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"Are you Kosher?"

04/17/2020 07:34:24 AM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this week’s parashah, Parashat Shemini, we read the following: “And these you shall deem repulsive of the fowl, they shall not be eaten, they are repulsive:…the chassidah….” (VaYikra 11: 13 & 19). The Hebrew word “chassidah” is translated into English as “stork.” “So, what’s wrong with eating a stork,” you ask.” It is not a bird of prey, is it?” I would answer your question by saying that the chassidah is the exact opposite of a bird of prey such as an eagle, a hawk, or a vulture. According the Ramban, birds of prey are not kosher because they display a cruel nature: among the many things they eat, they eat other birds. In other words, they eat their own kind. The chassidah displays kindness towards others of its own species by sharing its food with them. This should come as no surprise for the origin of the name of this bird is the Hebrew word “chessed” (kindness), the very same quality it shows to others of its own species. “But, Rabbi,” you ask, “if this bird has chessed, shouldn’t we be allowed to eat it? Maybe by eating it we will become kind as well?”

There is no doubt that we human beings find it easy to love our fellow human beings, more often than not, only if they are similar to us. On the one hand, if s/he goes to same shul I go to, if s/he dresses like I do, if s/he has the same values I have, then I will show him/her kindness and love whenever the need arises. On the other hand, if s/he is not like me, then I have no reason whatsoever to deal with him/her, and I have no interest in showing kindness and love. But that is not what chessed is all about! Chessed demands that we show kindness and love equally to all people! And that is why the chassidah is not kosher: it acts kindly only towards its own kind. It does not act kindly towards any other bird. For us, the People Israel, this is not an admirable trait to copy.

Many great Rabbis were known for their love for and caring about every single Jew, and it did not matter at all whether that Jew wore a black hat, a white kippah, or no head covering whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that being loving and kind to only your own kind is not kosher!

Fri, July 3 2020 11 Tammuz 5780