Our Inner Integrity Matters

Yael Eckstein  |  March 23, 2022

Elderly Jewish woman kissing Yael Eckstein on the cheek.

And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. — Leviticus 11:7

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means “eighth,” from Leviticus 9:1–11:47.

As the President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, the largest philanthropic organization in Israel, I am in a very public position, and I can be easily scrutinized and criticized. I address sensitive topics, but I have to speak the truth. Yes, I need to choose my words wisely and have sensitivity — but I need to say what God wants me to say. 

When I consider what I will say or not say, I cannot afford to ask, “What will people think of me?” Instead, I need to always ask myself, “What will God think of me?’ 

Sometimes, I’m not sure how people will react to what I say, but if God wants me to say something, I say it anyway and let the chips fall where they may. And here’s the thing — the more I am in line with God, the less I am criticized. 

When the world recognizes that you aren’t trying to please people, but to please God, they are less likely to attack you — because they realize that they don’t have any power over you.

Our Inner Integrity

In this week’s Torah portion, there is a hint at this important lesson — that our inner integrity matters to God and is far more important than outward displays designed to please other people. And interestingly enough, it can be found in the biblical dietary laws that Jews have followed for centuries.

In Leviticus 11, we begin reading about the signs of kosher and non-kosher animals — animals that are considered clean and appropriate to eat, and those that are considered unclean. One of the distinctions between clean and unclean food is that kosher animals must chew their cuds (an internal sign) and have split hooves (an external sign). Both internal and external signs must be exhibited in order to be considered kosher.

The Bible then goes on to list a number of animals that chew their cuds, but do not have split hooves, which are not kosher. After this list, the Bible mentions only one animal that has split hooves but does not chew its cud — the pig.

While there are many animals that are not kosher, the pig is the primary symbol of those animals that are deemed unclean. The rabbis explain that the pig is the ultimate example of impurity because it has the external sign of being kosher — the split hooves — but the internal sign of being kosher is lacking.

In this way, the pig represents people who want to show others how holy and pious they are but lack the inner integrity that matters to true faith. Their internal character does not match their external display. And lack of integrity is not kosher!

Your Turn:

Next time you find yourself putting too much stock in what others think, catch yourself. Remember that God wants the real you!