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D’var Torah: Parashat Re’eh

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In this week’s D’var Torah for Re’eh, the Chief Rabbi explains that we must reach out with a hand of friendship to everybody, even those beyond our social circles.

We can learn a wonderful lesson from the stork. The Torah in Parashat Re’eh tells us about the laws of Kashrut. As is well known, when it comes to animals, there are two ‘Simanim’ – two signs, of being kosher. The animals need to have parted hooves and they also need to chew the cud.

With regards to fish, there are also two signs; fins and scales. But when it comes to birds, no signs are given. Instead the Torah provides for us a list of all the ‘treif’ (non-kosher) birds. If a bird is on the list we cannot eat it, if it is not on the list, it is kosher.

One of the birds that is featured on the list is the ‘Chasida’- the stork. The Gemara in Masechet Chulin (Daf Samuch Gimel amud Alef) tells us that the stork is called ‘Chasida’ because it is righteous and because it is selfless. It is an exceptionally kind bird.

But there is a problem, because the Ramban tells us that there is a common denominator amongst all birds which are not kosher.  He tells us that they all have a cruel streak in their nature and some of them are out-rightly birds of prey. So how is it possible therefore that the ‘chasida’, this pious stork, is actually ‘trief’?

The Chidushei Harim, the founder of the Chassidic sect of Gur in the nineteenth century, gives a beautiful explanation. He tells us that the ‘chasida’- the stork, is indeed selfless and kind-hearted, however, only to birds of its own feather. Towards other birds and other creatures, it acts with cruelty and distain. As a result it is not kosher.

The Chiddushei Harim goes on to tell us that the laws of Kashrut in our Parasha do not only relate to what we can and can’t eat, but they tell us about us, ourselves. We shouldn’t lead a stork-like existence. In the event that our compassion and selflessness extends only to those within our own limited social clique, those within our own echo chamber, then ultimately, that is a ‘treif’ form of existence.

In order to be kosher, we ourselves need to recognise the image of God within the soul of every human being and to reach out with kindness toward one and all.

Shabbat Shalom.