Rabbi Greisman's Blog

Flying feathers

As a Rabbi, I always look for good Jewish stories and anecdotes. I use these as openers for speeches, metaphors in classes, or sometimes just to make a point. It’s difficult, though, to remember them all, and it happens that sometimes I remember just the beginning or the middle or end, and can't make any good use of it.

One such story that I only remember the middle of is about a father who took his son into the market place with a feather pillow in his hand. Standing in the village square, he proceeded to slit the pillow open allowing the feathers to fly all over the village. He then told his son that if he can collect every single feather and return them all to the pillow, something unique will happen. That's all I remember from the story. (If you know the story and can fill me in with all the details, I will be grateful.)

This week, as I was studying the weekly Torah portion, I found a use for this story even though I can only remember a part of it.

You see, this week's Torah portion deals with the laws of kosher: the animals, birds, fish and insects that are kosher and which aren't. The Torah clearly spells out the foods we may enjoy and which we should leave uneaten.

Contrary to a common misconception, the laws of kosher have nothing to do with health or hygiene. It is a spiritual commandment from G-d that tells us what is and isn't fit for consumption for a Jew.

When G-d created the world, sparks of G-d's divine light were scattered all over the world, becoming enclothed in worldly objects in various different places. Just like the feathers flying out of a pillow. We were commanded to go out and collect them. When we are done, we are told, the world will be transformed, the era of redemption will begin, and Moshiach will be here.

We 'gather' these sparks by utilizing the different material objects in the world for their intended purpose. The 'toolbox' we were given is called the Torah. The Torah tells us how to deal with the physical world in a way that will bring home the sparks. Divine providence puts us where we need to be in order to find those sparks and elevate them (the truth: Did you think, as a teenager, you will one day live in Arkansas?)

You can use a tractor to remove a boulder and discover the feather lying underneath, but would you try using that tractor to remove one from your silk dress?

The sparks in a sheep come home when they are eaten; the sparks in a horse, well, those can come home when you ride to shul on it (on a weekday,) or take your kids horseback riding; and while the sparks in kosher chicken are elevated when consumed, the sparks in a cheeseburger are elevated when a Jew looks at it and decides not to eat it.

So why some foods yes and some not? I don't know. G-d does. And that's good enough for me.

Gut Shabbos,


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