What Does Mozart have to do with Keeping Kosher?

A few years ago a Seattle doctor came up with the theory that Mozart, who died in 1791 at age 35, died from trichinosis, a disease caused by eating uncooked pork. How does this doctor know that Mozart ate pork? In a letter written by Mozart a few weeks before he got sick, he described delicious pork cutlets that he was about to eat.

Would Mozart have been a healthier person if he kept kosher? Now that trichinosis is not really an issue can we abandon the laws of kashrut?

Although in some cases keeping kosher has saved Jews from contracting certain illnesses, the reason why we keep kosher is not because it is healthier for our bodies. We keep kosher because it is healthier for our souls.

In Parshat Shmini, God commands the Jewish people to keep kosher. The only reason why: (Vayikra 11:45): "You shall be kedoshim (holy), for I am kadosh (holy)."

According to the Torah, Keeping kosher makes the Jewish people kadosh- holy, separate, sanctified.

What about keeping kosher makes us an "am kadosh", holy nation?

Rashi says that when we see unkosher food, we should actually say Efshi- that looks so delicious, I wish I could eat it. However, God wants me to be separate and sanctified and therefore I won't eat it.

Being an "am Kadosh" means that we should strive as a community to do God's will. That may be the reason why many of our prayers that come from the root kadosh (such as the Kaddish, and the Kedusha) must be said with a minyan, as a community. In everything we do we should strive to work together as a community to elevate ourselves to become holy.

There are actually character traits that we can learn from certain non-kosher animals. Midrash Raba teaches that from a pig we can learn that a holy person shouldn't put on an act. They should act the same way in public as they do in private.

A pig is not kosher because although it has split hooves, it does not chew its cud. A pig puts on an act. On the outside he says, you see, I'm kosher, I have split hooves. However, on the inside he is not kosher, he doesn't chew his cud.

Keeping kosher can be a constant reminder that we should live our lives, both publicly and privately in a holy manner. Many of our important mitzvot are not the public mitzvot which need to be performed in a synagogue. Many of our mitzvot are performed privately at home. On Shabbat and holidays, we make Kiddush (also from the root kadosh), sanctifying the Shabbat day over wine. Kiddush must be performed even by a person eating alone. The mitzvah of Taharat HaMishpacha, family purity is private yet the Torah ranks it up there with fasting on Yom Kippur and refraining from eating bread on Passover.

The reason why we perform mitzvot should not be to put on a show. We should perform mitzvot in order to make ourselves a holy people.

There is a bird called the Chasida, sounds almost like a chasid! Actually it is a stork and it is not even a kosher animal. The Gemara in Chulin 63a asks: Why does this bird gets such a wonderful name, pious one? Because the chasida does kindness with its fellows. If this bird is so compassionate, then why isn't it kosher? The Rizhiner Rebbe explains, the stork directs its kindness exclusively towards its fellows, but will not help other species. This is not a holy act. This is not an act that we should emulate.

We learn from the chasida that it is not good enough to be kind to some. We must strive to help all who are in trouble. Some people just want to help their inner community, which is a good start. However, we must strive to help as many people as possible, with different backgrounds, strengths and limitations.

We must remember that the laws of keeping kosher were designed to make us a truly holy nation.