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    Body & soul – Sh’mini

    This sidra is one of the major sources of the Jewish food laws, kashrut, setting out what we should eat and what we should not eat.

    The Torah text constantly uses the word “holy”, which indicates that the food laws are part of the overall requirement of living a holy life.

    There are claims by the critics that the original reason for these laws has to do with health – i.e. “Keep kosher and be healthy”. The Torah itself speaks of spiritual and not bodily health, though bodily health is not unimportant. It says, “Sanctify yourselves and be holy” (Lev. 11:44).

    Maimonides makes a distinction between the impetus of kashrut (why we choose to keep kosher) and its effect (what keeping kosher does for us). He says that abstaining from prohibited foods helps us to be holy. In this way the body and soul are intertwined (Guide for the Perplexed 3:33).

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