While most Reform Jews do not observe the Torah’s dietary laws, food certainly plays an important role in Jewish life and how we observe our tradition. Challah, latkes, honey, hamantashen, charoset, dairy dishes-these are among the foods that are inherent to our Jewish celebrations, and they have no small place in our cherished family memories.
What is the meaning of Kosher? While the Torah lists some animals as clean, and therefore suitable for eating, and others as unclean, Kosher has much to do with the manner in which the animal is slaughtered. The laws of Kosher dictate that the animal be killed in the quickest and the least painful way, and that the act be performed with an aura of sanctity.
One of the peculiar animals mentioned by the Torah is the pig. For the pig gives the appearance of being a “clean” animal in the sense that it is suitable for eating. The pig does have split hooves which are visible to all, though it lacks the second, hidden attribute required of all kosher animals as “it does not chew its cud.” So there are many commentaries referring to the false impression which the pig conveys, even as it carries a deeper or hidden dimension.
So what message might we uncover here? For me, one message has to do with those aspects of ourselves that we show to the world; the way in which people see us. But also, there are those aspects of ourselves that are not seen by the outside world. Our personal struggles, our disappointments, our inner pains which we keep to ourselves.
The Buddhists believe very much in Karma. That each of us is much influenced by those who came before us, and that this Karma has a great impact upon the kind of lives we are able to live-both our potential and our limitations. And Judaism would certainly affirm that we are greatly influenced by those who came before us and whose influence greatly impacts all dimensions of our lives. And something more that Judaism and Buddhism share: the realization that only compassion toward each other can ease some of those “secret” burdens and struggles that most people carry. (a teaching of Kabbalah) Yes, the older we get, the more we come to realize that most people are carrying their own “heavy burden” of something. We may not know the specifics, but we should surely know that “no act of kindness ever goes wasted,” and that compassion toward each other (chanted in Hebrew) is such an essential element of life.
Rabbi David Greenberg