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Diet Affects Mind, Not Just Body
by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
The source of the Mitzva of Kashrus in the Torah is found in Parshas Shemini (Leviticus, Chapter 11). The Mitzvah includes, but is not limited to, eating only Kosher products and preparing all food in a Kosher way, i.e. meat must be slaughtered and salted according to Halacha., and preparing food in Kosher utensils. (For details on the observance of kashrus, visit

It is interesting to point out that the Chassidic masters would always tell their disciples, "Just because it is Kosher, does not mean that you must eat it!". One must not indulge in physical, wordly temptations, but rather he ought to eat with the intention of having energy to serve Hashem.

The Rebbe initiated "Mivtza Kashrus" on 16 Tammuz 1975. The Rebbe explained (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 13 pg.260) that in addition to fulfiling a Mitzva, a Jew who keeps a Kosher diet gains an extra sensitivity towards spirituality. The same way that a person who eats healthy food will live and think healthfully, the same is true for a Jew in regard to keeping Kosher.

The Kosher signs of an animal are split hooves and the chewing of its cud. The Rebbe explains (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 1 pg. 230) that in addition to these being the signs of a Kosher animal, they are lessons for us in how we should live kosher lives. We must plan and review all our actions before we do them, which is similar to the repetitive chewing of cud. Secondly, we must not be over-involved in our physical pursuits, symbolized by our "hooves". This is demonstrated by the hooves, that walk on the earth, but are split.

The segulos of the Mitzvah of keeping kosher are clear to us.

Firstly, kashrus reveals that Hashem loves us as a nation, as Hashem says (Devarim 14:2), "For you are a holy people to the Lrd, your G-d, and the L-rd has chosen you to be a treasured people for Him, out of all the nations that are upon the earth."

This is explained in Rashi on a verse in Parshas Shemini. Rashi tells a parable: to what may this thing be compared? To a physician who went to visit two patients. He saw that one of them was in danger and said to the members of his household: "Give him whatever he asks for." He saw that the other patient was destined to live, and said to his family, "He may eat such-and-such food, but he may not eat such-and-such food." The family members said to the physician in suprise: "What is this? To one patient you say: 'He may eat any food he asks for,' and to the other you said: 'You may not eat such-and-such’!" The physician explained to them, "To the one destined to live I instructed him what he may and may not eat. But regarding the one destined to die, I told his family to give him whatever he asks for, for he will not live in any case." The explanation of the parable is as follows. This is parallel to the words of Hashem, who allowed idol-worshipers to eat swarming and creeping things, but as for the Jewish nation, who are destined to live an life eternal, He said to them: "You shall be holy for I am holy; do not make your souls abhorrent."

A second segulah for the fulfillment of Mitzvas Kashrus is that it makes a Jew refined and more sensitive to Hashem and to spirituality in general.

The Abarbanel writes that since the Torah uses the term tamei (spiritual impurity) in its description of eating non-kosher foods, consuming these foods causes spiritual defilement to one’s soul. Kabbalistically, this concept can be explained by the Arizal’s principle that every physical object owes its existence to holy sparks (nitzotzos ha’kedoshos) that are buried within it. When a man eats, his body extracts the vitamins and minerals in the food. However, it is not these nutrients that keep him alive, because if a person’s soul would leave him, he would be no more animate than rocks or sand. The human soul extracts the holy sparks from the food, and it is these sparks that maintain life by nourishing the soul. Non-kosher foods contain impure sparks that defile the soul when the body consumes those foods.

The effects of this defilement are clearly stated by Chazal and the Torah commentaries. When the Torah writes that a person who eats non-kosher foods will bring spiritual impurity upon himself, it states “ונטמתם בם", which is read “ve’nitmaisem.” However, since this word is missing an alef, Chazal say that it can also be read “ve’nitamtem,” literally, to cause an obstruction. Chazal explain that this obstruction refers to a spiritual obstruction of the heart (timtum haleiv), which hinders a person from comprehending the wisdom of the Torah (Mesechta Yoma 39a, Rashi ad. loc.).

Additionally, the Mesilas Yesharim writes that eating non-kosher foods spiritually defiles a person’s soul more than any other aveira because these foods become part of his own flesh (ch. 11).

A third segulah is that kosher food leads a person to Teshuva, since eating kosher food brings holiness to a person, giving him the desire to come closer to Hashem (Rambam, end of Hilchos Maachalos Asuros; Or Hachayim, Vayikra 18:2).

Tosafos writes that the Roman emperor Antoninus, who studied Torah secretly with Rebbi Yehuda Hanasi, eventually converted to Judiasm because he was nursed by Rebbi’s mother when he was an infant (Mesechta Avoda Zarah, 10b, s.v. Amar; cf Bedikas Mazon Kehalacha by Rav Moshe Vaye, vol. I p.32 fn. #3 for similar examples).

We are witnessing in recent times an unprecedented amount of ba’alei teshuva. Since there is such an abundance of kosher food available in many supermarkets, this phenomenon could be attributed to the spiritual influence of kosher food that these people probably ate before becoming religious. The holiness acquired from this food paved the way for the search for their roots.

The following is as list of details regarding the the Mivtza of kashrus. The main goal of this campaign is to make people aware of the concept of Kosher. For example, to accomplish this, many Shluchim arrange "Kosher-week" tables or booths in their local supermarket. On a more advanced level, this mivtza involves encouraging Jewish people to keep a Kosher Kitchen. And then, on an even subtler level, kashrus does not only include proper food, but also includes exposure of only Jewish, "Kosher" content to one’s children. The Rebbe encouraged that little children should not wear garments or be exposed to pictures that have non-kosher animals on them.

From a Yiddishe perspective, it follows that the same way we must be careful with the food that enters our mouths, we must be careful with words that leave our mouth. Here is a telling story that beautifully illustrates this point:

The “Yehudi HaKadosh" once told his Chossid, Reb Simcha Bunim of P'shischa, to set out for a trip. Although the Rebbe didn’t tell him where to go, Reb Simcha Bunim was sure that there was a reason behind the strange request. After hours of traveling with fellow Chassidim, Reb Simcha Bunim stopped the wagon at an inn to feed the group. They ordered a dairy meal, for they were concerned of the Kashrut of the unknown owner. “Sorry, but all I offer is meat meals.” The Chassidim asked a million and one questions about the standard of Kashrut of the meat. Suddenly, a voice came from a man behind the stove: “Chassidim, chassidim, why do you ask so many questions? Why are you so careful what goes into your mouths? You ask every detail to know whether or not it’s permitted to eat the food. Yet, when it comes to the words that come out of your mouths, do you stop to think if it’s permitted?” Reb Simcha Bunim overheard the whole incident and realized the purpose of the Rebbe in sending them on the mysterious journey. He gathered up the Chassidim and returned to the “Yehudi HaKadosh” with a very valuable lesson indeed.

The mitzvah of kashrus also contains an element of Moshiach in it. Chazal (Midrash Vayikrah 13:3) teach: "A person who is careful not to eat non-kosher food will merit to participate in the great banquet that will be held in the time of Mashiach. There, he will enjoy eating from the Livyasan fish and the Shor Ha’bor (wild ox). “

The midrash also tells us that "In the times of Moshiach, Hashem will announce that all those who kept Kosher should come and receive their due reward." (Midrash, Parshas Shemini).

In addition to the above rewards that will surely come to us when Moshiach arrives for having kept this mitvah, there is a deeper connection. The goal of creation, which will be revealed in the time of Moshiach, is that "Hashem wanted a dwelling place in this physical world". Hashem desires that the physical world should be in-tune with and express spirituality. It is well known that regarding the era of Moshiach, the Torah says (Isaiah 40:5) "And the flesh will see that the word of Hashem is spoken". This is accomplished when we make our physical bodies vessels for spirituality. As "we are what we eat", by keeping Hashem's Kosher laws our entire bodies, which receive nourishment and grow from the food we eat, become spiritual. This prepares us for the time of Moshiach.


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