Emor: Mitzvah 471 Concept 184 Part One
“Every teeming creature that teems upon the ground – it is an abomination, it shall not be eaten. Everything that creeps on its belly, and everything that walks on four legs, up to those with numerous legs, among all the teeming things that teem upon the earth, you may not eat them, for they are an abomination. Do not make your souls abominable by means of any teeming things; do not contaminate yourselves through them lest you become contaminated through them.” (Leviticus 11:41-43)
Maimonides: The Laws of Forbidden Foods: #11: “You shall not eat creatures that move close to the ground.”
The Talmud (Yoma 39a) teaches: It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishmael that “Aveirah Metametet Libo Shel Adam”, “Sin obstructs the heart of a person”. As it says in the verse, (Leviticus 11:43) “You shall not contaminate yourselves (‘titamu’) through them, lest you become contaminated (v’nitmeitem’) through them.” Do not pronounce it “v’nitmeitem”, lest you become contaminated, but rather, “v’nitamtem”, lest you become obstructed.
“Timtum Halev”, “Obstruction of the Heart” describes someone whose heart has been closed off and can no longer be influenced through the Mitzvot the person observes. A heart that has been closed off can no longer be affected by prayer or through learning. This introduces a fundamental concept in Torah: that if you do something without awareness it is not only that you are performing that one action without awareness, but you begin to lose your ability to respond to other things that you are doing. Your heart forms, in kabalistic terms, a Klipah, or shell. It becomes harder to respond to prayer, or Torah study, or any of the Mitzvot. We often frustrate ourselves by practicing certain Mitzvot and not others without realizing that we do pay a price for our decisions. We are frustrated when we do not experience an inner response to our prayers, study or Mitzvot, forgetting that it is quite possible that we have developed shells around our hearts.
Why did the Torah choose this Halacha to convey this idea? The Torah wanted to use one of the 365 negative Commandments to introduce the idea that each sin can cause a Klipah, or Spiritual Shell to form around one’s heart. Why did the Torah choose this specific Mitzvah/Concept?
The Torah is teaching us that spiritual actions affect us just as physical actions leave their marks. The Torah is stressing the reality of a spiritual action. These things can have a spiritual affect in the same way that your diet affects your physical health.
However, the above only explains why the Torah chose this category of commandments to introduce this basic concept. It does not explain why the Torah specifically chose the Mitzvah/Concept of “Sheretz” to teach this idea.