The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Deuteronomy 14:8
The Torah portion for this week is Re'eh, which means "see," from Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11-55:5.
I once saw an image that depicted a nice-looking pig. There was a thought bubble coming from his head with the words, "I wish everyone were Jewish!" For some reason, pig, more than any other non-kosher animal, has become the icon of non-kosher, and therefore, prohibited foods for Jews. It's ironic, too, because there are two requirements that deem an animal kosher: one is split hooves, the other is that the animal chews its cud. The pig, unlike many other non-kosher animals, has one of those signs split hooves.
This week's reading specifies that pig is unkosher. We read, "The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud." Yet, in the original Hebrew, the words slightly differ, catching our attention. Literally translated the verse reads: "The pig is also unclean because it has a divided hoof but does not chew its cud."
What is the significance of this nuance?
In Genesis 26:34, we read: "When Esau was forty years old, he married . . ." The Jewish sages explain that Esau wanted to show that he was just like his father Isaac, so just as Isaac didn't marry until the age of 40, neither did Esau. But the sages aren't fooled, and they make this peculiar statement: "The swine betrays the claim of Esau." When the swine is at rest, it hides its mouth between its front feet and sticks out its hooves as if to say, "Hey, I'm kosher - don't you see?" But we know better; despite the outward display, the swine is still unkosher because it does not chew its cud.
Similarly, Esau was all about looking righteous. He married at 40 to display his righteousness, but tradition teaches that once at home, Esau mistreated every woman he married. This kind of deceptiveness is more dangerous outright immorality.
The pig is deemed non-kosher more because of its deceptive split hooves than because it does not chew its cud. The lesson God is teaching us here is that hypocrites are completely unacceptable.
Whether you keep the laws of kosher or not, the lesson is relevant. We need to be people of integrity. We have to behave behind closed doors the way we would act if we were in the spotlight. One cannot be involved in social welfare projects, but be abusive at home. One cannot give charity and amass wealth through unethical means. A person who is truly kind, honest, and generous inside and out is a person that God truly desires.
Let's be as authentic as possible, and match our hearts to our actions so we are the same inside and out.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President