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Because It Makes Us Better

08/29/2019 01:50:06 PM


As I have grown older, my love for a good board game has not changed. However, what has changed is the complexity level of the games I’m now playing. Perhaps the games themselves have become more complicated, perhaps I myself am a little more sophisticated, or perhaps both. But it is clear that learning these games, and playing these games, requires a lot more of my attention. Occasionally, I am learning a new game that has too many rules and is too complex. I usually give up on these games as the rules distract me from having an enjoyable experience. After all, what is the point of playing a game if you aren’t going to have a good time playing.

Jewish law also runs the risk of functioning in the same way. At some point, Jewish law can begin to distract people from the main goal of the Jewish law. In Parshat R’eih, we once again encounter the rules pertaining to keeping the dietary laws of Kashrut. Over the centuries, the laws accrued different application, and now we ask specific questions about kashering a porcelain bowl that was only used with cold meat, more than a year ago. One can imagine how easy it is to get caught up in the complexity of the laws of Kashrut. Yet, our Torah insists that we should be particular with the laws, particularly with the laws of removing the blood from our meat, so that it “may go well with you” (Deuteronomy 12:25). The laws aren’t designed to make us miserable, but rather are present to make our lives better.

The laws of Kashrut are designed to elevate the banal act of eating. By restricting which foods we consume, and how our food is prepared, we are signifying that our eating is conscious and deliberate. We can acknowledge the source of our food and can recognize the Divine quality to our sustenance. Eating becomes a way for us to be more present in the world and more engaged with our surroundings. If we can keep track of this perspective, then perhaps the myriad of rules won’t distract us from what we are setting out to do. In the same way the rules of a board game are designed to keep you having fun, the rules of Kashrut continually work to keep us conscious of our behaviors and instincts. Therefore, it is my prayer this Shabbat that the rules of Kashrut, and the rest of the Jewish Laws, will not distract you from a pure enjoyment of the commandments. Instead, let them function as a way to draw us deeper into our rich tradition. 

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784