Preparing for Prophecy (Shmini)
My strength has the strength of ten because my heart is pure. -
Alfred Lord Tennyson
In the middle of this week’s Torah portion we’re told:
“And God spoke to Moses and Aaron, to say upon them…” and then provides a long list of the various animals that Jews can and can’t eat.
The Berdichever explains that the repetitious phrase, “say upon them,” hints that in the future God will speak directly to us. He will enable all the Children of Israel to reach a measure of prophecy.
He recalls the Midrash regarding when Moses was an infant, was discovered and rescued from the Nile, and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. It seems Moses refused to nurse from any of the Egyptian nursemaids. Finally, his sister Miriam intervenes and arranges to have Moses returned to their mother to be nursed and to subsequently be returned to Pharaoh’s daughter once he’s been weaned.
The Midrash explains that baby Moses at some level understood that in the future he would be speaking with God, that he would be prophesizing to the Nation of Israel the words of God. For such an important role he couldn’t allow himself to nurse from the impure idolatrous Egyptians. The mouth that would speak divinely ordained words couldn’t sully itself with anything impure.
Similarly, the Berdichever states that at the end of days, the entire Jewish people will prophesy. Therefore, in preparation, we should not defile our mouths with impure foods. That is the deep link between the hints of prophecy and the laws of a Kosher diet.
Non-kosher creatures have a cruel aspect in their nature, and by consuming the products of non-kosher animals, we absorb some measure of cruelty in ourselves. The Jewish ideal is to aim for purity and kindness and to avoid anything that can taint our body, our character and our soul.
May we aim for purity of character as well as purity in our diets.
To our soldiers on the Gaza border. May God protect you and the rest of Israel.