These are the lifeforms that you may eat… (Vayikra 11:2)

The pasuk says “zos hachaya” – these are the animals that can be eaten. Rashi explains that we use the expression “chaya” – life – since Jews are attached to life, they were separated from the non-kosher animals, which detract from life. Whereas the Gentiles who are not attached to life can eat what they please. Rashi brings the medrash that compares it to the doctor who has two patients: One is told that he can eat what he wants; the other is given a strict diet. The one without a chance of recovery might as well enjoy himself and eat what he wants; the one who has a chance to live must have a strict diet, since his only chance of recovery is with such a diet.

The Kli Yakar tells us that this idea is not speaking on a physical level—rather on a spiritual level. We see many gentiles who eat all kinds of non-kosher food who are strong and healthy, and therefore Chazal must be referring to something spiritual.

I once saw a novel extension of this idea. The Jews are spread out amongst the nations of the world, however, they remain a distinguished nation. One way they remain separate is by not eating together with their gentile peers. We are familiar with this idea on Seder night when we raise the cup and say “V’hi shiamda l’avoteinu”: This (that we keep our wine separated, raised above the rest and will not partake in the wine that was touched by a gentile)is what gives klal Yisrael the strength to endure our galus  (hence we have ‘chaim’). Possibly the word “chaya” in our parsha is alluding to the Jews who eat together with other Jews. Having social events with people who do not have the same beliefs as the Jews can erode not only our religious fervor, but our Jewish identity.

This time in particular, when we find ourselves socially distanced from all others, and not only that, we just spent a week with our lives revolving around religious rituals: Davening, eating the festive meals, learning Torah, and being happy together with our families. We have hopefully come to a realization of where our natural happiness can be found. With this setup and Hashem’s help, when we have a respite from the current lockdown, this should be taken with us into “a normalized life”.

I heard once a medrash that says that if a Jewish child would not hear any language until he was three years old, he would on his own naturally begin to speak in loshen hakodesh. In a sense, when being detached from others and the secular world, and have not been hearing the things with which we are usually concerned, can give us a new start too. I am sure that all of us when hearing and seeing the news, have already annexed the idea to say some psalms before or after to reinforce our understanding and appreciation that Hashem is in charge and our prayers can make a difference.

With Hashem’s help when we return to “normalization”, we will appreciate the beauty of the gezeiros of Chazal, giving us a “social distance.” Yet, many times, we try to overcome the “problem” of bishul akum and stam yainum in order to have a pleasant cultural experience. However, Chazal designed these halachos to keep us separate from the Gentiles and to give us chaim – life! So, while that loophole that you are looking for may lengthen your stay at the cultural event, it may also compromise your Jewish existence!