Our view of the Galile

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Kosher Pigs- Parshat Shemini 2018 /5778

Insights and Inspiration
from the
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 13th  2018 -Volume 8 Issue 25 28th Nissan 5778

Parshat Shemini/ Tazria / Metzora
Kosher Pigs

Yankel was sick. He was deathly ill, in fact. There was not much that they could do for him. He went from doctor to doctor, from specialist to specialist, none of them could diagnose him. They all just nodded their heads and noted that if he continued to deteriorate he didn’t have much time left on this world.
Finally someone mentioned to him the greatest specialist in Europe. He was known to find the cure for everything. Yankel, got himself and appointment and the Doctor after completing a whole series of test noted that he had since this condition once before. It was curable. However when he heard the cure Yankel gulped. His only remedy it seemed would be to consume the chopped liver of a pig. Yikes!
Now Yankel, like your weekly inspiring E-Mail Rabbi, liked chopped liver. But pig liver…?! Chazer! It seems sacrilegious to even say the word chopped liver when you talk about pig.
But Yankel, of course, knew that the most important mitzva in the Torah is to stay alive. Pikuach nefesh- the sanctity of Jewish life has precedence of all but the three cardinal sins, of which of course pork is certainly not one of them. So chazer it would be. Yet Yankel was not ready to eat the same chazer that his heathen gentile neighbors were eating. He was better than that. He would have his pig slaughtered, by a proper shochet, just as if it were a prime rib for his Shabbat meal. In that way there would be some semblance of yiddishkeit, some thing that separated Yankel from his neighbors, in this eating.
But like all good plans, this one had a hitch as well. See after the shochet slaughtered the pig, with Yankel standing over him religiously looking on. Yankel asked him to continue to do everything that he would do as if this were a cow, or a sheep or any other kosher animal. So the shochet began to check the internal organs of the animal to make sure that none of the were blemished. And whadaya know? The pig had a slight aberration on his lung. If this were a cow, it certainly wouldn’t be glatt; the top level clean and smooth meat we would want to see. But perhaps the blemish went  even deeper, perhaps there was a hole in the lung. That would render the animal un-kosher. Yankel couldn’t have that.
So our Yankeleh and his shochet, who had no experience in pig blemishes, took the questionable organ to the local Rabbi, to have it checked out. The Rabbi examined the lung and told Yankel, that it was fine. It was not a problem. “But is it kosher, Rabbi?” Yankel asked. “I only eat the best kosher standards. I have never compromised in the past.” The Rabbi looked at poor Yankel and told him. “Yankeleh, what can I tell you. Kosher it will never be. A pig will always stay a pig. I can let you eat a pig. But I can never declare it Kosher. A chaer blaybt a chazer-a pig wil always remain a pig.”
I read this story many years ago when I first began my work in Jewish outreach. It was in a book title “The Kosher pig and other Jewish curiosities.” The author who was a reform Rabbi, interestingly enough, had written a book about many of the Kosher pig questions he had over the years. Questions that sought “halachic”, “Jewish” perhaps even Torah insights and direction to things that were certainly even by his more lenient or non-Orthodox albeit traditional standards chazer/trayf.; Kosher-pig questions.
There was the person in his congregation that was getting intermarried to an Episcopalian and wanted to know if it was problematic during the Omer period, which we are now counting, when Jews customarily observe laws of mourning and don’t get married. There was the other congregant that went jogging each morning and wanted to know if he was permitted to drink on Yom Kippur after his run, because it would be dehydrating. There was the couple who upon having their first baby wanted to know if the Rabbi could resolve the issue that they were having. See the mother was sefardic and wanted her son named after her father who was alive. The father though was Episcopalian and the mother claimed that made him Ashkenazi and she knew that Ashkenazim did not name after living relatives. So was she permitted to name her son after her father still? Oy…
See these are what the author calls Kosher-pig questions. I laughed when I read the book. At least until I became a Rabbi and moved out to Iowa. Iowa, in case you didn’t know, lays claim to the largest hog population in the United States. It would make sense therefore that it was going to be the home to lots of Kosher pig questions as well.
These are some of my favorite ones. We used to make an early Shabbat minyan there, as we weren’t comfortable praying in the “Orthodox” shul that did not have a separation between men and women and used a microphone for Shabbat services. In time though we had a larger attendance then the regular minyan, because we had all the people that went to work on Shabbos. The question that was raised was, is it alright to advertise our services, knowing that people would come pray in order to go to work on Shabbos. On one hand they were praying in our more “halachic” minyan. On the other hand, they were going to work, if they prayed in the later minyan they would at least be spending more time in shul and less at work. Either way most people didn’t live within walking distance, so perhaps creating and advertising and early minyan would be encouraging people to drive to shul. On the other hand, they would probably be driving anyways…. See Kosher pigs questions…Welcome to Iowa
 We had Bill who had the kosher bagel store. He had kosher bagels with Kosher, cheeses and shmears. He also had kosher turkey, salami, baloney and deli. His Rueben bagel sandwiches with melted cheese and deli together were about as trayf as can be, violating the biblical prohibition of Milk and meat. {Something that is not easy to find as McDonalds cheese burgers,-also trayf are not “milk and meat” prohibited because the meat is prohibited by itself prior to being cooked with the cheese. In order to attain the solely milk and meat prohibition it has to be Kosher meat and cheese. When I asked Bill why he was open on Shabbos. After all he was a good guy, he came to shul, he studied with me regularly. Why not close his business on Shabbos.He explained to me that for many Jews their only connection to yiddishkeit was eating a bagel on Shabbos. He had to be open for them; without their Shabbos morning bagel they would be lost from our people. I nodded my head at his sincerity and told him how wonderful it was that he was so dedicated to the Jewish people. But then using my Rabbinic acumen asked him why he couldn’t get the goy-his non- Jewish employee to open up for him on Shabbos, that way he could stay in Shul and observe the day and those “bagel-Jews” would be fine. He looked at me with horror and disappointment as if I was suggesting who-knows-what. “The goy, Rabbi? He said, “He’ll trayf up my store!”
We had plenty of other ones as well. There was the woman that had intermarried that wanted to know if she could or even should study or practice the laws of family purity. Although that ould seem like it doesn’t’ get more Kosher pig than that, the answer we got from the Debrecener Rav was that she should, for that way she would at least be separated from her husband for certain intervals and a non-Jewish marriage wasn’t made to keep these laws. I had Kaddish for pet dog questions, and a Kohen that refused to marry his girlfriend whom he was living with, because she was a divorcee and that would mean he had to give up his Kohen status, according to him. Yes… I had my share of Kosher pig questions. In fact when we spoke about making our own Kosher organization there in Des Moines our symbol was going to be a pig with K inside of it. The Chazer-K. I’m not sure how it would’ve went over though.
This week the Torah portion in America- is Shemini. {In Israel, as last Shabbat was the day after Pesach for us we read that already and are a week ahead of you at Tazria/Metzora} Being that I am in America this week, for a wedding, and last week on the holiday I didn’t write about this Parsha- so my Israeli readers are still in the dark about it. It’s this week’s Parsha of the week. Hopefully by next week Mashiach will be here and you’ll all be in Israel and I won’t have to write two E-Mails. But anyways the end of the Parsha discusses the laws of Kosher and non-kosher animals. This of course will lead us to some kosher pig questions of our own. And perhaps some insight and inspiration-after all that’s why you’re here…right?, To why it is that the Kosher pig syndrome is perhaps the most significant and defining one of our generation. So here we go. The Torah tells us of four non-kosher mammals.
Vayikra (9:4-7) But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof: the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you.
5 And the hyrax, because it brings up its cud, but will not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you;
6And the hare, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof; it is unclean for you
;7And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you.
So we have three non-kosher animals that don’t have the hooves but chew their cud. The pig though is the one that is the opposite. It has the split hooves, yet it does not chew its cud. The Gaon of Vilna brings the Midrash that notes that each of the four animals represents one of the four exiles that we have been through. The camel is Babylonia, the hare is Greece, Hyrax is Persia and the pig represents the exile we are in today Rome, the West…America? The Talmud in Yoma tells us
Yoma (9:) The first ones that their sin was in the open the date of the end of their exile was also revealed. The last ones who sin was hidden, so too the end of their exile has been hidden from them.
It concludes with the enigmatic statement
Rabbi Yochanan said It is better the nails of the first ones then the belly of the last ones.
The Gaon of Vilna explains that the difference between the first three animals and the last ones. Is that the first three are all obviously by the lack of their split hooves not Kosher. You can see that right away. The pig on the other hand has kosher hooves. It likes to show them off. It pretends to be kosher, to be moral, to be righteous. But look at its kishkas. Look a little deeper and you will see outside of the surface and deep inside it’s as trayf as can be. chazer-trayf. The first exiles the Jews were idolatrous, they immoral, they didn’t hide it. They were like the first three animals and Hashem seemingly preferred that, as their exile was also revealed it was only 70 years. Our kishkas, were still pure seemingly. Our liver was kosher J. The last exile, Rome we pretended to be religious. We showed off our split hooves. They were very yeshivshe looking. We had payos, shtreimels and chalav yisrael. But it was all a show. It was all worried about the externalities. It was kosher looking pigs. Our bellies of the last generation, Rebbi Yochanan tells us, didn’t come to close to those non hooved toenails of the earlier ones. And thus we are sent into an exile without an end. We are sent into an exile to a nation that claims to be more moral than any other. That is the one we are in until today.
This past week was Yom HaShoa in Israel. I was listening to a radio program here in New York in Hebrew.88.7 FM, I think. By the way, I just want to let you know how cool that is. It’s funny in Israel I never listen to Hebrew radio, but in New York I do. Also Kosher pig I guess. Keep the Israeli Jews feeling like their living in Israel although they are still here. Have your Israel and 13th Avenue too! But I digress…Anyways, this man was discussing the Holocaust and he said something fascinating. He suggested that one of the primary lessons that we as Jews are meant to take from the Shoah is that is shined a light to the world. That the most moral, cultured, civilized society of the time-ergo Germany. Was really just a pig in disguise. They were in fact just externally moral. Inside they were bankrupt. Evil. Barbaric. A Chazer blaybt a chazer. A pig is a pig and is never kosher. That is the exile that Hashem has shown us and that we are in.
How do we leave this exile? The Yismach Moshe suggests that only way is to conquer Esau/Edom, who on the outside pretends to be so pure. Is by being the Yaakov that grabs on to his foot, his hoof and shows to the world the fallacy of a non-Torah world. A world that does not believe in Hashem. Yaakov is the power of Torah. Torah is that light that we shine on our actions to examine if what we are doing is truly moral, is truly inherently pure. Judaism isn’t about the externalities. It’s about fulfilling the will of Hashem.
We are in the period of the Omer now. We count each day as we get closer to the moment and the energy of the holiday of Shavuot when we received that Torah. This is the time of year, when we each need to shine that light of Torah into our daily actions. Grow a little more. Learn a little more. The kosher pigs questions reveal that deep desire of even the most distant of us to find that light and become kosher. Become holy. Become like that sheep of Hashem awaiting its shepherd to bring us home. The Talmud tells us that the reason a pig is called chazir which means return, is because one day in the Messianic era the pig will return to being kosher. The pig was neve kosher though, you ask? Perhaps it means that kosher pig in all of us. The time of return is here. Let’s come home.
Have an amazing Shabbos and an incredible Chodesh Iyar Tov,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
“Fun a khazers ek ken men keyn shtrayml nit machen.”- You can't make a shtreimel out of a pig's tail.

answer below at end of Email
Q. Places where the poetess Rachel lived:
A. Degania and Motza
B. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
C. Kinneret and Yavne’el
D. Alumot and Kfar Tavor

https://youtu.be/6N_yJG5Imrw    - What an incredible and moving story and message. Acheinu by Shabbat.com in honor of Yom Hashoah
https://youtu.be/pCB4v68Bb3g  – Non observant Jews go Kosher for a week!
https://youtu.be/mabKr9s52EE  – Certainly very beautiful and interesting on many levels give a listen to “kiddish” by Nishma
Although we are separated by Torah portions between Israel and America. Israel being a week ahead with Tazria/ Metzora. We share the same haftora as this week we have the special haftora that is read when Rosh Chodesh- the new month falls out right after Shabbos on Sunday. The Haftora which begins seemingly right in the middle of a story starts with the words
Shmuel I (20:18) And Yonatan said “Tommorow is Rosh Chodesh”.
This haftora reading is mentioned in the talmud, it is therefore a much earlier source and it is agreed upon by Sefardim and Ashkenazim. So it certainly deserves a bit of extra appreciation.
The story in the haftora is about the not yet- King David, his friend and brother- in- law Yonatan and King Shaul his father in law. Dovid was nervous that Shaul was going to kill him again. He was suffering from paranoia and depression and Dovid was usually his target. Yonatan wasn’t sure and so he developed a plan with Dovid. That is where the haftora begins from.
Yonatan tells Dovid that tomorrow will be Rosh Chodesh and it seems the tradition back then was that there would be a great feast each new month. Dovid would miss the party. And Yonatan would gauge Shaul’s reaction. If he was upset at Dovid’s seemingly innocuous absence, it would be a sign that it would be safe. If he got upset, which he did, then Yonatan would send a message to Dovid by shooting arrows and giving him a signal.
The connection between the haftora and perhaps the message we are meant to think about each erev new month. Is that we are in the position of Yonatan, Dovid and King Saul. There is a new month. It is a new beginning. Dovid will be King. Shaul’s Kingdom is coming to an end. How will you relate to this new opportunity? We will you still keep your old baggage. Like Shaul does and not utilize the opportunity and freshness to start anew and get on board. Or will you like Yonatan choose Dovid. Choose the future. Move forward and change and grow. Dovid as well assures Yonatan that despite his father trying to kill him, Dovid will not allow that to define him. That is the past. That is his father. Yonatan can have a new start and fresh relationship that the past doesn’t define.
We can as well each new month. It is our opportunity to move forward and onward.
Chodesh Tov!
King David (904 BC) – Born to the home of Yishai in Bethlehem Dovid was anointed clandestinely by the prophet Shmuel much to everyone’s surprise to become the King of Israel. The Tanach gives an incredible description of Dovid
Shmuel I (16:18) He knew how to play musician, he was mighty, a man of war, who was understanding of people, a man of great physical stature, and Hashem was with him.
Don’t you love how it starts out with his musical qualities?
The Holocaust (1930’s and 40’s – We’ll pause for this week in our Eras and places that we have been ordering chronologically from the Creation of this week in honor of Holocasut Memorial day in Israel or Yom Hashoah. The holocaust has certainly been long accredited by many secular and even some religious Zionists as being the rationale for the State of Israel coming into being. We earned it. We need it. Never Again. We shall never forget.  It is certainly a topic and era that the early state wanted to fortify as part of the culture and ideology of the State. As a result of that there have been many musuems and places where one can learn about the topic and era. The most notable of course is Yad Vashem, although that was not the first Holocaust museum. The Ghettos fighters museum in Akko has that distinction, as it was built in 1949 to commemorate and share with the next generation the heroism and story of the Ghettos and the revolt against the Nazis for survival. As well there is the yad layeled children exhibit there which is really a view for children of what life was like in the Ghetto.
Also notable is Yad Mordechai in the South has a museum dedicated to the Warsaw Ghetto and revolt. One of their most significant displays is the cattle cars that you go in as the camera shine yellow stars upon you. One last off the beated track and perhaps the most religious oriented of memorials is the Martef Hashoah by Mt. Zion and Diaspora yeshiva with its’ virtual cemetery for the families that have dedicated stones for those that have died and have no burial.
I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. -Winston Churchill

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”― George Bernard Shaw

Q: How do pigs write top secret messages? A: With invisible oink!
Q: What is a pig's favorite color? A: Mahogany
. Q: What do you call a pig with no legs? A: A groundhog.
Yesterday a pig invited me to see his new home. Actually it was quite stylish.
Q: How do you take a sick pig to the hospital? A: In an hambulance!
Q: What do you call a pig that does karate? A: Porkchop!
Q: What do you get when you cross a pig and a cactus? A: a porky-pine
 Q: What do you call it when you cross a dinosaur and a pig? A: Jurassic pork!
Q: What's the difference between bird flu and swine flu? A: If you have bird flu, you need tweetment. If you have swine flu, you need oink-ment.
What do you call a pig that's not fun to be around? A boar.
Where do flying pigs go? Hogworts
Rabbi Landau has always been secretly sad that he's never been able to eat pork. So one day, he flies to a remote tropical Island and books into a hotel. “No one will find me here,” he said to himself. On the first evening, he goes to the best restaurant and orders the ‘roast pork special’. While he’s waiting, he hears someone call his name. Rabbi Landau looks up and sees one of his congregants walking towards his table. What unbelievably bad luck – the same time to visit the same restaurant on the same island! 
Just at that moment, the waiter puts on his table a whole roasted pig with an apple in its mouth and says, “Your special, sir.” Rabbi Landau looks up sheepishly at his congregant and says, "Would you believe it - you order an apple in this restaurant and look how they serve it!"
A Nazi walks into a bar with a duck under his arm. Yankel the barman says "sorry we don't serve pigs in here," The Nazi says "Its not a pig its a duck" The barman says "I am talking to the duck."
Moishe and Mindy were driving down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats and pigs, Moishe asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?"
"Yep," replied Mindy "the in-laws."
Answer is B – This one was really difficult for me as 1920’s Israeli music is really not my thing. Nor is it any of my tourists, so I’m not that worried. See the only thing I knew about Rachel Bluestien or Rachel the poetess as she is known is that she had some turid affairs if I remember correctly with some of Israels early Zionist leaders, she loved the Kinneret and she worked on the ladies farm there and is buried in the Kinneret cemetery; next to the lake that she composed the famous “Kinneret Sheli” song. So I would have guessed the Kinneret answer. However I was jut in Yavniel for Pesach and nothing there reminded me of anything to do with Rachel. So I in fact went with the correct answer Jerusalem and Tel Aviv where she spent the end of her life. She was also in Deganya. D was totally wrong though.            

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