Parshas Shemini teaches us that there are two סימנים that a kosher animal must possess. The Torah singles out four animals that one may not eat despite the fact that they have one of the two סימני כשרות. The pig (חזיר) is the most commonly known; it is אסור because although it has a split hoof, it does not chew its cud. The camel (גמל) and rabbit (ערנבת שפן), despite the fact that they chew their cud, are not kosher because they do not have split hooves.
The Medrash wonders why the Torah first mentions the kosher sign in regards to all four animals, and then mentions the sign that disqualifies it. Why even mention the irrelevant kosher sign and why mention it first?
The Medrash is teaching us an important lesson. Even when the Torah tells us that a pig or camel is not kosher, it only begins by stating its praiseworthy characteristics. The Torah goes out of its way to present a positive description first.
Hashem sees fit, even when talking about an impure animal, to try to find something positive to say about it. If Hashem sees fit to always present a redeeming aspect of the animal first, how much more so should we? When we look at another human being with all of his failings and shortcomings, we must find positive things to say before we offer any negative assessment.
I shared this דבר תורה with the boys this week as a דרך to promote sholom and avoid unnecessary bickering and quarreling. When we look at someone or when we look at a situation, we should always attempt to accentuate the positive and see the value in the person or situation before we dismiss it. If we can internalize this message and put it into practice, we would be happier and our relationship with others would be strengthened. We must model this at home in our conversations and actions with family members and neighbors, so that our children will adapt this valuable lesson.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School