Kosher and Niddah

Moshe Ben-Chaim

What is the reason why sexual and kosher laws are grouped together by Maimonides in his work the Yad Hachazaka, also known as the Mishneh Torah?
A rabbi once explained that he did so because the sexual and appetitive drives are the most basic instincts, thus, they need tempering in order to restrict our instincts from running free. Placing a limit on the kinds of foods we are to eat, when to eat allowable foods and the like, and a limit on sexual activity, calls the intellect of a person into the picture many times during the course of a day. This person over time will become more in control of his passions. Eventually, this type of a personality will be capable of enjoying Torah study which takes time and self control to master. He will not be pulled by the emotions so readily . He is much better equipped to lead a life of wisdom, than a glutton who satisfies his every desire whenever he wishes.
Since these two areas comprise the two main human instincts, Maimonides classified them together to indicate that they include laws with the same goal.
Interesting also is the difference between two types of restrictions, and how they benefit us.
Both the sexual and appetitive laws comprise two types: 1) Absolute restrictions, such as pork, shellfish, marrying one's sister or mother, and 2) Conditional restrictions, such as milk 6 hours from eating meat, and one's wife when she is in her menstrual period.
Why do we have both? It is because G-d desires to effect two aspects of our nature.
If we were to have only the laws of complete food and sexual abstention, then a person could easily go "cold turkey". However, this approach will not teach a person how to fight a desire if he is already in the grips of the instinct.
It will only teach him how not to commence.
Sometimes however, we find ourselves already in the draw of a desire when we notice it is wrong. We need to learn how to deal with these situations as well. Therefore, G-d also gave us laws with conditional prohibitions. These laws condition us to relate to desirous objects in a more removed framework. It may be that one finds that he has a desire for a steak now, but if it is a fast day, or if it is a pork steak, he cannot have it. Having become used to approaching and pulling away from satisfying desires, he is now conditioned to display better control. The steak then becomes a thing which has a controlled attachment. The emotions lose their strength. As Chazal state, "Starve a desire and it will become satiated. Feed it, and it becomes hungry". This means that as one keeps himself from satisfying desires which are wrong or excessive, that desire loses its strength. If he satisfies a desire, it will crave additional attachment to the object of that desire.
If however, one ate steak at every whim, then on a fast day, he will find it extremely difficult to abstain from eating it, as steak is always permissible to him. By having this type of a controlled attachment, the desire is not in control, the person is. And when this trained person finds himself in a situation where a destructive desire already has a grip on him, his control from other areas will save him, and he can engage his learned control and apply it.
Conversely, if G-d gave us only the conditional restriction laws, but not absolute restrictions, we might hold the opinion that everything is good, but maybe only at a certain time. Imagine a teenager ascribing to this philosophy when drugs are offered to him on the street. Here, the teenager will benefit from having trained himself that there are things which are detrimental 100% of the time, and he can then apply this control.
Additionally, even in areas where we are permitted involvement, we have limited enjoyment to demonstrate that the world of the physical is not the goal for man. The world of wisdom is G-d's desired arena for man's involvement.
We should always look into the laws which we are fortunate to have been granted, and not just act them out perfunctorily. We benefit not only practically, but through earnest study we learn the beauty of the law's intelligence as well.

Philosophy | Tnach | New Postings | JewishTimes | Audio Archives | Suggested Reading | Live Classes | Search | Letters | Q&A's | Community Action | Volunteer | Links | Education | Chat | Banners | Classifieds | Advertise | Donate | Donors | About Us | Press | Contacts | Home


Mesora website designed by
© 2003 Mesora of New York, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Articles may be reprinted without permission.