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    Rabbi Salanter & the kosher laws – M’tzora

    Kosher signRabbi Yisrael Salanter, the master of Mussar (ethical teaching) asked the question of why the Torah gives us the laws of leprosy in such close proximity to Parashat Sh’mini, with its enumeration of the laws of permitted and forbidden foods.

    Living as he did in an age and environment in which more or less every Jewish person kept kosher, he said that the juxtaposition of the two sets of laws was to emphasise that just as one must comply with the food laws, so they must follow the rules of ethical conduct – especially the prohibition of lashon ha-ra, evil talk, to which the penalty of leprosy attaches.

    In our generation we are even less fortunate than Rabbi Salanter because we can no longer rely on most Jews already keeping kosher. We certainly need to improve our record in relation to avoiding evil talk, but we also need to persuade people that living by the food laws is an essential part of being Jewish.

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