We Eat anything We Want and We are Strong and Healthy and Our Limbs are Fit
“Rabbi Pinḥas son of Ya’ir said: Zeal leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purify, purity leads to restraint, restraint leads to holiness, holiness leads to humility, humility leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to ḥasidut (‘love, devotion’), ḥasidut leads to Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit leads to revival of the dead, revival of the dead comes through Elijah, remembered for good” (M Sotah 9:15, cf. BT Avodah Zara 20b; Zohar 1:102b: Abraham observed laws of purity and impurity so vigilantly that an impure person could not even approach).
“Resh Lakish said: ‘… If one comes to defile himself, the door is opened to him; if one comes to purify himself, he is assisted.’ … It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishma’el: ‘Sin dulls [or: obstructs] a person’s heart, as is said: Do not become impure with them, וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (Leviticus 11:43). Do not read וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, but rather וְנִטַּמְתֶּם (ve-nitamtem), becoming dulled [or: obstructed]'” (BT Yoma 38b).
“It is written: You shall sanctify yourselves and be holy… (Leviticus 11:44). If one comes to defile himself, he is surely defiled. And it is written: וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (ibid., 43)—[spelled unconventionally] without an א (alef): totally obstructed impurity, which cannot be purified as can other types of impurity. Furthermore, he is terrified of dangerous beasts, for in their eyes he appears as a kid and he is vulnerable, being divested of the human image [cf. BT Shabbat 151b; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 3:7]. Rabbi Yeisa permitted the eating of chicken with dairy cheese [see BT Shabbat 130a]. Rabbi Shim’on said, ‘This is surely forbidden to you! One should not provide an opening for evil species. ‘Go, O Nazarite,’ one says, ‘around; do not approach the vineyard!’ This is surely forbidden to you, since it entails the same stricture as cattle. What is written of one who permits this? You gave the Nazarites wine to drink (Amos 2:12)—permitting this is like permitting that. And it is written: You shall not eat any abhorrent thing (Deuteronomy 14:3)—any includes everything” (Zohar 2:125b).
“Now, you might say, ‘What about the goat, upon which settles an impure spirit? Not so! For if an impure spirit settled upon it, we would be forbidden to eat it. Rather, they pass through them and manifest in front of them, yet do not settle within them; for as they settle, another spirit passes over them and they disengage from their bodies. So they appear in front of them and harass within them, yet do not possess their bodies—which we are therefore permitted to eat. Whether cattle, beasts, birds, or fish of the sea—among all of them appear right and left, Compassion and Judgment. Whatever comes from the side of the right, the side of Compassion, we are permitted to eat; and all those coming from the side of the left, the side of Judgment, we are forbidden to eat [forbidden animals are predators, scavengers, and bottom feeders not worthy of emulation]—for all their bodies are impure and they all defile; an impure spirit settles within them, dwelling in them. Therefore, the holy spirit of Israel must not mingle with them nor be defiled by them, so that they may remain holy and be recognized above and below. Happy is their share, for the Holy King delights in them and seeks to purify and sanctify them above all, for they are linked to Him!
… Whoever eats of those forbidden foods clings to the Other Side and makes his soul and his body loathsome. An impure spirit settles upon him, and he demonstrates that he has no share in the supernal King and does not come from His side nor cleave to Him. If he departs like this from the world, he is seized by all those linked to the side of impurity, who defile him—punishing him as a person loathed by his Lord, loathed in this world and loathed in the world that is coming. Of this is written וְנִטְמֵתֶם (ve-nitmetem), becoming impure, through them (Leviticus 11:43)—without an א (alef), for there is no remedy for his loathsomeness, and he never emerges from impurity. Woe to them, woe to their souls, for they will never cling to the Bundle of Life because they have been defiled! Woe to their bodies, of which is written For their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be a horror to all flesh (Isaiah 66:24). What is a horror? A stench. Who causes this? That side to which they clung” (Zohar 3:41b).
“Rabbi Abba said, I remember something that I heard from the Holy Lamp, who heard it in the name of Rabbi Eli’ezer [son of Hyrcanus]. One day, a certain clever Gentile came to him and said, Old man, old man… you say that you’re close to the supernal King than all other nations. Well, one who is close to the King is always happy, free from sorrow and distress; but you are in greater sorrow, distress, and agony than all other nations. As for us, no sorrow, distress, or agony even comes near us. We are close to the supernal King, and you are far from Him, which is why you suffer sorrow and distress, mourning and agony, which we do not!
Furthermore, you don’t eat any animal that has not been slaughtered properly or is diseased or defective, so that you will be healthy and your bodies will be fit. Well, we eat whatever we want, and we are vigorous and healthy, all our limbs enduring firmly; whereas you—who don’t eat—are all weak, sickly, and broken more than all other peoples [cf. Guide of the Perplexed 3:48]. A people hated by your God entirely!
[The Gentile] said, ‘Old man, old man, don’t say anything to me, because I won’t listen to you or accept it! [cf. Proverbs 18:2: A fool does not care for discerning but for exposing his inner thoughts; ibid., 26:4-5: Do not answer a dolt by his folly, lest you, too, be like him. Answer the dolt by his folly, lest he seem wise in his own eyes].’
Rabbi Eli’ezer raised his eyes and gazed at him, and he turned into a heap of bones.
When his wrath subsided, he turned his head and wept. He said, YHWH our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth! (Psalms 8:2). How mighty is the holy power throughout the earth! There is not a single tiny word appearing in the Torah that has not issued from the mouth of the blessed Holy One. These things asked by that wicked man I asked Elijah one day, and he said that they had been presented in the Heavenly Academy before the blessed Holy One.
… Surely we are closer to the supernal King than all other nations! Surely it is so, for the blessed Holy One made Israel the heart of the whole world. So is Israel among the other nations: the heart among the limbs of the body. All inhabitants of the world are the limbs, while Israel is the heart in their midst; and if Israel did not exist in the world, no nations could endure for even a moment—like limbs without a heart. Therefore they are in the middle of the whole world—the heart within the limbs.
Israel conducts herself among the other nations like the heart among the limbs. The heart is tender and weak, yet it is the vitality of all the limbs. None of the limbs knows pain, distress, and agony at all, only the heart, containing vitality and intelligence. [Pain] comes nowhere near the other limbs, since they have no vitality and know nothing. None of the other limbs come near the king—who is intelligence and wisdom located in the brain—only the heart. The other limbs are far from him and know nothing about him. Similarly, Israel is close to the Holy King, whereas the other nations are far from Him [cf. Kuzari 2:25-44; Tanḥuma, Qedoshim 10].
As for the other question—that Israel eats no animal that has not been slaughtered properly or is diseased or defective, or the dirty filth of detestable and creeping things, as do other nations—so it is. For, in fact, the heart—which is tender and weak, yet king and vitality of all the other limbs—takes for its nourishment only the purest and clearest of all blood, so its food is cleanest and most refined of all, whereas the remaining refuse it leaves for all the other limbs. These other limbs do not care about this; rather, they take the refuse and the worst and most foul of all—and they are fittingly strong [cf. Kuzari 2:41].
Consequently, among the other limbs there are blisters, inflammation, rash, and scaly affliction; whereas for the heart, none of these at all. Rather, it is cleanest and purest of all, with no blemish whatsoever. Concerning this it is written: You are wholly beautiful, my love; there is no blemish in you (Song of Songs 4:7).
Rabbi Yose came and kissed his hands. He said, ‘If I have come into the world just to hear this, it is enough!'” (Zohar 3:221a-b).