Non-Kosher Foods & Bodily Damage
Moshe Ben-Chaim


Reader: In Rabbeinu Bachye ben Asher's "Kad haKemach," (Pesach Section A, about three fourths of the way through) he states, "the foods which the Torah prohibited, damage the body and engender within the soul cruelty and an evil disposition." He seems to imply that non-kosher foods have a physical effect on the body. I don't see how you can read "mazikin et ha'guf" - "damaging the body" to be referring to anything other than the physical body. How can this be true?


Mesora: Damage to the body here, refers not to a damaging "substance". Pork is no more damaging than Kosher foods. The damage here refers to the creation of strong bonds to emotions by giving in to them. Not following the Torah's restrictive laws - keeping Kosher for example - creates an unruly state in man. He has no restraint on his desires. This is quite damaging. Such an individual will experience emotion flare-ups. "The wicked are turbulent as the sea..." (Isaiah, 57:20) Such individuals are less capable of exerting self control because they do not know how, nor have they trained themselves in such control. They will surely suffer the consequences of responding instinctually to life's challenges, as opposed to responding with calm, controlled and thought out decisions.

Eating pork in specific circumstances is not prohibited. Startling as this may sound, it is based on a basic "nullification" principle in Kashrus laws. This means if there is less than one sixtieth of non Kosher substance in a mixture, the entire mixture is permissible. Even though one definitely ingests the substance of pork, the pork is nullified in such a proportion. This teaches that the eating of a mixture including pork, is not "halachikly" the same as eating an object called "pork". The Torah prohibition is not to eat an object called pork. But when eating an entire mixture with acceptable proportions of ingredients, it is permissible. One is eating a "mixture", not pork.

Torah could not permit ingesting pork if it was physically damaging, as you suggest. Even in a mixture, one would be ingesting a damaging substance, if we took Rabbeinu Bachye's statement literally. But in reality, pork in this proportion is permissible, due to Jewish laws. Pork is not damaging as a substance. The real damage is man not following Jewish law. By following these laws, we are using our minds and not reacting to an emotional impulse, which is the true damage referred to by this Rabbi.