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Home » Food, Questions of Ethics, Shmini

Hypocrisy is not Kosher

Submitted by on March 31, 2013 – 5:45 amNo Comment | 4,047 views

The Positive First

Every Jewish child will tell you that kosher meat comes from a kosher animal. Most Jewish children will know that a kosher animal is one that has cloven hooves and chews its cud. Some might even know that there are four animals listed in the Torah that either chew their cud or have cloven hooves, but don’t have both. Namely, the camel, hyrax and mare chew their cud, but don’t have cloven hooves, the pig has cloven hooves, but doesn’t chew its cud.

Very few Jewish children will have noticed the anomaly in the Torah’s presentation of these animals. Let me quote the verses and see if you, dear reader, notice it. “But these you shall not eat… the camel, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof… And the hyrax, because it brings up its cud, but will not have a [completely] cloven hoof… And the hare, because it brings up its cud, but does not have a [completely] cloven hoof… And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you.”[1]

Have you noticed it? In case you haven’t allow me to spell it out. These animals are forbidden because they lack a kosher sign, not because they have one, thus the Torah should have presented the non-kosher sign first, “the camel, because it does not have a cloven hoof, though it brings up its cud.” Instead the kosher sign that it does have, is cited first, creating the impression that it might be kosher, until that impression is debunked with the lack of the other sign.

This anomaly teaches us an important lesson about the psychology of the dietary laws. The Torah stipulates that by observing the kosher dietary laws we remain pure. By contrast, eating non kosher food contaminates the soul. Jewish theologians have proposed that beyond the nutrients that we absorb when we eat, we absorb the traits and emotional dispositions of the food we ingest. Most of the animals precluded by the kosher laws are animals of prey. By avoiding them we guard against adopting their aggressive tendencies.

The four animals listed above are not animals of prey, yet they aren’t kosher. Furthermore, they are the only non kosher animals the Torah lists by name, which implies that their status is even more repugnant than the other non kosher animals. What is the negative trait we seek to avoid in these four animals?

In a word, it is hypocrisy. hypocrisy - innerstreamThey have a kosher sign, but are in fact not kosher. Animals that have no kosher signs are easy to identify and avoid. These four animals are dangerous precisely because they appear to be Kosher. It is the hypocrisy of their bodily signs that renders them un-kosher because hypocrisy is not kosher.

The Torah describes their kosher signs first precisely because it is the kosher sign that makes them so repugnant. Had they lacked both kosher signs they would not have merited special mention in the Torah. It is their kosher sign that renders them not only repugnant, but dangerous in the extreme for they can be easily confused with Kosher.[2]

Blatant Hypocrisy

For better or for worse, Jewish tradition has attached a uniquely repugnant label to the pig. Even Jews that are not especially observant endeavor to avoid pork where possible. The pig is not more treif than others, but it has been so castigated by Jewish tradition.

Our sages compared Esau to a pig and said, just as a pig offers its cloven hooves [to convey falsely its kosher status] so did Esau create the impression of propriety even as he sinned.[3] In this sense the pig is even guiltier than the other three. The camel hyrax and hare’s kosher signs are internal and barely visible, but the pig’s kosher sign is external and highly visible.[4] Hypocrisy is defined as the external appearance of virtue. The pig’s external appearance is virtuous, it shows itself to be kosher; the others conceal their kosher sign and create the appearance of non-Kashrut. They are inconsistent, but not hypocritical. The pig’s hypocrisy is blatant. It is universally castigated by among Jews for because blatant hypocrisy is blatantly not kosher. The other three appear in the context of the pig because inconsistency can easily lead to hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is Not Kosher

The Torah enjoins us not to hate our brother in our heart.[5] If we have something against him we ought to inform him and hash it out. Smiling to his face, while grimacing behind his back is hypocritical and hypocrisy is not kosher. In this vein the Midrash[6] compared the four animals to the four nations that oppressed the Jews, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. In all four cases these nations endeavored to appear moralistic on the outside, but had no compunctions about killing and destroying our people.

Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon hosted Daniel and treated him with respect, he even sang elaborate odes to G-d, but he then slaughtered G-d’s prophets and destroyed G-d’s home. Ahashverosh of Persia appointed Mordechai his royal advisor, but permitted Haman to annihilate the Jews. The same was true of Greece and Babylon. They presented a moralistic face to the outside, but slaughtered with impunity when no one was looking. Such hypocrisy is not kosher; it is morally repugnant and more dangerous than an overt enemy. The overt enemy faces you squarely and you know to be on alert, the sly enemy presents a friendly face and attacks your flank where you are most vulnerable.

The United States of America presents itself as Israel’s staunch ally, but has no compunctions about foisting policies on Israel that favor Israel’s enemies. The Arabs have never professed love for Israel and though it is dangerous, Israel knows to beware of them. The US presents a friendly face, but on occasion acts with impunity to force Israel into uncomfortable and even insecure positions. That is an example of hypocrisy and hypocrisy is not kosher.

Finally I turn to our own community and speak of hypocrisy within. There are many not yet observant Jews that attend Synagogue on Shabbat, but drive rather than walk. They keep kosher at home, but not when they eat out. There is some hypocrisy in this to be sure, but there is also a strong degree of honesty. They realize and accept that they are in violation of Torah, but argue that they are doing all they can at the moment and they are right. Spiritual and religious growth should come slowly with baby steps rather than be rushed with grandiose, but overwhelming steps.

It is when Jews pretend to change the Torah to suit their interests that we are faced with true un-kosher hypocrisy. To drive to Synagogue and then argue that such driving is permissible, to officiate at same sex marriages and claim that such marriages are sanctioned, to abandon the ritual of family purity and claim that such rituals are null in the contemporary age is not only hypocritical, but dangerous. Such assertions create the impression that an unchanging G-d has changed the Torah; they claim to speak for G-d, but speak against G-d. They are responsible for generations of Jews, raised with the false impression that Judaism condones such practice. Such hypocrisy does not preserve Judaism; it dilutes and threatens its very existence.

There is a reason the four animals are mentioned directly in the Torah. Hypocrisy must be avoided at all costs. Hypocrisy is dangerous. Hypocrisy is not kosher.


[1] Leviticus 11:4-7. This essay is culled from Kli Yakar ad loc.

[2] From a pure halachic standpoint these four animals are no more treif than any other, it is from a psychological and moral perspective that we object to them most.

[3] Bereishit Rabbah 64:1.

[4] This is not to say that the pig has a repugnant character, only that its physical anatomy implies hypocrisy.

[5] Leviticus 19:17.

[6] Vayikra Rabbah 13a.

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