Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parshas Sh'mini 5750

(Leviticus 9:1-11:47)

“You may not eat any creature that crawls on its belly[Rashi: worms]... for they are an abominable thing [Rashi: for it makes the soul filthy]” (Leviticus 11:42)

 It is the consumption of the non-Kosher animal that goes on the ground (Hebrew: she'retz) that is the most spiritually defiling of all. These animals by their strong dependence and connection with the earth put them and the spiritual properties they contain into the same spiritually polluting category as the snake. It was the snake that enticed Adam to sin. Adam's sin brought unhappiness, confusion, and a curse into everything in this world, and especially to the ground and anything associated with it. The verse says: "The ground [and anything associated with it] will be cursed because of you [Adam)" (Genesis 3:17). Rashi explains that this curse involves that the earth will produce spiritually cursed and impure things. This is why worms are forbidden to us, for they crawl on the spiritually cursed earth. The earth is the realm of spiritual curse and evil, which is the domain of the snake. The verse says: "Dust [of the earth] you [the snake] shall eat, all the days of your life" (Genesis 3:14). It is the snake that is the spiritual source and connection to all evil that exists in this world. The verse says: "Cursed are you [the snake] more than all beasts" (Genesis 3:14). This verse informs us that the spiritual essence that is contained in the snake and those that are in its domain are completely evil. There is a rule that anything that is completely evil can not be rectified. Because we are unable to bring spiritual rectification to the snake or any animal in its category, we must totally avoid eating such animals.

It was the snake that convinced man to separate himself from G-d. All those who have fallen away from G-d are considered to haven fallen into the domain of the snake. As we mentioned above, the domain of the snake is the filth of the earth. All those who have fallen into this situation are said to have been bitten by the snake. Those people who reside in the earth, the snake's domain are termed by the Torah as, "those who lie in the dust (Hebrew: shochnay afar)." This is the realm of the forces of evil.  A person who has fallen and has become attached to the negative spiritual properties of earth, becomes just like the earth. A person who is in this situation acquires the same spiritual heaviness that is found in the earth. Those people who have become trapped by earth, become weighed-down by every situation they encounter in their lives. Their entire mental outlook toward life weighs them down. Their thought patterns are a heavy burden to them, just as earth is the heaviest of the 4 basic elements. People who are trapped in by earth become very lazy when it comes to work that involves achieving spiritual fulfillment, happiness, and growth. They become weighed-down with confusion, worry, and despair over how to obtain and maintain all of their earthly ambitions. Such a person is trapped in the realm of evil, the earth. The more a person's ambition and goals are attached to the this earth, the further he is from the true happiness of G-d's light. Until each one of us is able to neutralize our attachment to the earth, we are all considered to be, each one on his own level of attachment, "those who lie in the dust."

Every Jew is considered in the eyes of G-d to be righteous. Each Jew is therefore expected by G-d to live up to and maintain G-d's standards of righteousness. G-d said to the holy prophet Isaiah: "And your people [each Jew) are all righteous" (Isaiah 60:21).  It is therefore the job of the spiritually advanced and especially the "Tzaddik Emes" (the leading saint of each generation) to provide the lower spiritual elements of this world, (and those who have fallen into the realm of the forces of evil) , with the life-giving nourishment derived from G-d's light. The verse says: It Awake and sing [with the joy of attachment to G-d] those that dwell in the dust [of spiritual defilement)" (Isaiah 26:19). Those who have fallen and have become trapped and attached to the forces of evil have tremendous difficulty in extracting themselves from their situation. How can they fulfill our verse?  Therefore, this verse informs us that it is the responsibility of the Tzaddik and the more spiritually advanced to do everything that is necessary to uplift and awaken all those who have fallen into the realm of the forces of evil. It is also the responsibility for those who have fallen, to make every attempt to seek out and attach themselves to those individuals who can help pull them out of their situation. The verse says: “[The spiritual strength of] Two are better than one" (Ecclesiastics 4:9).

The Tzaddik and the more spiritually advanced will be able to encourage those who lie in the dust. They will show them that G-d is still with them and is easily accessible to all. The verse sails: "The entire earth [even the spiritually defiled places] is filled with His [G-d's] glory" (Isaiah 6:3).   In addition, another verse says: "If a man should hide himself in secret places am I  not able to see him? says G-d. Do I not fill the heavens and the earth [even the defiled place,]?" (Jeremiah 23:24).

The survival of every animal is dependent on the earth. It is this attachment and dependency that makes every land animal forbidden to us for consumption in their original state. We are able to rectify and consume those animals whom the Torah has designated as permitted. Those animals who are less gluttonous, who chew their cud (food which is chewed for a second time after it is regurgitated from the stomach) and have split hoofs are more detached from the gross physicality of this earth. Although these kosher animals are attached to the earth and behave like animals, they have some sparks of good within them that can be rectified. The rectification involves connecting them to G-d and holiness before they can be eaten. This process involves ritual slaughter, the removal of all the forbidden fats, veins, and blood. This process also involves not eating the meat together with any dairy products and the recitation of a blessing before and after partaking of the animal. In this way G-d's light is injected into the kosher animal and by our eating the animal in the proper way, even this type of lowly animal is elevated and becomes attached to the holy.

Those people who have fallen into the filth of this world can be compared to the kosher animal. They still possess many redeeming good qualities, although they may have committed many sins and have lost much of their connection with G-d. It is the sparks of good that still remains within them that still connects them with G-d. Therefore, a Tzaddik can infuse them with the light of G-d. It is this light of G-d that can awaken and cause a person to eventually come back to the side of holiness. A person like this can also become kosher and become attached to G-d.

Those animals whom the Torah has defined as being non-kosher are completely attached to this earth and to spiritual pollution. Non-kosher food causes contamination to one's mind, heart, and soul. Non-kosher food is devoid of any connection with holiness and is therefore always forbidden to eat. The kosher process, mentioned in the previous paragraph, is not effective in sanctifying the non-kosher animals, who have absolutely no connection with holiness and they can never be eaten in a safe spiritual manner.

The non-kosher animals can be compared to the nation of Amalek, who without provocation, attacked the Jews upon their exodus from Egypt. It was Amalek's intense hatred for anything holy, that prompted them to attack the Jews in such a manner. This is one reason why we are commanded in the Torah to completely annihilate the nation of Amalek. For they are completely evil and have absolutely no desire to be attached to the holy. They can not be rectified, because of their intensely evil nature. To prevent their extremely evil influence from destroying the world, the Torah commands us to annihilate them. It was Haman, (a descendant of Amalek)), mentioned in the book of Esther, who attempted to wipe out all of the Jews without being provoked.

All fruit come from trees or other plants. Trees and plants are even more dependent on and attached to the defiled earth than the animals are. If this is the case, why are we permitted to eat fruit? Shouldn't fruit be prohibited to us even more so than the animals? Fruit possess another positive quality that is lacking in animals. All trees and vegetation are directly dependent on rain for their growth and survival. Water contains the spiritual properties of growth, productivity, and the knowledge of G-d. The verse says: "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). Although fruit and vegetation are so strongly dependent on the soil, they have another channel by which they receive
G-d's light which animals lack.

Theoretically, if a worm lived in a fruit never touching the ground, the worm is permitted to be eaten. Worms are permitted to be eaten in this situation, because they draw sparks of holiness to themselves while they remain types of in the detached fruit.  As long as worms remain in any picked fruit, they are able to receive G-d's light and are therefore permitted to be eaten in this situation. As long as worms remain in picked fruit, they are attached to the domain that is not connected to and is not dependent an the soil. The worms in this case receive their nourishment and are in an environment that is no longer attached to the ground. However, if the fruit the worms reside in is still attached to the ground, the worms are not allowed to be eaten. In this case the worms are considered to be residing in a domain that is dependent on the ground. In this case the worms are drawing their nourishment from the ground, even though it is done indirectly.

In a similar fashion, any worms that are found in a kosher animal after it has been ritually slaughtered are permitted to be eaten. In this situation the worms are nourished through the animal they reside in. The worms receive the sanctity of the light of G-d through the host animal. The kosher host animal received its light and sanctity from G-d through its being ritually slaughtered. Before ritual slaughter any worm found in a kosher animal is forbidden for consumption. The reason for this is that the animal the worms are deriving their nourishment from lacks the purifying effects of ritual slaughter. Therefore, if the host animal lacks spiritual rectification, so do the worms that derive their nourishment from it.

From the law concerning worms found in fruit and kosher animals, we can see that the only way to attach oneself to G-d is to be nourished by G-d's light. We also learn from these laws, that even if a person himself has fallen so low, that he has become so attached to this earth and has become like a worm, he should not despair! Just as the worm can draw to itself the light of G-d from its host (whether through a fruit or a kosher animal) and thus become kosher, similarly those who have become trapped in earth can become kosher and pure if they reach out for help from those who are more spiritually advanced. This rule not only applies to those who are far from G-d, but this rule applies to all of us, even to those who are a little closer to G-d. Who could dare to say that they do not need to grow closer to G-d? G-d is infinite, therefore all of us must always renew our efforts to perceive G-d on the next level. (Lekutai Halachot: Yorah Dayah: Hilchot Tolayim 2:1-5).

All food contains fragments of souls and holy sparks. Adam's sin and the sins that we have committed in our present and past lives caused many fragments and sparks from our very souls to become scattered throughout the world. Many of these holy sparks become embedded in the food that we eat. Therefore, when we have a desire and a liking to eat a certain food, it is because our soul senses that part of its very essence is embedded in the food that it desires to eat. By eating this food, one actually is filling the void or deficiency in his soul. If one makes a blessing on the food before and after he eats, he sanctifies these sparks that now become part of his soul. Reciting a blessing on one's food has a great influence on the spiritual and physical performance and health of one's body and soul.

There is a second reason why someone might desire to eat a particular food. This person is not missing any sparks from his own soul.  He eats a particular food in order to elevate the souls that are trapped in a particular food. By making a blessing on food, prior to eating it, he elevates the souls that are contained in that food. These souls now become absorbed and merged into his own soul. These newly acquired souls provides him with additional spiritual power and light to be able to come closer to G-d. This is the meaning of the following verse: "The righteous (Tzaddik) eats to satisfy his soul" (Proverbs 13:25).

The Rabbis designated special benedictions to be recited on fruits and vegetables. The reason for this is that fruits and vegetables contain more precious and holy souls than other types of food. Therefore, fruits and vegetables require a higher type of benediction than what is recited for standard food, which do not contain these higher holy souls.

The Rabbis said that priority should be given to eating the seven types of food that are particular to the land of Israel before eating other types of foods. The seven types are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. The reason for this is that the land of Israel is the spiritual source for everything holy. Therefore, when someone eats one of these fruits, they acquire high quality sparks that are very beneficial to everyone's soul.

Anyone who eats non-kosher foods or eats food without reciting the appropriate benediction, causes untold damage to their souls and to the entire universe. Eating forbidden food causes the fragments of one's soul to become enslaved and trapped in the forces of evil. This causes the soul and the body untold suffering. This even includes the people who eat kosher food before they have recited their morning prayers.

Adam damaged the entire world as the result of eating what was forbidden to him. The Jews in the book of Esther were almost all killed because of their eating forbidden food at the party of the Persian King Achasvairosh. The spiritual universe is all one interdependent unity.  If one person does something wrong he throws the entire whole out of balance. A person's soul is connected to the inner workings of the entire universe. The food we eat effects the soul more than anything else, therefore what de eat and how we eat is so important to the stability of the entire universe. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chiam: Hilchot Birchot HaPayroth 1).

The health of the body is dependent on the soul.  Once a very great doctor was unable to cure a very sick man. The Baal Shem Tov made soup for the man and when the man ate the soup, he was brought back to his full health. The doctor asked the Baal Shem, "How was it possible for you to heal this man? I know that the veins in the effected area were completely deteriorated and it was therefore impossible to save this man?" The Baal Shem answered the doctor, "You heal people on the physical level, I heal people on the spiritual level. There are 248 limbs in the human body that correspond to the 248 positive commandments of the Torah. There are 365 veins  in the body that correspond to the 365 negative commandments of the Torah. When a person sins with any part of his body, he causes the corresponding spiritual limb or vein to become damaged. When a person violates many of the 365 negative commandments, which correspond to the 365 veins in the body, it causes many veins to become damaged. This prevents the blood from circulating through the body. This puts the person in great danger. I spoke with the sick man's soul. I asked the soul to do repentance, which it did. This repentance healed the damaged veins on the spiritual level. Then I was able to completely heal the sick man on the physical level. (Shevachay Besht)

Concerning souls that are contained in food - The holy grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, Rav Baruch of Mezhbuzh distributed fish to all those people who were eating with him at his Sabbath Meal. After everyone finished eating their fish he told them the following true story. There was once a young and exceptionally brilliant scholar, who was a very G-d fearing man. His wife ran a small store, while he studied and prayed all day long in holiness and purity. All of his actions were sincerely for the sake of Heaven. The Satan was very jealous of this man's achievements. The Satan asked Heaven for permission to rest this man and his request was granted. The Satan caused the business to pick-up. There were now more customers coming to the store than his wife was able to handle an her own. His wife said to him, "I don't want to take you away from your holy devotions, however I need your help. I am no longer able to run the store on my own." He saw she was right and he decided to help her in the store for several hours a day. His business improved so much, that he was forced to make many business trips to far away places to purchase more types of merchandise. His business associations in these places were with very crude and low types of people. Their influence on him took their toll. At first he started to commit minor sins, and then he committed more serious sins. One day, while on a business trip, he passed through a small village. He heard that an entire Jewish family was imprisoned for not being able to pay their rent. He paid the landlord the entire sum and the family was released from prison. This good deed that he performed, caused him to think about what had become of him. He thought to himself, "I was very holy before I became so involved in business. Now I have fallen to the depths of sin. It is better for me to die than remain alive." He then promptly jumped in a river and drowned.

There was a big commotion in Heaven on how to judge this man. There were angels who pointed out that he was very holy before he got so involved in business. In addition, he saved an entire Jewish family and regretted his sinful ways on the last day of his life. There were other angels who pointed out that he committed such terrible sins in his business days and he ended up committing suicide. The Heavenly Court decided that this man should be reincarnated as a fish. When a Jew would come to eat him at his Sabbath Meal, his soul would become completely rectified.

Rabbi Baruch of Mezhbuzh told his guests that the very fish that they had just eaten at his Sabbath Table was the reincarnation of the man in the story. Rabbi Baruch then gathered a minyan of ten Torah Scholars to study Mishna all night long for this man, in order to further elevate his soul. (Niflaot HaTzadikim)

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