A Zantac for My Soul
Many years ago, my long-time friend, comedian Jackie Mason, had a poignant routine on health trends brilliantly baring man’s foibles. He exposed the sad hilarity as to how every other day another food item is deified and glorified until a study comes out a week later conclusively proving that the healthful item you’ve been eating by the case will kill you in an hour.
I have some obvious conclusions to draw from the fact that health crazes and diet books are so popular: We fundamentally believe that we are what we eat, that healthy items make us healthy and that we want to be healthy. And yet God has given his people a “diet book” that ensures that they will be not merely healthy and radiant, but HOLY--a diet very unlike the ones offered by spandex-wearing fitness gurus who are fitly dressed to stretch the truth and to contort science for commercial purposes. The sages teach that the food we eat affects much more than our bodies; By eating not kosher we sully our souls, distance ourselves from the Almighty and bring on sicknesses. The kabbalists teach that our soul is in our blood and seeing that food feeds our blood it affects our souls as well. The more we learn the depths of our commandments, the more we realize that God is the best diet guru even if He doesn’t have an infomercial.
The Jewish people are allowed to eat only ten animals, none of which hunt for prey. They are docile and peaceful. Our sages have taught that eating animals that lust for blood and go for the kill affects our characters and personalities. If eating an energy bar gives you energy, then how hard is it to believe that eating violent and aggressive animals can transform your energy as well. “In addition, the kosher manner of slaughtering animals obviates their sense of impending death and is not accompanied by pain and or suffering” all conditions that adversely affect the livestock and undoubtedly the eater. (Rabbi Zamir Cohen) Eating non-kosher also makes it ever harder to keep the Torah's commandments. If your building blocks are not kosher, how can you expect your ensuing actions to be? After all, you are what you eat--right?
For an animal to be kosher it MUST possess two traits: It has to chew its own cud and must have split hooves. The Torah lists four animals that can fool you because they possess one out of the two requirements: the camel (chews its cud, no split hooves), the hare (chews its cud, no split hooves), the hyrax (chews its cud, no split hooves) and the pig (has split hooves but does not chew its cud). The Torah was written thousands of years ago, before National Geographic and The Animal Planet, and still unto this day no other animal has manifested other than these four tricky ones itemized in the Torah that possess these characteristics. As for food that comes from the water, fish is all that is permitted and it must have both fins and scales to be kosher. Before I became kosher, a lifetime ago, I used to eat shrimp and other foods the Torah calls abominable.
The Torah admonishes that not only eating certain foods is problematic but even touching the carcass of some has an effect on us and contaminates us. Interesting how we are afraid to shake hands, touch doors knobs, use public bathrooms, etc. because we fear to be physically contaminated, but the Torah, which predates our modern-day microbe germaphobia, takes this concern even deeper. What we touch, who we touch and how we touch also results in spiritual contamination. We put patches on our skin to stop smoking, to avoid pregnancy, to mitigate menopausal symptoms, proving again that what we touch resonates deep on every level. Try the “kosher patch”--watch miracles happen.
People will often ask if God really cares what I eat for lunch? And the answer is a resounding thunderous, YES. So much so that Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. And FYI, here’s a beauty tip: Adam was the most gorgeous man that ever lived, but by eating what he should not have, his stature and beauty were diminished. When we sin with food, and in general, our inner light is diminished and it shows in the spiritual realm as well as on the earthly plains. No coincidence that the Hebrew word for skin (or) and the Hebrew word for light (or) are homonyms.
Eating kosher doesn’t just mean avoiding pig and its non-kosher cohorts, it also means not eating “like” a pig. Be a mensch in all your appetites. Have restraint and limitations. Don’t listen to the slithering snake offering you the “forbidden flavors” of an artificial and ephemeral paradise. Review your life "menus," my friends. For sin is grossly malabsorbed and even Zantac cannot cure “acid reflux” of the soul. Bon Appétit!