‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ by Rebecca Masinter
Chapter 14 of the book of Deuteronomy lists two signs that kosher mammals must possess: they must have cloven hooves and chew their cuds. A few animals have one sign but are lacking the other one, rendering them non-kosher. The Torah lists these animals.
We would have expected that when listing these animals that are not kosher because they lack a required feature, the Torah would have said, for example, “Don’t eat the camel, hare, and hyrax because their hoof is not split even though they bring up their cud.” Since we’re explaining that they’re not Kosher, let’s begin with the quality that makes them not kosher! But the Torah does exactly the opposite in Deuteronomy 14:7 and in Deuteronomy 14:8 when it discusses the pig. First, the Torah lists their kosher attributes and only afterward their non-kosher one. The verse says, “Don’t eat these animals, for they do bring up their cud which is a kosher quality, but their hoof is not split, so you can’t eat it; it is not Kosher.”
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us here that even when its necessary to point out a negative quality or disqualify something for a valid reason, we always should begin by pointing out a positive trait. Every situation and every person at every time has something positive about them and we learn from here to begin by noticing and complimenting the positive even when it may be necessary to continue on to what is lacking.
What a lovely lesson for mothers! Maybe our children don’t have their shoes tied but we can compliment them on their brushed hair. Maybe they forgot to do their chores, but they helped a sibling in need. Mothers surely have many opportunities to point out deficiencies, but let’s take this message from Deuteronomy and remember to stress the positives. If the Torah can introduce non-Kosher animals with their pure characteristic, we surely can focus on the positive qualities of our pure children.