Commentary on Shemini by Rabbi Y. Frand

The sentence at the conclusion of the section of forbidden foods listed at the end of the parsha says: “For I am Hashem Who brings you up from the land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you; you shall be holy for I am holy.” [Vayikra 11:45] Rashi cites the teaching of the House of Rav Yishmael that the pasuk means to say, had I not brought Israel out of Egypt for any reason other than that they do not make themselves impure through eating of the forbidden foods as do the other nations, it would have been sufficient cause for them to have been redeemed.

v It is difficult to OVERSTATE the importance of the laws of Kashrus. It is likewise difficult to UNDERSTATE the great harm done to a Jewish soul by the consumption of forbidden foods. I once heard Rabbi Berel Wein quote a statistic published by the Jewish National Fund that today 80% of their money comes from only 10% of the Jewish population. Despite the fact that Jews have a reputation for being generous, that may have been the case 40, 50, 60, or 80 years ago. Today, the eating of pig, shellfish, crab, and improperly slaughtered meat that the Jewish people have been consuming over the past 50 years has taken a toll on the Jewish soul. The “Yiddishe neshama” is not what it used to be because of the corrosive effect of forbidden food entities.

That having been said, I read the following story that was written by Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, a disciple of the Kesav Sofer. The Kesav Sofer, in turn, was the son of the Chasam Sofer who told this story in the name of his teacher, Rav Nosson Adler. The story took place in the late 1700s or the early 1800s.

There were two successful Jewish merchants who lived in Pressburg, the city of the Chasam Sofer. They had their own fleet of boats in which they used to travel the world in pursuit of their import/export business. These merchants were once arrested by Spanish authorities off the coast of Spain with their ship full of merchandise. At that particular point in time, piracy was rampant in the Mediterranean Sea and therefore smuggling and piracy was common. The Jews and their merchandise were detained because of the (false) suspicion that their goods were pirated or smuggled.