In this week's Torah portion,[ii] many commandments are given. Some, such as not to commit perversions in weights and measures, are quite logical. Obviously, it is wrong to cheat in business. But some of the laws listed in this portion are apparently so illogical that they defy man's ability to understand them. In fact, the sages tell us that this type of law (called a "chok") has no logical reason.
The most commonly singled out law for its complete "illogic" is the law dealing with forbidden mixtures. There are four basic types of forbidden mixtures: mixture of seeds (when planting plants), mixture of orchids (fruit trees), mixtures in species (when breeding animals), and mixture of linen and flax (in our garments). The Torah warns us that such mixtures sap the strength from the individual species.
What could these laws possibly be teaching us today?
Here the Torah is using a common Talmudic principle called "all the more so" (kal v'chomer).
When we look, we see that each of these forbidden mixtures points back to us. For instance:
--The seeds of a garden are like a man's own seed.
--The fruit of a tree is its offspring. A man is likened to a tree of the field and, fittingly, our children are called our fruit.
--Our animals are not merely our physical animals but also our spiritual animals, our animal inclinations.
--And our garments are our deeds.
Now to apply the "all the more so" principle: If I am not to mix my vegetable seeds because this will drain the strength of each plant, and if I am not to mix my fruit trees as this will weaken the fruit of my trees, and if I am not to mix my animals as this will produce weakened livestock, and if I am not to mix my garments that are also my deeds, then surely all the more so, I am not to mix my actual offspring—my children, my family.
Jews are commanded to marry only Jews and raise Jewish families to maintain a healthy, vibrant, Jewish people in the world. Without doubt, this is the greatest test facing the Jewish nation today, as the vast majority of Jews around the world intermarry.