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Shemini

In this week's parashah, the Torah classifies those wildlife which are forbidden for us to eat. The Shem MiShemuel explains that eating forbidden foods clogs up the heart, spiritually, and interferes with one's belief in Hashem. Consequently, he finds it difficult to learn Torah and perform mitzvahs. The Rabbeinu Bachya (Shemos 23:19) says the same thing concerning eating the forbidden combination of milk and meat products.

The following amazing story took place in Neveh Yehoshua in Moshav Bet Yehoshua, in Netanya.

The year had gotten off to a good start. Boys were learning and davening well and going through the usual "Neveh transformation" which would make them better Jews and better people by the end of the year. Suddenly, in the middle of the winter, for no perceivable reason, the entire yeshiva underwent a major breakdown. No one felt like learning nor was anyone in the mood to pray or to do anything religious. The staff and I tried to encourage the boys through motivational sichot (lectures) and private chats but to no avail. We tried learning something lighter and more interesting, but that didn't help either. We just couldn't get the guys back into things. We went on an unscheduled tiul (trip) to provide both a well-needed break and spiritual inspiration; but that too proved to be fruitless. The whole system had broken down and no one knew why.

We were at our wit's end when suddenly the cook came in to see me. Embarrassed, she admitted to me that something terrible had happened in the kitchen. Several days ago she had mixed up the pans and had mistakenly taken the chicken pan to make pizza with; rendering the food and the utensils non-kosher. The process of deterioration continued as the non-kosher utensils were now used to make other foods and, by a domino process, the entire kitchen was soon forbidden. The distraught woman asked me what could be done.

I immediately dispatched a crew of the older boys to kasher (make kosher) the kitchen and all of the utensils; making them fit for use once again. The cook prepared our first kosher meal with the newly-kashered pots and pans and cooking ware, and, after the delicious meal, an astonishing thing happened: everyone felt like learning again! The next prayer was full of the gusto Neveh was famous for and everyone felt "into it" again.

Realizing what had happened, I called the cook, related the phenomenon to her, and warned her to be especially careful from now on. "You are not just a cook," I explained to her. "You are one of the rashei yeshiva (heads of the yeshiva). The success of the students, in Torah and mitzvah observance, depends on you providing them with kosher (and tasty) food to nourish their bodies and their souls."


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