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D’var Torah: Parashat Kedoshim

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In his D’var Torah for this week the Chief Rabbi focuses on two Chukim (decrees from God without a logical basis) that pertain to the crossbreeding of seeds and the intermixing of wool and linen. Religious laws do not have to be rational to have a positive effect on our lives, he teaches.   

The prohibition of the mixture of meat and milk is so well known to us. Our parasha of Kedoshim introduces us to two additional prohibitions relating to mixtures. One is called Kil’ayim – we may not graft together the seeds of different kinds. The other is Shatnez. It is prohibited to have a garment which is a mixture of wool and linen.

Now what I find quite fascinating is that within these three categories, we find a unique set of laws for each one. Let me explain.

With regards to Kil’ayim, the Torah tells us [that] you’re not allowed to graft those seeds together. If however someone else has grafted seeds together and has produced, let’s say, a new fruit, it is permissible for me to eat and to enjoy that fruit.

Shatnez is just the opposite. The Torah tells us we may not wear Shatnez garments, so a tailor for example is permitted to create a Shatnez garment, we just can’t wear it. It’s the preparation here that is permissible; the enjoyment is forbidden.

‘What logic can we make of all of this? The answer is none’

With regard to the mixture of meat and milk, both the preparation and the enjoyment are forbidden. I may not actually prepare a dish which is mixture of meat and milk, nor am I allowed to eat it and to enjoy it. So what logic can we make of all of this? The answer is none.

And that is because these are Chukim, they come from God. Yes, here and there we can have theories, we can have some lovely explanations, but ultimately these sets of laws are very different from Mishpatim. They are statutes, they make sense to us. Indeed the Mishpatim are types of laws which societies could actually create for themselves, logically in order to protect themselves and in order to guarantee cooperation within those societies.

‘The Chukim are God-given prescriptions for meaningful life’

The Chukim come from God. We ourselves could never have dreamt of such laws.  They are God-given prescriptions for meaningful life. So therefore, from the Chukim we have a message from Hashem: to live a disciplined form of life which refines our ways, and therefore when it comes to Kashrut, to Shatnez, to Kil’ayim and the like, I can try to give some good reasons, but deep down it’s through embracing these laws, through bringing them into my way of life, that I appreciate how beautiful they are, how relevant they are to my life and how indeed they enhance my existence. There is so much depth that is there; in fact it’s so deep, it is out of our depth. Thank God for the Chukim.

Shabbat Shalom.