Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson shared an important article about truth in our interactions with ourselves, our friends, and Hashem that was most insightful. I am sharing with you a summary of his article.
The Kli Yokor explains why four non-kosher animals are first expressed in the Torah by their kosher signs before mentioning their non-kosher traits in a seemingly counterintuitive manner. He teaches that it is not only what these animals lack that render them un-kosher, but also that which they do have, the one kosher sign, that made them non-kosher. The camel is treif because it chews its cud (and lacks split hooves); the pig is treif because it has split hooves (and does not chew its cud). Possessing one kosher sign allows these animals, symbolically speaking, to deceive themselves and others that they are kosher by “showing off” the single kosher sign. The Torah specifies these four animals, not including them with all other animals that lack both kosher signs. All animals lacking both signs are not kosher because of what they lack; with these four animals, it is not only what they lack, but also what they have that renders them un-kosher.
Of course, these animals are not hypocritical and dishonest by nature. Animals are usually honest. Rather, their physical characteristics are symbolic of moral qualities, and when we eat them, these qualities affect our psyches, like all food which has a deep impact on the consumer.
Each of us must struggle against various unhealthy and immoral, non-kosher instincts, appetites, habits, and cravings. But there is something which can at times be more lethal for our wellbeing: dishonesty about who we really are.
What causes me to become un-kosher is not so much that I am not kosher, as much as it is me deceiving myself and making believe that I am kosher. The greatest enemy of true religion, of any authentic relationship with Hashem, is to be dishonest about my identity.
At times, people feel the pressure always to say and feel the “right things”; they are frightened to be vulnerable about their genuine emotions and struggles. They feel the need to live the lie that they are perfectly “kosher,” even if that means that they need to cover up a part of themselves. Nothing can be further from the truth: when religion is based on lies, it loses its purpose. In the world of Torah, the ugly truth is superior to the beautiful lie.
This does not mean that I must fall prey to every struggle, and surrender to every appetite. Often, I must subdue my cravings to live up to my true calling and essence. I need to confront and battle my unhealthy habits. Forcing yourself to be someone else to gain popularity, and not having the integrity to be brutally honest with yourself leaves you drained, empty, and spiritually dead. There is no spirituality without full honesty.
On a personal level, the current period of Sefiras Haomer is a period of forty-nine days that allowed the Jews to grow day by day from the forty-ninth level of impurity to the highest level of Kabbolas HaTorah. This should serve as an inspiration for all of us to realize that we can all strive for growth by forging a strong connection with our rabbonim, finding a supportive and meaningful chevra and enhancing our limud Torah. These and other similar strategies allow us to grow day by day for forty-nine days to the point where our outer and inner personalities will be equally affected so that we can all achieve our own reenactment of Kabbolas HaTorah for ourselves and our families.
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman