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What is the significance that a kosher animal has split hooves and chews its cud?

by Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman

  

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As with all the teachings of the Torah the signs of a Kosher animal can be understood on many different levels. The ten kosher animals listed in the Torah all have both split hooves and chew their cud. What all these animals have in common is that they all graze for food and are not predators.

Although the Torah permits man to eat animals, a Jew is commanded to do so only under very strict limits, such as eating only certain animals that undergo the prescribed slaughtering and have all the blood removed. In addition, the only animals permitted are those who don’t kill other animals. We are what we eat and the Torah does not want us to take into our beings the very essence of the animal, especially if its very nature is connected to killing.

These two signs of kosher animals are also understood in a more symbolic manner. Since man contains both an animal soul as well as a Divine soul, the signs of a kosher animal relates to these two energies within each and every person.

Split hooves represent the idea of choice and free will. Animals do not possess free will, whereas man does. Split hooves symbolize the constant choices before us, the proverbial crossroads which split before us again and again during life. Chewing the cud represents not acting hastily when making choices especially from powerful animal urges. Rather, we are taught to think things over deliberately and even after doing so to bring up the ideas once again in order to “chew them over” again.

Free choice and analytical thought is what separates us from the animal kingdom. Therefore, if we are to eat meat it should be in a way that strengthens our good qualities and strengthens the Divine within us.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.