Parshas Shmini.


The laws of permitted and forbidden species of animals.


1. Of all the mammals the Torah permits us to eat those that have a split hoof and chew their cud. Obviously this law has many reasons. According to the simple meaning, the kosher species possess a very important quality – being satisfied with what they have. The ruminating animals are constantly chewing over the same food. The Torah mentions one animal that has split hoofs and does not chew its cud – the swine, and three animals that chew their cud but do not have a split hoof. Interestingly, even after the discovery of America and Australia, no contradictions to the Torah’s rule were found. Another interesting point is that our sages compare the four animals with one kosher sign to the four nations that ruled over the world and over the Jewish people. The first three nations - the Babylon, the Persia and the Greece – correspond to the three animals that have their kosher sign on the inside. They had dominion over us when our nation was also sinful on outside but good inside. Their dominion was limited to a foretold period of time. The fourth nation – Roman Empire – is compared to the pig. This animal has its kosher sign outside, just as our people were good only on the outside at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple. Their sins were hidden and so too the end of the exile is unknown and depends on our Teshuvah - return to the Creator.


2. Regarding the birds, the Torah enumerates only 24 species that are not kosher. However, each of the species can include many different varieties of birds. The Talmud tells us four signs to be able to distinguish the kosher birds from the non-kosher. The non-kosher birds are generally predators eating meat or fish, while the kosher birds have a digestive system that is best equipped for seeds and grain. In practice we may only eat those birds that are known by tradition to be kosher. They include chicken, goose and turkey.


3. Of all the fish and sea animals, the Torah allows eating those that have fins and scales. Interestingly, the Talmud mentions that all those fish that possess scales, have fins. Since the times of the Talmud, hundreds of thousands of types of fish were discovered and none are found to contradict this principle!


4. The Torah forbids eating any warms and insects. For this reason, we need to check fruits, vegetables, grain, flour and fish to make sure they don’t contain any worms. There are special catalogs that describe the methods of checking for each particular food. One can also buy pre-checked fruits and vegetables with rabbinical Hashgacha. Similarly, the water in certain cities including New York needs to be filtered since it contains bugs.


5. Any product that is made from unclean species is forbidden. Thus, caviar can be eaten only from the kosher fish. The eggs have to be from a kosher bird, the milk – from a kosher cow, goat or sheep etc.