The first time I read the Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham to one of my children, he or she always asks, “What is ham?” (For some reason, the child’s mind is not bothered by green eggs; the school cafeteria probably plays a role in this.) I answer that ham is the meat of a pig. Their response is usually, “ Uggh, yuck!” At this point I tell them that ham probably tastes very good and that billions of people eat it all the time. I try to emphasize that the reason we do not eat it is not due to its “bad” taste, but because God forbade us to.
The Talmud explains that Jews refrain from eating pork or meat and milk mixtures, not because they find such dishes offensive or unpalatable, but rather because God forbade them to partake of such foods. The Talmud suggests that a Jew should think, “pork probably tastes excellent; however God has forbidden me to partake of it.”
We could condition our children to be repelled by ham (yuck, gross!) but then we would merely have kosher robots, or mitzvah machines. This is far from the Torah ideal, which is for thinkers who make decisions about what to do or not to do based on moral commitments, not gut feeling. The commandments are designed to develop people’s ability to serve God consciously, encouraging us not rely on instinct, but to exercise our power of free will.