A parking sign lets drivers know that the space is meant to be used for parking cars.
A storefront with toys on its entrance explains what we can expect to find in this store.
It's not the signs that make things into what they are. The signs simply describe what is already there. The signs, symbols, and labels all around us give information about the item or place to which they are attached.
The Torah portion of Shemini tells us about the signs of kosher animals. Kosher animals have two signs: they have split hooves and they chew their cud. Kosher fish have fins and scales.
It is not the signs that make the animal kosher. G‑d created these animals with a kosher nature. The signs merely tell us that they are kosher.
When we eat the meat of any animal, its nature becomes part of us, and it affects the way we think. Have you heard people say "you are what you eat?"
The meat of kosher animals is fit for a Jew to eat, because of its kosher nature. When we eat this food, it affects us in the proper way. So G‑d gave those animals signs to inform us that they are kosher.
Other animals were created with non-kosher natures. This means that their meat will not affect us in a good way. Of course, G‑d did not give them kosher signs.
Let us take a closer look at these signs. Kosher animals have split hooves, which means that their feet are divided.
We can divide our activities throughout the day into two lists. One list could include praying, studying, making blessing, giving charity, and helping others. The other list could include eating, playing, reading, talking, and getting dressed.
Though they are different types of activities, we should not separate these two lists from each other. Instead, they should be like two parts of a single hoof. Can you imagine a split hoof with each part looking as if it belonged to a different animal?
Just as we pray, study and do activities from List 1 like a Jew should, we must also do the activities in List 2 like a Jew should. The games we play, the books we read, and the clothes we wear should all belong to one kosher lifestyle.
This is not always easy. Because when we talk, read, or play, we are busy with what we are doing and we don't always think about how to do it in a holy way.
Here's where the second kosher sign - chewing the cud - teaches us an important lesson. Animals take time to chew their cud. They bring up their food over and over again. This teaches us to take time, to think things over, and plan to do things in a way which is kosher - fit for a Jew.