In this week’s Torah portion, we learn some of the laws of Kashrut. The Torah tells us that only animals that have split hoofs (hoofs divided into two parts along their whole length) and chew their cud may be eaten. So for example,: the pig which has split hoofs but does not chew its cud, is forbidden. Regarding fish, the Torah tells us that in order to be Kosher it must have fins and scales. For example, the sturgeon and swordfish that do not have scales are forbidden. Regarding birds the Torah, in our Torah portion, enumerates twenty four varieties of birds which are forbidden.
While many great Rabbis gave various important reasons for the laws of Kashrut, the Torah itself did not give any reasons for Kashrut. However, the Torah tells us an important point about Kashrut. In almost every instance where the food laws are referred to in the Torah, we find a call for holiness. We can see that in this Torah portion, following an entire portion listing what we could eat and not eat, the Torah concludes “For I am your G-d, sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy.”
What is the specific connection between Kashrut and holiness? For us to understand the connection, we must first define holiness. In many philosophies, holiness is associated with asceticism, seemingly it is withdrawing from the physicality of life. However, Judaism associates holiness with using the physicality with a higher purpose and consciousness. In fact, Judaism teaches that generally one can attain greater spiritual levels by using physicality the proper way than by abstaining from physicality. Now, we can understand the connection between holiness and keeping Kosher. Since eating is such a big part of our lives, if when we eat, we stay cognizant of G-d, by choosing the foods he wants us to eat, then our eating will play a major role of us becoming a holy nation.