Kosher and Niddah
- What is the reason why sexual and kosher laws are grouped together
by Maimonides in his work the Yad Hachazaka, also known as the Mishneh
- A rabbi once explained that he did so because the sexual and
appetitive drives are the most basic instincts, thus, they need
tempering in order to restrict our instincts from running free.
Placing a limit on the kinds of foods we are to eat, when to eat
allowable foods and the like, and a limit on sexual activity, calls
the intellect of a person into the picture many times during the
course of a day. This person over time will become more in control of
his passions. Eventually, this type of a personality will be capable
of enjoying Torah study which takes time and self control to master.
He will not be pulled by the emotions so readily . He is much better
equipped to lead a life of wisdom, than a glutton who satisfies his
every desire whenever he wishes.
- Since these two areas comprise the two main human instincts,
Maimonides classified them together to indicate that they include laws
with the same goal.
- Interesting also is the difference between two types of
restrictions, and how they benefit us.
- Both the sexual and appetitive laws comprise two types: 1) Absolute
restrictions, such as pork, shellfish, marrying one's sister or
mother, and 2) Conditional restrictions, such as milk 6 hours from
eating meat, and one's wife when she is in her menstrual period.
- Why do we have both? It is because G-d desires to effect two aspects
of our nature.
- If we were to have only the laws of complete food and sexual
abstention, then a person could easily go "cold turkey".
However, this approach will not teach a person how to fight a desire
if he is already in the grips of the instinct.
- It will only teach him how not to commence.
- Sometimes however, we find ourselves already in the draw of a desire
when we notice it is wrong. We need to learn how to deal with these
situations as well. Therefore, G-d also gave us laws with conditional
prohibitions. These laws condition us to relate to desirous objects in
a more removed framework. It may be that one finds that he has a
desire for a steak now, but if it is a fast day, or if it is a pork
steak, he cannot have it. Having become used to approaching and
pulling away from satisfying desires, he is now conditioned to display
better control. The steak then becomes a thing which has a controlled
attachment. The emotions lose their strength. As Chazal state,
"Starve a desire and it will become satiated. Feed it, and it
becomes hungry". This means that as one keeps himself from
satisfying desires which are wrong or excessive, that desire loses its
strength. If he satisfies a desire, it will crave additional
attachment to the object of that desire.
- If however, one ate steak at every whim, then on a fast day, he will
find it extremely difficult to abstain from eating it, as steak is
always permissible to him. By having this type of a controlled
attachment, the desire is not in control, the person is. And when this
trained person finds himself in a situation where a destructive desire
already has a grip on him, his control from other areas will save him,
and he can engage his learned control and apply it.
- Conversely, if G-d gave us only the conditional restriction laws,
but not absolute restrictions, we might hold the opinion that
everything is good, but maybe only at a certain time. Imagine a
teenager ascribing to this philosophy when drugs are offered to him on
the street. Here, the teenager will benefit from having trained
himself that there are things which are detrimental 100% of the time,
and he can then apply this control.
- Additionally, even in areas where we are permitted involvement, we
have limited enjoyment to demonstrate that the world of the physical
is not the goal for man. The world of wisdom is G-d's desired arena
for man's involvement.
- We should always look into the laws which we are fortunate to have
been granted, and not just act them out perfunctorily. We benefit not
only practically, but through earnest study we learn the beauty of the
law's intelligence as well.