in this world. Our mission in life is one of a more sensitive nature, serving as ambassadors of God, by following the Torah. Therefore, God has instructed us to keep to a certain diet which suits our nature. God has ruled which foods are fit for consumption for the Jewish body for its mission in life. This is what a kosher diet is about.” After hearing this explanation, Miriam told the rabbi that she wanted to learn more about Judaism. Rabbi Grossman referred her to his cousin who lived in Florida, which was where the stewardess was from. Before long, she connected with him, and indeed, she gradually turned her life around to be committed to Torah.

The Impact of Kosher Choices on the Neshama

At times, a person may be tempted by a gray area when it comes to keeping kosher. We may encounter foods which we find to be enticing, but are of questionable kosher status. If one is in a situation in which he is hungry, and there are few options available to satisfy his hunger, one can be tempted to compromise his usual standards of keeping kosher. We must keep in mind that it is not just a matter of the actual act of eating the food in question. The foods we eat have a great impact on our neshama, which influences our overall service of God. Because of our sensitive spiritual role in life, we cannot afford to fuel our bodies with anything less than foods of premium spiritual standards, which can only be found in strictly kosher food. When we refrain from eating foods of questionable kosher status, we are not just doing an isolated act of keeping a Mitzvah (Torah commandment); we are preserving the purity and sanctity of our neshama. Abstaining from eating that which might not comply completely with the laws of keeping kosher, represents our commitment to live a life of a higher purpose; a life of striving higher, with elevated neshamot, in reaching closeness to God.

By Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber

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