I grew up in a Kosher home, and on Passover, my mother sent me to school with buttered matzah instead of bread. My non-Jewish friends were jealous.
For me, keeping Kosher was never a burden; it was a way of life. I accepted this without realizing the profound spiritual message contained in Kosher.
I have come to appreciate this commandment in ways I never anticipated. Keeping kosher provides lessons about self-control, responsibility, and the recognition that the world is not ours to do with as we please.
God permits us to use the material world to make the world a better place. We are “guardians of the universe” and must ensure that we do not destroy our natural resources.
Keeping kosher is a constant reminder that, “the earth is the LORD's, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Meditating on this principle is humbling and helps us to recognize the spiritual meaning of life.
If this week’s Torah portion of Matot-Massei (Numbers 30:2–36:13), we are instructed in a method of purifying (koshering) vessels that become contaminated.
For example, if a pot was placed on a fire with non-kosher food inadvertently in it, the pot needs to be purged with fire to purify it. As it says, “everything that comes into fire, you will pass through fire, and it will be purified” (Number 30:23).
The general principle is that “the way something became impure is the same way we purify it.”
The same principle applies in our pursuit of a spiritually meaningful life.
If someone was attracted to another religion through an emotional and warm embrace, which is usually the case, we need to correct this with this same approach. We can help them return to Judaism by presenting Judaism in a warm, spiritual, and friendly manner.
This week’s portion also speaks about Cities of Refuge, where an unintentional murderer can find protection from family members seeking revenge. So too, our homes must be warm and open places of refuge for people who are trying to reconnect to Judaism.
May this Shabbat bring the warmth of Jewish spirituality into your lives.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz