Oz Torah: Ask the Rabbi ‘Eating Pork’


Question.  Why is eating pork so repugnant to Jews?

Answer.     Though the pig is not the only animal which the Torah forbids us to eat, it has come to be the ultimate symbol of what Jews don’t do. Historically, a Jew who threw off Jewish restraints would show his defiance of tradition by eating pork and advertising the fact.

credit: wikipedia.

In Marrano history Jews who maintained a secret loyalty to Judaism found pork-eating the hardest thing to contemplate; indeed the word “Marrano” itself means “swine”. Christian depictions of their dominance over the scorned and hated Jews showed Jews suckling the teats of a pig.

To tell me how assimilated his family had been in prewar Europe, someone once said to me,

“Already a hundred years ago in Germany my ancestors were eating chazzir!”

Even people who are not so particular about eating kosher food tend to draw the line at chazzir. There is even a folk saying,

“Don’t be a chazzir!”

The implication is that the pig is objectionable – and also mean. The cow and lamb both give during their lives and after their death, but the pig gives only after its death.

Applying this to human philanthropy, some people are generous while they are alive and do not merely leave money in their will; others give nothing in their lifetime but only when they are dead.


Question.  What is done with an unusable Torah Scroll?

Answer.     Some shuls keep such scrolls in the Ark and carry them around on Simchat Torah. It is often not practicable to try to repair them as even if a scribe rewrites the faded or missing letters it is a long and laborious process with a risk that more letters will flake off.

Ultra Orthodox Jewish men take part in a burial ceremony of the burnt remains of Torah scrolls on October 7, 2010 in Bnei Brak, Israel

The only solution is generally to bury the unusable scroll in an earthenware vessel (Sh. Ar. Hil. Bet HaK’nesset 154:5). The vessel is used in order to delay the decomposition of the scroll.

Rav Moshe Feinstein points out a difference between this situation and that of a human body, where delay in decomposition is not permissible (Ig’rot Moshe YD III, 143:411). The burial of the human remains allows “kapparah”, the atonement of the soul.


Question.  Why does the benching (Grace After Meals) at weddings and Bar-Mitzvahs take so long?

Answer.     What do you mean – it “takes so long”? Doesn’t the dancing take a long time, and the eating, and the speech-making?

If the religious part of the celebration, which after all gives the occasion its Jewish flavour, takes a few minutes, why should anyone object? After all, is it not precisely at a simchah that family and friends should want to voice their thankfulness for all the blessings God has given them? Indeed, there might even be an argument for extending the benching, not curtailing it!

Yes, there is a short form of grace found in the Siddur, but this should only be used when time is genuinely short. As a general rule the full version should be said, with everyone paying attention and joining in wherever they can. On rare occasions the leader of the benching drags it out and makes it an operatic performance, but most officiants have more common sense.


Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com

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