Parshat Shemini
Rabbi Jeremy Litton

In this week’s Torah portion Parshat Shemini, G‑d gives the Commandment of Kosher, explaining how to distinguish between kosher and non-kosher animals, fish, and birds.

One of the only times in the collective writings of Sigmund Freud that brings up any Biblical reference is in regards to Kosher. In 1885, Sigmund Freud married a woman named Martha Bernays who was the granddaughter of Chakam (Chief Rabbi) Isaac Bernays of Hamburg. Sigmund Freud traveled to Hamburg to learn of his heritage and asked a man there to relay some of the teachings of Rabbi Bernays.  The man told Sigmund Freud what a profound scholar Rabbi Bernays was and of his ability to connect to any kind of person, by just having a rational dialogue, even about things that were seemingly void of reason. When Sigmund Freud asked for an example, the man said . . . For instance, the Jewish Laws of Kosher (Dietary Laws), Rabbi Bernays explained that a major focus in Judaism is for man to separate himself from his animalistic state in order to elevate himself.  Therefore, man must adhere to a universal standard and not be permitted to behave like an animal nor eat anything that he wishes. Why specific animals were kosher and not kosher is a separate question, he said. However, the concept is definitely logical.

As we enter into Shabbat this week, let us try to focus in on the notion that every mitzvah we do is to elevate ourselves to a higher level than animals, and sometimes even above natural human inclinations. By preforming these mitzvot, we are able to make ourselves kadosh, holy and separate. As we separate Shabbat from the rest of the week, may we all bask in that holiness.

Shabbat Shalom.