Earlier this week I had a discussion with someone about the meaning and reason for keeping kosher. She thought that it was a tradition based on health. Since the laws of kosher prohibit all bottom feeders, animals that are ill and the like, doesn't that all seem to point to a health based system?

Such questions are common in the Jewish community. There are many aspects of Judaism that fit into logical explanations, kosher being just one of them. Shabbat is family time, Passover is spring cleaning, Yom Kippur is a time to let the digestive system rest, Chanukah is the winter holiday etc. Are these the reasons why we celebrate and practice these Mitzvahs?

This line of thought is actually written in the Torah itself: ' For [the Torah] is your wisdom and knowledge that all the nations recognize' writes the Torah in Deuteronomy. This means that the nations of the world look at the Torah and see a book of wisdom, not irrationality. So yes, the Torah is very much a book of knowledge and there are profound reasons to the laws written in it. But there is a difference between the Torah's logic and regular logic.

Logic alone is a tool, a window through which we understand the world around us. We use logic as a means to 'see', indeed in Kabbalistic study the power of knowledge is synonymous with the power of sight, because they are both all about taking in and understanding the world around us. 

From the Torah's viewpoint, God is the creator and energy behind every single detail of creation. The world of logic is just another one of God's creations. It is the power to see and understand those creations, but it doesn't create them. The same God who made the world and gave us the Mitzvahs, also gave us the power of logic to try to understand as much as we can. 

But it doesn't stop there. Rather it doesn't start there. The Torah is the designer's user manual for the world, and gives meaning and purpose to everything in it. It gives meaning to life, work, family life, children, marriage, and yes, it gives meaning to logic itself. Just as the eyes are only one part - an important part, but just a part - of the human being, so too is logic only a part of God's world.

The core reason and meaning behind every Mitzvah is far beyond logic. It is God's will and a conduit through which to connect with our creator and make his presence felt on earth. Is it possible, or even probable, that we'll find natural benefits from and reasons for doing Mitzvahs? Of course. But a Mitzvah extends deep into the soul of the human being, far beyond conscious, cognitive reality. 

So back to our kosher question. The rules of kosher are a way to connect with the creator of the world. He put them in place, and the reason for them is far deeper than what we can understand. Is there a place for finding other side benefits, such as health and cleanliness, in keeping this Mitzvah? Yes. So long as we remember that these reasons and benefits stem from keeping God's commandments and are not the reasons for them.

Rabbi Avrohom