Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

A Kosher Pig? (Shmini)

Clean Pig (AI-generated illustration by BSpitz)
Clean Pig (AI-generated illustration by BSpitz)

 Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another. -Homer

Clean Pig (AI-generated illustration by BSpitz)

The Torah reading of Shmini introduces us to the laws of keeping kosher. It details what type of animals we can eat and which we must avoid. We can only eat fish that have scales and fins, so any other type of fish, including shellfish, is prohibited. There is a long list of birds which we are told are forbidden. The common denominator is that they are all birds of prey. Interestingly, the tradition that has been passed down as to what birds are in fact kosher is relatively scant, leaving us with a limited selection of kosher fowl. Perhaps best known are the distinguishing features of kosher mammals. They need to be mammals that have split hooves and that chew their cud.

The most infamous non-kosher animal is most likely the pig. What is interesting about a pig is while it doesn’t chew its cud, it does have split hooves. The Bat Ayin on Leviticus 11:7 quotes the Midrash that states that a pig typically likes to display its hooves, as if to say “Look at me! I have the hooves of a kosher animal!” even though it knows that not chewing its cud makes it non-kosher. What is perhaps even more interesting is that there is a Kabbalistic idea, that in Messianic times, the pig will become a kosher animal when it will start to chew its cud.

The Bat Ayin compares the status of the pig to our own behavior. Just as the pig shows one thing on the outside, the kosher symbol of the split hooves, but possesses a non-kosher trait on the inside, the lack of chewing its cud, how many of us present a certain façade of righteousness to the world but our inner reality is vastly different? Do we pretend a certain behavior in public, but in private prove ourselves to be hypocrites? Do we show false friendship and flattery to those we want to impress or connect to, but privately despise them? These are all traits of the pig.

The Bat Ayin then flips the cause and effect of the transformation of the pig into a Kosher animal in Messianic times. It is not the final redemption that transforms the pig, but rather the transformation of the pig that brings about the redemption. Only when the inside of the pig matches its outside, can the Messiah come. Only when the pig is somehow purified of its hypocritical nature, when it becomes completely pure, can the world be redeemed.

Similarly, only when our noble exterior is matched by a similar internal reality can we expect to reach both personal and universal redemption. May it happen speedily and in our days.

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Lucy Dee and her daughters, Maya and Rina, may God avenge their blood.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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