You Are What You Eat- Parshas Shemini

In most years the Shabbos after Pesach is Parshas Shemini however this year being a leap year, it’s the exception. Since it’s within 30 days of Pesach it’s pertinent to talk about it. We spend the Yom Tov of Pesach eating Matzah and fulfilling a Torah mitzvah in every bite according to the Vilna Goan. The Zohar calls Matzah, “bread of healing” and “bread of emunah, faithfulness.” We may wonder just what effect is the Matzah supposed to have upon us?

Dietary Laws

Parshas Shemini talks about the sanctity of the Jewish Nation and how Hashem commands us to only eat things that are kosher. The Torah lists off all of the non-kosher animals which we are forbidden to eat. The animals that are prohibited have negative traits. The pig is the quintessential non-kosher animal and represents Eisav HaRasha, the evil one. The pig has split hooves and pushes them forward to show, “look at me, I’m kosher!” Just as Eisav pretended to be righteous before his father Yitzchok. But on the inside, it does not chew its cud and thus it is not kosher. So too, Eisav did not work on his internal growth and was disconnected from spirituality.

Outward View

The Vilna Goan explains that Eisav represents the last Galus, exile, before Mashiach’s arrival. This exile is one characterized by a focus on physicality and outward appearances. The culture focuses on looking good on the outside regarding dress, outward manners, styles, trends, status and honor, but has no internal focus or morals. Just as the pig has a kosher symbol (split hooves) on the outside, but lacks the required kosher symbol on the inside (rumination). We don’t eat a pig because Hashem told us that it is prohibited. At the same time, we must take the lesson as to what is wrong and undesirable regarding each individual animal.

Food’s Effect

You are what you eat and anything that we consume has an effect on us. This is seen in many ways. In a physical sense, when we eat healthy foods, we receive the best nutrients and are feel most recharged and strong. When we eat junk food, we feel slow and lethargic.

The non-kosher birds are all predators that pounce upon their helpless victims. The Torah shuns this trait and teaches us to stay far away from such an approach. We love our neighbors and strive to help them out and watch their backs. We are the exact opposite from the predator birds.

Elevating Food

Another way in which we elevate our eating is through pronouncing berachos before and after. Additionally, by eating L’Shem Shamayim, with the intent of being strong and healthy so that we can serve Hashem, we turn our meals into spiritual experiences. Just as friendships are formed through eating a meal with others, so too, we connect to Hashem through a hearty meal filled with berachos, words of Torah and gratitude to Our Provider.


The Matza is a simple piece of dough made of flour and water. It teaches us to be humble and not haughty like the rising yeast. When we eat Matza its message becomes part of us. We remember the importance of focusing on spirituality and on connecting with Hashem. This is the healing power of Matza; this is the message of faithfulness towards Hashem that Matza imparts into us. Just as the foods in Parshas Shemini have an impact on us, so too, we recognize the spiritual growth which we were privy to by going through a Pesach and fulfilling the mitzvah of Matza. We become what we eat and we are elevated through the Matza.