With devotion’s visage and pious action
We do sugar o’er the devil himself.
[Shakespeare, Hamlet, III.1.47-49]
Kosher animals, as is well known, can be identified by two simanim (physical indications) and must meet both these requirements to qualify as kosher. They have to chew their cud, and their hooves must be wholly cloven (1).
The Torah goes out of its way to emphasize the fact that an animal in which only one sign is present, can in no way be considered kosher: “The camel, because it chews its cud but does not part the hoof, is impure to you. And the rock badger, because it chews its cud but does not part the hoof, is impure to you. And the hare, because it chews its cud but does not part the hoof, is impure to you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed, but does not chew its cud, is impure to you” (2).
A careful reading of this text makes us wonder. Why did the Torah need to state that these non-kosher animals chew their cud or have cloven hooves? After all, those manifestations are not what make them impure. If the Torah had only mentioned the negative indications in these animals, which clearly identify them as non-kosher, that would have been sufficient. After all, we know that the Torah requires an animal to possess both signs, not just one, in order to be kosher.
Moreover, why are the kosher signs of these non-kosher animals mentioned first? The Torah should have written them in the reverse order. Surely their non-kosher signs bear more relevance and therefore take precedence in a discussion of why these animals are not kosher!
Rabbi Ephraim Shlomo ben Chaim of Luntschitz (1550-1619), known as the Kli Yakar, gives us a most illuminating perspective for why the Torah specifically chose this wording and no other. In his opinion, we might have thought that the non-kosher aspects of these animals indeed make them impure, but that the kosher signs might soften that impurity. Instead, the Torah tells us that the kosher signs of non-kosher animals make them all the more impure.
Animals with only one kosher sign represent a serious, negative character trait – hypocrisy. The camel and the pig give the appearance of being kosher. The camel can demonstrate its kashrut by emphasizing that it does, after all, chew its cud. The pig, too, can display its cloven hooves in order to claim its virtuousness. Both, therefore, have the ability to hide their true nature behind a facade of purity. Only upon close inspection do we realize that these animals are impure.
They wave a kosher flag but hide unclean cargo.
This is indeed much worse than lacking both requirements needed to qualify as kosher animals. Allegorically speaking, animals with neither of the simanim do not try to deceive us about their impurity, but rather openly and honestly declare where they stand. With them there is no hypocrisy – no misleading impressions.
But in the case of those non-kosher animals that have one kosher sign, matters are much more subtle. They are hiding the truth. For this reason, the Torah first mentions the kosher signs of the camel and the pig, since these misleading signs make them even more impure!
When reading the story about the multi-colored garment, Yaakov’s gift to Yosef, the Torah states, “and his [Yosef’s] brothers saw that Yaakov loved him more than all the other brothers, and they hated him and could not speak peacefully with him” (3).
On this verse, Rashi comments, “From their faults we can learn their virtues, for they did not speak one way with their mouths and another way in their hearts.” Even as they erred we can see their honesty, and this is praiseworthy.
This message cannot be emphasized enough. It is a warning to all of us not to have double standards, such as in defending matters we do not believe in or living lives that contradict our beliefs. This is far from easy. We all have urges that make us do things we are ashamed of. That is only human. But “the true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity.” (Andre Gide) Hypocrisy is a state of constant self-deception, as in the case of the non-kosher animal with only one kosher siman.
Similarly, hiding one’s vices behind religious texts or garments, talmudic knowledge and frequent visits to houses of prayer desecrates the name of God and disparages genuine religion.
“Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised” (4).
(1) Vayikra 11:2-3, and Devarim 14:4-6.
(2) Vayikra 11:4-8
(3) Bereishit 37:4.
(4) Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Part III Chapter IX.