All Torah teachings apply on many different levels. The laws of kashrut detailed in the Book of Leviticus1 are no exception. First there is the practical dimension—the animals, birds and fish we may eat. But there is also the personal spiritual dimension of the kosher laws—a teaching to each individual about his or her path through life. The idea that some animals are kosher – which literally means "fit" and suitable – and others are not, tells us something about ourselves.

Within each of us there is a divine aspect, called the Divine Soul, which is focused on spirituality and altruistic goodness. The Divine Soul may express itself in our lives only rarely. How often are we involved with something spiritual? After all, the beautiful Shabbat atmosphere expressed at the Friday night table with candles burning is only once a week. More at the forefront of everyday desires, thoughts and behavior is the "Animal Soul."

Can we train our Animal Soul to behave in a kosher way?The Animal Soul drives us to be concerned with the material side of life, such as the quest for pleasure, and for a variety of forms of excitement. Our upbringing, society around us, and we ourselves train the Animal Soul to behave in a "civilized" way, just as many animals can be domesticated. The challenge remains, however, can we train our Animal Soul to behave in a kosher way?

Well, kosher animals are defined by having split hooves and chewing their cud.

Chassidic teachings translate these two concepts into personal qualities. The hooves represent our lowest point, the level at which we stand on the ground. Yet the hooves have to be "split." This means that even our lowest and most earthly level of experience has to be imbued with holiness. The gap between the holy and the material is the split in the hoof. Yet by following the teachings of the Torah we can combine both.

Let us consider food as an example. Of course we want our food to be well-prepared and tasty. Our gastronomic hooves (to mix a metaphor) are firmly on the ground. But is that all we want? No, of course not. And here is where we get the split. By going to the trouble to make sure the food accords with the laws of kashrut and other aspects of the Jewish ideal, we are creating a split in the hoof. Chassidic teachings declare that through the split there shines a spiritual radiance...

What about chewing the cud? Perhaps you can guess. Chewing the cud suggests thinking over something, ruminating... This is a distinguishing feature of spiritually healthy behavior. "The mind rules the heart," is an ancient Jewish saying2 which describes our power to use our minds for our greatest spiritual benefit. Through careful thought, rather than heedlessly following the prompting of our emotions, we reach a genuine sense of direction. Our mind helps to illuminate the best ways to feel and behave.

Thus, through having split hooves and chewing the cud, internally, we come to keep kosher not just in our kitchen but in our entire lives. Enjoy!3