About three years ago, we had my son Levi tested to see what was causing his eczema rashes. Gluten turned out to be the culprit. He’s been off of it since and, thank G‑d, it has made a tremendous difference. What I found incredible was not just the physical improvement, but the emotional one as well. He no longer seemed irritable and anxious.

Food is a pretty big deal in our lives. ItsFood is a pretty big deal in our lives effect on our physical and emotional health is tremendous. Hence the saying: “You are what you eat.” Just ask the person suffering from celiac or the nutritionist who helps a child cut back on his or her sugar intake and sees amazing results in behavior. Sports players have strict diet regimens to ensure maximum weight gain, strength and health.

So it doesn’t seem to be too far a stretch to say that food has a tremendous impact on our spiritual health as well.

The Torah itself alludes to this idea by including the laws of kashrut within the parashah of holiness, and linking the foods we eat to the type of relationship we enjoy with G‑d. Nachmanides famously commented how the traits of cruel unkosher animals transfer to the one who is eating them. And perhaps the most fascinating example of this idea in Jewish law, the halachic codifiers advise that a woman who must eat nonkosher for medical reasons should not nurse her child at that time, but rather, find another woman to nurse her baby. (Today, of course, we can use infant formula.)

Wow! That’s a pretty powerful idea! The kosher status of the food we eat has a tremendous impact on our spiritual sensitivity.

Now to explain: What does spiritual sensitivity mean?

We all have a holy soul, a Divine spark bequeathed to us by G‑d at birth. This soul is given to us regardless of anything we do right or wrong. It’s our birthright.

But the soul is in a physical body, living in a mundaneWhat does spiritual sensitivity mean? world, which by very definition masks the G‑dliness in creation. How fine-tuned the soul will be to its inherent connection to G‑d, how easily it will be able to sense and appreciate itself, the soul of others and the soul of the world will very much depend on its sensitivity to holiness.

There are many ways to nurture and develop that sensitivity. Kosher food is a biggie.

Before you dismiss spiritual sensitivity as a beautiful and lofty goal, but not one of the items you feel the need to work on in the immediate future, realize that it actually plays a greater role in our lives than we may recognize. Just think of some of the character traits you may be working to improve right now. Perhaps some of the areas you find yourself working on are:

  • Forgiveness
  • Judging others favorably
  • Seeing past your own struggles to help another in need
  • Appreciating the light, joy and purpose in a world that often feels so dark.

Guess what? With a newly calibrated spiritual antenna, these labor-intensive perspectives become so much easier to attain. It’s like donning a new pair of glasses—“soul lenses” that color the way you look at yourself, others and the world around you in a whole new light.

Ultimately, the mitzvah of kosher is under the category of mitzvot called chukim. These are mitzvot that we accept as Divine decrees given by G‑d despite their incomprehensibility to our finite human brains, as opposed to mitzvahs like charity or visiting the sick, which are understandable. (These are similar to when your husband picks up his socks from the floor simply because you asked him to do so, even though it is completely incomprehensible to him as to why it would be meaningful to you.) We trust that the Creator and Designer of life itself knows best. I’m pretty sure that the One who created food, created my body and created my soul knows how they are meant to be used. Just as I’d trust Steve Jobs to explain to me the best way to use all the functions that an Apple device can offer, I’d feel pretty confident that He knows what He’s talking about.

However, the impact that eating kosher food has on our spiritual health is not the sole reasonIt's not an all-or-nothing proposition behind the mitzvah. But it is a true benefit and has a very powerful effect, and a glimpse into its impact on our spiritual sensitivity helps us appreciate the mitzvah just a little more.

So having said all that, and because the words “going kosher” can evoke feelings of intimidation and a sense of being overwhelmed, here’s an article that explain how to break up the process into four steps: Can I Go Kosher at My Own Pace?

Remember: It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. It can be taken one baby step at a time, letting the process evolve.

Once you have done these steps, congratulations! Enjoy your new kosher kitchen.

And remember, too, that mistakes are bound to happen; this is an ongoing process. There’s no reason to be embarrassed or shy about it; call your local Chabad emissaries anytime with issues or questions as they arise.

I’d love to hear (in the comment section below) from those of you whose homes have been koshered over the past years why you bravely took the plunge. Please share what it was like for you.