Monmouth Torah Links

Parshas Shemini – Pure Pork

Kosher Pork?

There is nothing more “treif” (non-kosher) than a pig.

In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to the Pig, the animal that has always represented the prototype of impurity, the quintessential “treif” (non-kosher) item. In Hebrew, the very word for pig has become a common epithet used to refer to all repulsive, unwanted items or behaviors – even those having nothing to do with food. Something really disgusting is chazzer treif – as unkosher as a pig!

And yet, an obscure kabbalistic teaching seems to take a more benign view of the pig. Using a play on the Hebrew word for pig – chazzer – which in Hebrew also means “return,” the kabbalists make the following shocking statement:

“Why is it called ‘chazzer’? Because one day G-d will return it to us!”

Before anyone goes out to have some bacon and eggs, let us make it clear that the “one day” the kabbalists speak of is not here yet. Pork is still very much NOT kosher. Some kabbalists understand “one day” to refer to the Messianic era and the worldwide purification it will usher in when even the pig may become kosher. But it seems that, as with most kabbalistic teachings, a more profound message is at play.

Rather than telling us the future kosher status of pork chops, the kabbalists are giving us a message about repentance and redemption. If we understand the pig to represent all that is dirty and despicable, we might say that we all have much “pig” in our past, whether literally, in the digestion of the forbidden white meat, or other very non-kosher behaviors. But none of these are beyond redemption; all those activities on the negative side of our spiritual scorecard can be positively “returned to us” if we repent and turn our lives around.

The most obvious examples of turning a negative past into a positive future are repentant ex-convicts, former alcoholics, or drug addicts, who are in a unique position to influence others positively. Their forsaking of a very “chazzer treif” past allows them to motivate others not to take the path they did. Their very negative past gives them additional credibility. It enables them to use their past experiences to warn others not to go down that same path, thereby redeeming the negative past into a force for good. But it doesn’t have to be that extreme. G-d has a plan for the world and every individual, and every act has the potential to be redeemed for the ultimate good.

Of course, one cannot engage in harmful behavior with the intent of later seeking redemption. In such cases, the negative ways usually become so deeply entrenched that the journey out is extremely painful, if even possible at all. It’s far better to stay away from the “pig” in the first place. But keep the message of the purified pig of the future close at heart—it represents the potential purity that is within reach of every one of us.



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