"...These are the animals which you may eat..." (Lev. 11:2)

The Talmud (Berachot 6a) asks, "From where do we know that G‑d Himself puts on tefillin?"

R' Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt replies that we learn it from the question itself, since we understand that G‑d, spiritually speaking, fulfills all the mitzvot of the Torah. If so, then from where do we know that G‑d fulfills the mitzvah of eating according to the laws of kashrut?

The Midrash Tanchuma (Shemini 8) quotes the Psalms of King David: "My desire is to do Your will, and Your Torah is in my innards" (Psalms 40:9). Those familiar with the esoteric realms of the Torah know that eating is one of the verbs which describes G‑d's activity, i.e. "I ate my honey with the honeycombs, my milk with my wine. Eat friends! Drink and become intoxicated my beloved." (Songs 5:1) Further the Midrash quotes, "My beloved, my provider" (Songs 5:1). G‑d calls his nation not only "beloved" but also His "provider"! The Jewish People…produce all manner of spiritual delight and pleasure for G‑d....

The idea that the Jewish People provides for their Father in Heaven is found in the Zohar (Lev. 7b). By way of their mitzvot and chesed (good deeds) they produce all manner of spiritual delight and pleasure for G‑d. This greatly empowers G‑d, as it is written, "Give strength to the Almighty" (Psalms 68:35). When we do His will and accept His authority, when we are on the level to truly say, "My desire is to do Your will, and Your Torah is in my innards", we bring G‑d tremendous pleasure. This is what is meant that G‑d eats and is satisfied.

G‑d in return showers us with divine bounty, without regard to our worthiness to receive it. This is expressed in the verse "He opens up His hand and satisfies every living being with His favor." (Psalms 145:16). The image describes G‑d's generous hand scattering His goodness in plenty in all directions without regard to where it is goes. When G‑d's will and our will to serve Him are consonant, the result is a powerful unity.

But in order to serve G‑d we are required to do mitzvot and to learn Torah with ever increasing understanding. Eating non-kosher food impairs ones mind to grasp many basic Torah ideas and concepts. The Torah itself warns of the danger in eating non-kosher foods and commands us not to become defiled (in Hebrew, "nit'matem") by eating them. (Lev. 11:43) The Talmud (Yoma 39a) expounds, "Don't read it as "nit'matem", meaning "defiled", rather as "ni'tam'teym", meaning "to become stupid". Regarding one who eats non-kosher food, Rashi explains that his heart becomes stopped up and obstructed from retaining any wisdom.

Eating non-kosher food prevents one from learning and understanding the Torah! But kosher (and healthy) food opens the heart to a deeper understanding and the mind to a fuller receptivity of the will of G‑d and the light that is the Torah.

[Based on Ohev Yisrael, parashat Shemini; first published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Shemini 5760
from www.nishmas.org)