Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shemini -74 Internalizing negative traits through food

The end of the parasha portion of Shemini – Leviticus 11  deals with the dietary and kashrut laws. The eating of non-kosher animals impede any   spiritual growth and holiness. They   deaden and dull spiritual sensitivity to spirituality  , contaminate and defile the body and soul.

When dealing with the impure and non-kosher animals, birds and fish, the Torah uses the word –' sheketz'  implying that eating and internalizing these negative animal traits is morally repugnant and an abomination. The parasha-portion  ends with creatures =sheretz  that ' crawl' השורץ  and those that ' creep'  (on their bellies )on the ground ' הרומש על הארץ  .We are commanded not to eat from the crawlers – השורץ   ' do not make your souls repugnant –אל תשקצו את נפשותיהם .  A different language is used for the creepers , those that are  the most attached to the ground – do not contaminate or defile your souls – ולא תטמאו את נפשותיכם

The Kli Yakar explains that man and the animals are made from ' earthiness', a materialistic element and 'air' – the spiritual element. Man does not walk on all fours , but on 2 legs with his eyes focused ahead and above towards the spiritual world. The most base forms of life from the animal world – the creepers הרומש   are  attached  to the ground, so 'earthiness' dominates them and they contaminate and defile the soul. The crawlers – השורץ   have less ' earthiness ' than the creepers   and therefore they only make   the soul repugnant- sheketz שיקוץ . The body which houses the soul is much more exposed so it becomes contaminated and defiled .טומאה –

The ritual slaughter –שחיטה    serves to remove the earthiness. Birds have less  earthiness so they have a less stringent slaughter while fish that thrive in the spirituality of water just need to be gathered in.

The verses Leviticus 11:44-45    ויקרא 11:44-45                                                           
 (מד) כִּי אֲנִי יְדֹוָד אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וְהִתְקַדִּשְׁתֶּם וִהְיִיתֶם קְדשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אָנִי וְלֹא תְטַמְּאוּ אֶת נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם בְּכָל הַשֶּׁרֶץ הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל הָאָרֶץ:(מה) כִּי אֲנִי יְדֹוָד הַמַּעֲלֶה אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לִהְיֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים וִהְיִיתֶם קְדשִׁים כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אָנִי:                                                            
Says that we should sanctify ourselves and become holy because God is holy and therefore we should not defile our souls by eating creatures that creep on the ground. nd it is for this reason – not to defile themselves that God decided to elevate and 
uplift you from the land of Egypt ( to a higher spiritual place – the land of Israel.)

What is so special about not eating  ' bugs' that the Torah changes its language and uses I uplifted you from Egypt rather than taken you out of Egypt. It seems that the purpose of the Exodus was that we should check lettuce for bugs as part of our preparation for the Pesach seider night.

Rabbi David Lapin explains that 'bugs' which are attached to the ground with their faces – faced downwards to the ground are the antithesis of the spiritual man who despite suffering depravation and oppression always has a vision of who he is and a sense of mission , hope and faith.

The message for parents and teachers is to help kids have a vision of themselves , appreciate ' their possible selves'  so despite set-backs and failure they become more resilient . Kids that have a ' growth mindset ' and believe that success is dependent on effort rather than fixed an innate characteristics – a fixed mindset are more resilient. Kids also need to learn to have more self-compassion. Being hard on themselves   when they fail, leads to despair and giving up. Kids need to have cognitive skills such as problem solving skills and emotional regulation skills. But most important they should have a sense of autonomy , goals,  a passion for what they do , focused on process rather than achievement. But they need plenty of support from us and a sense of belonging.

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