Shemini 5764 – Gilayon #338


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Parashat Shmini

SPEAK TO THE ISRAELITE PEOPLE THUS: THESE

ARE THE CREATURES THAT YOU MAY EAT FROM AMONG ALL THE LAND ANIMALS.

(Vayikra

11: 2)

 

The Laws of Slaughter and the Restrictions on Eating Meat are Stages Towards a Higher Spiritual State

These are the creatures that

you may eat: It begins by

permitting certain types of meat, (and so with grasshoppers and fish), implying

that it would be best not to eat any living thing at all. That is why it had to

begin: Speak to the Israelite people thus: these are the creatures that you

may eat – the permissibility of meat-eating is a new idea that must be explicitly

set forth.

(From the Hatam Sofer's Torat Moshe, as

quoted by Prof. Nehamah Leibowitz in her Iyyunim Hadashim BeSefer Vayikra,

pg. 127)

 

A Torah scholar – a spiritual

man – regularly engaged in the slaughter and sacrifice of animals? This does

not jibe with the heart's pure feelings. Even though it remains necessary to

practice the slaughter and consumption of living beings, in any event it is

proper for this work to be performed by those who have not yet refined their

emotions. It is fitting for ethical, knowledgeable, and pious scholars to

supervise and see to it that the animals are not killed in a barbaric manner,

so that a noble light may enter into the whole matter

of meat-eating, a light which will, in time, illuminate the entire world. This

is truly bound up in the laws of slaughter.

(From R. A.I. Kook ZTz"L's Iggrot HaRAYaH,

#178)

 

 

The Commandments Were Given Only in Order to Purify

People?

Shalom Bahbout

In a

way, the book of Bereishit may be read as heralding things to come in the later

parts of the Torah. This interpretive principle, that "The deeds of the

fathers are a sign for the sons," is usually applied to the narrative

portions of the Torah, rather than to halakhic passages.

Indeed,

Bereishit contains few commandments, and the "halakhic"

materials of Bereishit receive scant attention from the Sages. That being said,

even a literal reading of the opening two chapters of Bereishit reveals that

they do contain a number of commandments.

The

first commandment is: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth(1:28).

The

second commandment received by Adam in the Garden of Eden is as for the tree

of knowledge of good and evil, you must not eat of it (2: 17).

This prohibition is prefaced with a positive commandment: You shall eat of every

tree in the garden (loc cit).

The

Sages learned the Seven Noahide Commandments from the phrase, and the Lord

God commanded (2:16), but do not treat You shall eat of every

tree in the garden as a commandment, but rather as a grant of permission to

eat fruits. It may be inferred – without entering into the details of he

Talmudic discussion – that Adam was given laws that related to his biological

existence as a living organism. Biological life, with all of its facets and

components, stands at the center of the commandments, be

they the commandments received by Adam or the commandments received by Israel. Their principle goal is to bring people to sanctify

precisely those aspects of human life that resemble animal life.

Without

a doubt, of the commandments received by Adam, the prohibition to eat of the

fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil had the greatest impact on his

future. It is perhaps significant that Adam, the "vegetarian," had

only one prohibition imposed upon him. It was not a matter of happenstance that

that prohibition dealt with eating, a legal area of ever-widening scope to which

additional commandments would be added via Noah and the Israelites.

I

suggest that we chronicle the laws of forbidden foods, starting with the laws

received by Adam:

To

Adam/humanity

a)

Not to eat from the tree of knowledge

b)

Not to eat meat severed from a living animal.

To

Israelites

a)

Not to eat gid hanasheh (a particular sinew)

b)

Not to eat the fat specified for sacrifice on the altar.

c) Not to eat unclean creatures, be they birds, domesticated animals,

wild beasts, fish, or crawling creatures.

d) To

cover the blood of slaughtered birds and wild beasts.

e)

Not to eat an animal's flesh before it is brought as a sacrifice upon the

altar.

It

should be noted that the final prohibition (e) was cancelled by the "permission

to eat desired meat" granted because the prohibition made the regular

eating of meat a practical impossibility. Out of consideration for the reality

that Jews might live some distance from "the place" of sacrifice, the

halakhah limited itself to the laws requiring that the slaughtered animal's

blood be poured on the ground and not eaten.

And

so we find that the Torah is quite concerned with the proper nutrition of people

in general of the Jews in particular.

By

and large, these prohibitions tie the consumption of meat with sacrifice. The

Sages were serious when they stated that "a person's table is like an

altar which atones." One might say that, in a way, the laws of kashrut serve

as a substitute for the laws of sacrifice.

It is

not my intention to belittle the importance of the laws of kashrut.

However, the growing concern with this aspect of Judaism, which has come to

monopolize Jewish life, (sometimes out of commercial interests), can serve to marginalize other fundamental Jewish values,

such as commandments pertaining to societal concerns. Narrow-minded

concentration on kashrut can damage the deepest spiritual strata of religious

life.

Meaningful

Jewish life can only be possible when we realize that all categories of

commandments must receive their proper attention. Only then will every stratum

of Jewish values make its own contribution to the development of a balanced and

harmonious life for Jews.

Rabbi Dr. Shalom Bahbout

sits on the Rabbinical Court of Rome, and directs the Tifferet Yisrael Beit

Midrash in Jerusalem.

 

 

Forbidden Foods: Feelings, Reasons and Commandments

Rabbi Elazar

ben Azaryah says: From whence do we know that a

person should not say, "I could not possibly wear sha'atnez,

I could not possibly eat pork, I could not possibly indulge in forbidden sexual

relations" – but rather [one should say] – "I could but what can I

do? My Father in Heaven has forbidden them to me." This is learned from

the verse and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be Mine (VaYikra 20:26). One takes upon himself the yoke of he Kingdom

of Heaven by avoiding transgression.

(Sifra Kedoshim 10)

 

Philosophers maintain that

though the man of self-restraint performs moral and praiseworthy deeds, yet he

does them desiring and craving all the while for immoral deeds, but, subdues

his passions… The saintly man, however, is guided in his actions by that to

which his inclination and disposition prompt him, in consequence of which he

acts morally from innate longing and desire. Philosophers unanimously agree

that the latter is superior to, and more perfect than, the one who has to curb

his passions…

When, however, we consult the

Rabbis on this subject, it would seem that they consider him who desires

iniquity and craves for it (but does not do it), more praiseworthy and perfect

than the one who feels no torment at refraining from evil; and they even go so

far as to maintain that the more praiseworthy and perfect a man is, the greater

is his desire to commit iniquity and the more irritation does he feel at having

to desist from it. This they express by saying, "Whosoever is greater than

his neighbor has likewise greater evil inclinations" (Sukkah 52a)… Furthermore, they command that man should

conquer his desires, but they forbid one to say, "I, by my nature, do not

desire to commit such and such a transgression, even though the Law does not forbid

it." Rabbi Simeon ben Gamliel summed up this

thought in the words, "Man should not say, 'I do not want to eat meat

together with milk…' but he should say, 'I do indeed want to, yet I must not,

for my Father in heaven has forbidden it.'"

At first blush, by a superficial

comparison of the sayings of the philosophers and the rabbis, one might be

inclined to say that they contradict one another. Such, however is not the

case. Both are correct and, moreover, are not ion disagreement in the least, as

the evils which the philosophers term such – and of which they say that he who

has no longing for them is more to be praised than he who desires them but

conquers his passion – are things which all people commonly agree are evils,

such as the shedding of blood, theft, robbery, fraud, injury to one who has

done no harm, ingratitude, contempt for parents, and the like. The

prescriptions against these are called commandments, about which the rabbis

said, "If they had not already been written in the Law, it would be proper

to add them" (Yoma

67b). Some of our later sages,

who were infected with the unsound principles of the Mutakallimun, called these

rational laws. There is no doubt that a soul which has the desire for and lusts

after the above-mentioned misdeeds, is imperfect; that a noble soul has

absolutely no desire for any such crimes and experiences no struggle in

refraining from them. When, however, the rabbis maintain that he who overcomes

his desire has more merit than and a greater reward (than he who has no

temptation), they say so only in reference to laws that are ceremonial prohibitions.

This is quite true, since, were it not for the Law, they would not be

considered transgressions. Therefore, the rabbis say, that man should permit

his soul to entertain the natural inclination for these things, but that the

Law alone should restrain him from them.

(RaMBaM Shemonah Perakim

7, pp. 376-78 in Isadore Twersky's A Maimonides Reader)

 

A Strange Fire

This is one of the points in

which Judaism and Paganism go in diametrically opposite directions. The Pagan

brings his offering in an attempt to to make the god subservient to his wishes.

The Jew, with his offering, wishes to place himself in the service of God; by

his offering he wishes to make himself subservient to the wishes of God. So

that all offerings are formulae of the demands of God, which the bringer, by

his offering, undertakes to make the normal routine for his future life. So

that self-devised offerings would be a killing of just those truths which our

offerings are meant to impress and dominate the bringers, would be placing a pedestal

on which to glorify one's own ideas, where a throne was meant to be built for

obedience, and obedience only.

(Rabbi S.R. Hisch's commentary on VaYikra 10:2, Isaav Levy translation)

 

Was the Holocaust a Preface and Condition for Redemption and Independence?

In the past, grave things were

said in connection with the Holocaust: There were those who claimed that the

Holocaust was a preparation, a kind of price that the Jewish People had to pay

in exchange for the creation of the State of Israel. There were those who

clamed that the State of Israel serves as a kind of compensation for the

Holocaust. They also claimed that this was the only way to cause the Jews, or

rather to force them, to emigrate to the Land of Israel. These are very grave words, which are

difficult to hear.

(From Harav

Yehudah Amital's "Af al Pi shemeitzar umeimar li",

quoted in M. Miyah's Olam

Banuy, Hareiv, Uvanuy, pg. 64)

 

There is no accomplishment or

blessing in this world that can compensate for the burning of those sinless

multitudes of people. All of these words about the creation of the State in the

wake of the Holocaust – they are hollow words. Neither the actual State of

Israel, which occasionally must bleed to survive, nor the ideal State of Israel

described in the prophecy of each man beneath his vine and beneath his

fig-tree can begin to justify what the Jewish People went through during

the years of the Holocaust.

(Harav

Amital's lecture on the Yom Kaddish HaKlali – Ot Ve'Eid, Perek Iyyun Ve'Meida,

quoted in Miyah op cit pg. 64)

 

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