In this week's Torah portion, Shemini, there is a total contrast between the topics addressed at the beginning to that of the end. It starts off so spiritually. Moses inaugurates the Tabernacle and hands the reins to Aaron and the priests. There are days of celebrating and rejoicing. Spirituality reigns supreme and a new era of goodness and G‑dliness is ushered into the world.

Couldn't we stick to the high road? Let's talk about truth and justice...The tail end of the portion is so pedestrian in contrast. In excruciating detail, G‑d lists the animals that a Jew may not eat. There are signs given for permitted land animals and fish, and a list of birds that can never appear on our menus. The Torah describes the process of contracting various ritual impurities and finishes off with an admonition to keep ourselves pure and holy.

I've never understood it. Is this the culmination of our becoming a nation? That is what G‑d demands of us? Instead of sitting and basking in the presence of G‑d or developing an appreciation for spirituality, we're expected to leaf our way through a description of scavenging beasts. Couldn't we stick to the high road? Let's talk about truth, justice and the rabbinical way, rather than take the low road of filth, avoidance and disagreeability.

The same degeneration of purpose appears in the Yom Kippur prayers. We start off the day so puritanical and determined. We thrill to descriptions of G‑d's mercy and wonders. We resolve to remain perfect and committed to our mission and religion. However, as the sun sets, we pull out a Torah scroll and, instead of all the high-minded prayers of the morning, we recite a list of forbidden sexual encounters and perversities. It seems so out of context with the moment. Why ruin the mood with depictions of unpleasantness when we could appeal to our better feelings with stirring calls to idealism and religiosity?

For better or for worse, this is the struggle of humanity. It is never enough to rely on one's natural abilities or innate connection with the divine. Whether we like it or not, life is a daily struggle against the profane and the immoral. It is as much an act of courage to refuse to partake of forbidden flesh or a perverse pleasure as it is to shelter in the tent of Torah, communing with G‑d.

For better or for worse, this is the struggle of humanityNo one is immune from temptation. Dressed all in white on Yom Kippur, we must still hold true to our morals and determine to remain connected to G‑d.

It is not easy. We can sympathize and understand. Even those with the greatest spiritual gifts and accomplishments struggle to remain perfect at all times and under all circumstances. There is nothing unnatural about sin. No one is immune from temptation. The choices we make directly impact on our future and those whom we love and respect. All we can do is hope and pray to somehow find the courage and conviction to remain at all times true to our G‑d and beliefs.