A universal visceral reaction upon first hearing about the Coronavirus was, “Of course it came from China; they eat dogs, snakes and bat soup.” One didn’t have to be religious or Jewish to get nauseated at seeing animals that we call pets hanging from meat hooks or imagining bats doing laps in our broth. Our brainless stomachs and rudimentary retch reflexes just know some things just shouldn’t be eaten. With subtle feelings of superiority we question, “What kind of person eats things like that?” Certainly there will be consequences. All of our own health crazes and the billions society spends on them strongly indicate that we fundamentally believe that we are what we eat, that healthy items help make us healthy and that bat broth breeds deadly viruses. How coincidental, it turns out that G-d believes the same thing. We may deem foods as “gross”; G-d deems some foods as unclean and an abomination. I tend to trust Him more than the Chinese, W.H.O., or the FDA as to what is consumable, after all He did create the world and everything in it. I certainly vouch for His very famous “diet book” that ensures that His people will be not merely healthy, but also HOLY; a diet that has endured through the millennia. “For I am the Lord Who has brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus, you shall be holy, because I am holy.” (11:45)
The sages teach that the food we eat affects much more than our bodies. By eating not kosher we sully our souls, distance ourselves from the Almighty and bring on sicknesses. The kabbalists teach that our soul is in our blood and seeing that food feeds our blood it affects our souls as well. The more we learn the depths of our commandments, the more we realize that God is the best diet guru, even if He doesn’t have an infomercial.
The Jewish people are allowed to eat only ten animals, none of which hunt for prey. They are docile and peaceful. Our sages have taught that eating animals that lust for blood and go for the kill affects our characters and personalities. If eating an energy bar gives you energy, then how hard is it to believe that eating violent and aggressive animals can transform your energy as well making it ever harder to keep the Torah's commandments, all meant to elevate our animal soul?
The Torah admonishes that not only eating certain foods renders us impure but even touching the carcass of some has an effect on us and contaminates us. But there is no hand sanitizer or alcohol percentage to counter the effects on our soul. Interesting how we are afraid to shake hands, touch doors knobs, or come within 6 feet of each other because we fear to be physically contaminated, but the Torah, which predates our modern-day germaphobia and virus avoidance protocols, takes this concern even deeper. What we touch, who we touch and how we touch also results in spiritual contamination.
People dismissively ask if God really cares what they eat for lunch? And the answer is a resounding thunderous, YES. So much so that Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. The first sin revolved around eating and brought about the fall of mankind. It is said of Adam that he was the most gorgeous man that ever lived, but by eating what he should not have, his stature and beauty were diminished. Simply because God said so, food affects us profoundly. When we sin with food, and in general, our inner light is diminished and it shows in the spiritual realm as well as on the earthly plains.
Eating kosher doesn’t just mean avoiding pig and its non-kosher cohorts, it also means not eating “like” a pig. Be a mensch in all your appetites. Have restraint and limitations. Don’t listen to the slithering snake offering you the “forbidden flavors.” One day we will have to give an accounting for our vast intake, not just as regards our fitness but before the Eternal Witness who gave us His menu along with the commandment that we not contaminate ourselves. The next time you pick up your spoon, pause for a moment and know that G-d is looking at you in the same bewildered and repulsed manner that we look at those who shop at wet markets and eat bat soup: “Why would they eat that? It’s killing them on so many levels.” The Master Chef of the universe, the King of nutritionists specifically commanded his children, to “distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten.” (Vayikra 11:47). Stop being impressed and lured by the fancy French names on killer menus. They are euphemisms for physical and spiritual “poison.” “Do not defile yourselves with them, that you should become unclean through them” thus said the Lord.