Kosher meat is defined in a number of ways: it must be the right kind of animal, slaughtered in the right way, and soaked and salted and rinsed to remove the blood. In addition, the rump of the animal cannot be eaten unless it goes through a delicate process called nikkur, or “deveining” of certain veins.

The reason for this last point is in this week’s Parshah.1 Jacob, ancestor of the Jewish people, was wrestling with a spiritual force, an angel. The rabbis tell us that this angel was the supernal power of Esau, and that the battle was to influence the outcome of the meeting between Jacob and his physical (and hostile) brother Esau, which was to take place the next day. Further, the struggle between Jacob and the angel of Esau related to the global struggle between good and evil through the generations, which will really be resolved only with the coming of the Messiah.

Jacob had such spiritual strength that the angel could not conquer him. So the angel touched his thigh, tearing a sinew out of place. The Torah writes that for this reason, Jews do not eat the sinew which is in the thigh.2

Since this is difficult to remove, generally the rump is not eaten at all. Through nikkur one can get some of the meat, but rump steak is out.

The special quality of Judaism is the way it connects something very spiritual with something very practical. What could be more spiritual than a great man encountering an angel, and the mystical struggle between good and evil? And what could be more practical than a kitchen in which a housewife cooks some cuts of meat and not others?

The Parshah joins these two aspects of life together. That is the beauty of Judaism, joining the physical and the spiritual, the kitchen and the Messiah.