Go Against the FlowApril 10, 2014 - 5:00 am
“You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD.” — Leviticus 18:3–5
The Torah portion for this week is Acharei Mot, which means “after the death,” from Leviticus 16:1–18:30, and the Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.
To most people, the word “kosher” refers exclusively to food. Indeed, kosher is the word that Jews use to describe food that is permissible to eat, as opposed to the foods that are forbidden to be consumed. However, in modern Hebrew the word “kosher” and its derivatives can also mean “physically fit,” “proper,” and “worthy.” Kosher is not just a label that validates food; it is also a term that certifies the quality of a human being.
The laws of kosher, as determined by the Bible, require a fish to meet two stipulations to be considered permissible to eat. It must have scales and it must have fins. The Sages teach that these physical attributes on fish have spiritual counterparts on people. Scales are a protective coating and correspond to the spiritual protection that a person who fears God has: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD” (Psalms 40:4). A person who puts his or her faith in the Lord is protected and blessed. Fins give fish the ability to swim upstream, against the current. This correlates with a person’s ability to go against the flow. A person who makes God his or her master and who is willing to go against the crowd is a person that we would call “kosher” — strong, proper, and worthy.
In this week’s Torah portion, God cautioned the nation of Israel: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you . . . You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees . . . for the person who obeys them will live by them.” God was telling the Israelites that they were not to follow the crowd. They were to swim against the stream and go against the flow in order to obey God. And here’s the punch line: “the person who obeys them will live by them.”
Our natural instinct is to be afraid of challenging the status quo. We might be laughed at or in some places, even killed for different beliefs. But God is telling us, if we want to live, we have to stand up for what is right. God is the source of our protection and blessings. When we fear only Him, we will live and prosper. It’s when we stray that we should be truly afraid.
In what areas of your life is God calling you to stand out from the crowd? Where is it that you need to swim against the stream? Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Stand up for God and He will stand for you. Swim upstream; it’s the path that will carry you to God.