Two of the most common misperceptions about Judaism are that kosher food means food that has been blessed by a rabbi and that Judaism does not believe in an afterlife.
One of the reasons so many Jews mistakenly assume that their faith ignores existence after death is because the Hebrew Bible, known as the TaNaCH, contains so few references to what happens after death.
Indeed, throughout the Torah God promises those who live by the Covenant a good life in this world rather than rewards in the world to come. In spite of its importance, there is a reason for this paucity of information on the afterlife.
The reason is simply that the great mystery of death can easily overwhelm our lives, utterly robbing us of passion and spontaneity. Death, the shocking gateway to the unknown can easily infect our very essence, coloring our souls with a compelling but subconscious negativity. In some faiths, allowing death to become an obsession makes people contemptuous of life and diminishes the value of their own lives as well as the lives of others.
Thus Jews are urged to avoid all unnecessary contact with death. Séances or other gatherings intended to ‘raise the dead’ are prohibited. In no way does Scripture suggest that communicating with the dead is impossible, just that it’s a really bad idea.
Obviously people do die and we mourn. However, the mourning is not for the departed. Safe in the arms of our Father in Heaven, they are fine. It is we who are impacted by the death and it is for our loss that we mourn. One purpose of mourning is to go through a formal process that helps banish the aura of death, allowing us to return to our normal exuberant love of life.
Being subconsciously but overwhelmingly aware of death inhibits us from rapturously embracing life. It interferes with staying happy and diminishes our ability to plan our lives and live our plans. Though we know it is there, focusing on the afterlife is just counterproductive.
The seductiveness of death is clear to anyone who has slowly driven past an accident scene, peering at someone lying on the ground. It is equally clear to anyone who has sat in a darkened room watching a movie displaying people getting killed. Death exerts a fatal fascination while, at the same time, it subtly disrupts life in ways we don’t always recognize.
In an effort to separate our day-to-day lives from the oppressive and paralyzing impact of death, the Torah commands Jews to separate ‘death food’ and ‘life food.” Meat is viewed as a perfectly legitimate food for humans but we have to realize that an animal yielded its life to provide that hamburger. On the other hand, milk is the food of life. No animal died in order to provide it and furthermore, milk is the first nourishment all baby mammals encounter.
Both meat and dairy products are recommended foods in Judaism and indeed both have important ritual roles. However, as part of the laws of kosher food, meat and dairy are kept quite separate in Jewish cooking.
Ancient Jewish wisdom shows how the three-time duplication of the following verse lifts it from its literal meaning.
Do not cook a goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:19, 34:26, Deuteronomy 14:21)
Scripture doesn’t waste our time with arcane commandments. Who would have thought of cooking a goat in its mother’s milk? Instead this passage reveals the cosmic truth that there is a deep gulf between meat and milk, which is to say, between life and death.
As humans we experience both but we need to keep them separate. Allowing the spirit of death to intrude can rob our lives of their full potential. While Jews should avoid eating meat and dairy foods together, all who wish to enhance their lives can choose to block obtrusive images of death in entertainment or the news and recognize them as a form of spiritual pollution.
Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt
Are life’s burdens sapping your freedom and vitality? In this practical and inspiring presentation, Let Me Go: How to Overcome Life’s Challenges and Escape Your Own Egypt, Rabbi Lapin decodes three lessons from the Exodus story that will inspire and guide you to escape your troubles and build a better life. Available on CD or Instant Download
We welcome you to join us Live for a time for a special time of impartation and questions and answers with Rabbi Daniel and Susan, Tuesday, March 9th 5:00 PM PST/ 8:00 PM EST. The starting topic will deal with Passover and how this observance helps build family unity and purpose. To find out more and how to be a part of these monthly events visit us at www.wehappywarriors.com.