In the Weeds

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Sometimes reading the Parsha feels like doing homework, especially when it seems to get bogged down in details. Rav Samson Rephael Hirsch thought that the seemingly insignificant details are actually profound ideas if we just knew how to look at them. This module presents one amazing idea from Rav Hirsch which emerges from the granular evidence of the Parsha.

Dietary laws among the hardest to understand commandments in the Torah. Our parsha lists a series of animals, some of which may be consumed, based on two main qualities: split hooves and if the animal chews its cud. Rav Hirsch attempts to explain these laws as follows.

 

In general, our relationship to food should be that we need it to survive. Too often we are subservient to food when our food should be subservient to us. To help reinforce this idea, the Torah has a preference towards inert and inactive food. All plants are permitted, and the animals that are allowed have characteristics that make it more likely for them to be docile and inactive animals. An animal that chews its cud has a slow metabolism and needs to spend most of its day eating. Split hooves cannot be effectively used for fighting and are better equipped for standing for long periods of time. 

 

Through these dietary laws, Rav Hirsch explains, we can elevate the perfunctory act of eating into an act of serving God.