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Parsha Mitzvot: Acharei Mot: Mitzvah 187 – Concept 371



“Any man from the House of Israel who will slaughter an ox, sheep, or a goat in the camp, or who will slaughter it outside the camp, and he has not brought it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to bring it as an offering to God before the Tabernacle of God; it shall be considered as bloodshed for that man, he has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from the midst of his people (Vayikra 17:3-4).” We may not slaughter offerings outside the Courtyard (Rambam, Hilchot Ma’aseh haKorbanot – The Laws of the Sacrificial Procedure).

 

Until the time of Noah, man was forbidden to kill animals for his own needs; it was only after the Flood that God’s covenant with Noah gave man permission to kill animals for food (Genesis 9:3). But in an instance where man is not permitted to kill an animal, such as slaughtering a consecrated animal outside the Mishkan, the act of slaughter reverts to its status before Noah, and is tantamount to bloodshed (Ramban).

When a person kills an animal without a legitimate purpose, he allows himself to be influenced by the same bloody characteristics that can cause a person to commit murder. Thus, his act is considered as bloodshed, since it is his bloody instincts that have taken control of him. (Kli Yakar)

Both the Ramban and Kli Yakar are raising issues that reflect on the way we consume meat. We live during times when meat is readily available, and often eat without remembering how close it comes to bloodshed, and that the blessing we recite before eating meat, and the manner in which we eat, are intended to remind us of God’s covenant with Noah: Only he who saved the animals in the Ark was first granted permission to kill animals for food; and to temper the bloodshed that is necessary for us to eat meat.

My father zt”l insisted that I make a meal when eating meat, wash on and recite the blessing over bread, in order to incorporate these lessons. When I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I asked a Halachic question whether I was permitted to eat meat without bread, which was hard to get (and digest) in Gluten Free form. I had always practiced according to my father’s instructions and therefore needed to be “Released from a promise,” i.e. a good practice I had accepted, because, “had I known that one day I would not be able to readily eat bread, I would not have accepted the practice.” However, I could not be as easily released from an instruction of my father.

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