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Parsha Mitzvot-Re’ei-Mitzvah 464-Concept 191-Aiver Min HaChai

“Only be strong not to eat the blood, for the blood, it is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the meat (Deuteronomy 12:23).” Transcribed and unedited: You are not allowed to eat eiver min hachai.  You are not allowed to eat a limb torn from a live animal.  (Audience: What number is that?) 191.  .  The … now you should realize there is a great concept you learn out of here.


One is, you know that after you have slaughtered an animal the animal is moving around.  It is really great, you know they would skin the heads of the cows and the eyes will still be blinking ten minutes later (audience: that’s gross) and the tongues were going … (Audience: Groans) I have a movie of it no one ever wants to see it, because my mother wanted to know what I was doing one summer so I said, I will make a movie, you want to see it?  So she said yes.  So I sent her the movie she was so angry.  (Laughter)  But it was a lot of fun.  (Audience: ?)  Yeah, there is also a mitzvah to honor your mother so … If I kept one better I would probably keep the other one better too.  

But anyway so now what is interesting is as follows:  If the animal was shechted the animal is considered dead.  If the animal was stunned, then the animal is considered alive.  What does that mean?  It means that if as it is going around this assembly line, and the cow was shechted and a jew would cut off the tongue, kasher it and eat it, and the eyes were still blinking, you would not be oveir ever min hachai, a limb from a live animal.  If a non-jew would cut that tongue off while it is still going like that and eat it while the eyes are still blinking it would be considered ever min hachai, a limb from a live animal.  (Audience: ?) Because as long as the animal, according to the non-jew there are no laws of shechitah, so there is no halachic status of death other than death itself.  Which is total cessation of movement.  (Audience: Is this just a law, does that law apply to non-jews …?)  Yeah that is one of the noachide laws.  

Now this is one of the most incredible stories that ever happened to my father.  This woman in 1962 came to my father, her name was Ms. New, and she asked him if she would be allowed to buy meat from a non-kosher butcher.  So he said, “Are you Jewish?” She said, “No.” So he said, “Well why do you think there would be a problem buying meat from a non-kosher butcher.”  So she said, “Rabbi, ever min hachai, a limb from a live animal.  Right, we do not have the laws of shechitah, we do not have the laws of slaughter, so therefore that means that they may have cut this limb off the animal when the animal was still blinking so is that considered even min hachai?”  He said, “No, since by the time the meat arrives at the butcher shop and your house the animal is definitely not blinking anymore, so it is not ever min hachai.”  OK.  So then he asked her, “Well how did you learn about this?” So she said, “Well I am a student in John Hopkins, and my roommate just got engaged and she is Jewish and someone gave her a book called chorev, by Samson Raphael Hirsch, and she was not interested in reading it, so I am reading it.”  (Laughter)  And she started talking to my father and calling him on a regular basis and she loved Torah.  She loved it.  So he said to her, “Why don’t you convert?” And she said, “My mother is a devout Catholic, and if I would convert, it would kill her.” And she said, “To tell you the truth, the other reason is if I would convert, I would only marry a Rabbi. And a Rabbi is not going to marry a convert.” So he said, “OK, I don’t know, but whatever you say.” Anyway, she came back a few months later and she said they kept up the relationship and she would call with questions, she said that she moved out of her room, she is no longer going to live with her roommate.  Why, because the law is a non-jew who steals from a jew is much stricter laws than a jew stealing from a jew.  So she said, “I never know if I will take a bobby pin by mistake or use her soap or shampoo by mistake, I don’t want to get involved in this halachic mess.”  So she moved out.  We moved to Toronto in 1964, in 1978 , I am sorry in 1988, we were back in Baltimore and this 14 year old boy came to my father and said I have regards to you from my mother, rebetzin so and so.  He said, “I never met, your mother, I never met her.” Wife of what happens to be a very famous Rabbi. So he said, “No you did meet my mother.” He said, “No, I am pretty sure I never met your mother.” He said, “You did, her name used to be Ms. New.” He said, “What?” (Laughter) He said, “Well, her mother died in 1965 so she said it is worth it to convert even if I will not get married to the kind of person I want to be married to.” And she converted and she married someone who become a very famous Rabbi. (Audience: ?) No this is when we moved back to Baltimore. (Audience: ?) No, no, she lived … we moved to Toronto 1964, she was in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins.  (Audience: ?[Possibly, can you tell us the Rabbi’s name]) I have no idea. (Laughter) OK.

Now, this is very tied in with the idea, pardon, it is just such a great story. Here the chinuch says that this is just how can you be cruel. And if you cut something off a living thing it is cruel.  So this is just a question of cruelty, and this is where many of the laws of tza’ar ba’alei chaim, causing any pain to a living thing, are discussed and introduced, that you are not allowed to cause any pain to something, to a living being.  Now this is a problem with the roach motel, there is a halachic question, believe it or not, are you allowed to use fly paper? Are you allowed to use something that will not kill the insect right away? Right, you are causing tza’ar ba’alei chaim.  There is also another problem with fly paper and zappers. Which is ba’al teshaktzu, you are not allowed to do something that is disgusting.  So if you do, right, restaurants asked this question from Reb Moshe, many big hotels have a succah so they hang up their bug zappers to kill bees. But you have a problem every time you hear a zap while you are eating it is disgusting. (Audience: I like it, laughter) Are you registered in the class? You should only be here if you are registered. So, one of the things that … they asked, in other words we want to have the zappers because we want to protect people from bees but you have the problem of ba’al teshaktzu, but you also have the problem. They say you are not allowed to use a small zapper, if the thing that you want to take care of is bees. Because the smaller ones do not work on bees quickly. Just, a level of sensitivity in halacha that really develops out of here.

Kids, I do not know what you would do when you were kids, but when we would find bugs we did not kill them right away. We were boys. (Laughter) [?] First you tasted them (Groans) (Audience: does this apply to other things, like living, is it any living thing?) Any living, you mean like a flower? (Like the ? with the flower) No, there .. it is not considered any tza’ar ba’alei chaim to a flower because the word nephesh is never associated with a flower.  (Audience: Discussion) Our problem.  So there are really questions whether I have to go out of my way, is a glue trap better.  But the general halachic approach is as follows, that you are allowed to use all these things. (Audience: How about fish?) What do you mean? (Audience: .. suffocate…) Well we are going to discuss that when we get to shechitah, because there is no law of shechitah for fish. There is no law of slaughter, yeah we are going to discuss it, yeah.

So very often, I am sorry, very often halacha determines what is considered suffering or not, that is something that we are going to have to deal with, but I am trying to push us in that direction whether you realize it or not. With the microscope and with the shechitah and that shechitah creates a reality of death, even though the animal may not be considered dead. (Audience: ?) The psak is that you can. The only reason I raised it is so that peoples’ consciousness should be raised about how sensitive you have to be. You mean the law applies to a cockroach? Yeah, the law applies to a cockroach, the law applies to a mouse, the law applies … many poskim hold that you are not allowed to keep a bird at home in a cage, a bird that likes to fly, how can you do it, it is tza’ar ba’alei chaim? Major, you have to ask, there are questions about what types of animals can you have as pets, besides other types of issues whether it is a kosher animal or a non-kosher animal but there are other issues about … (Audience: The laws of insects are because they are disgusting) To eat it, to eat it (Audience: But then it is very difficult, how can you eat anything disgusting period?) It is G-d’s creation.   No not at all, I do not.  I do, I think that is disgusting, but I do not think that the roach itself is disgusting, the roach is incredible. A man once asked a famous atheist if you believed anything about G-d what is it you would believe? He said, that G-d loves cockroaches. (Laughter) For there are more of them and they have survived through the world through the process of evolution more than anything else. Cockroaches are incredible, the bomb-da what is it called the bombadeer beetle, you know that it shoots things out of the back of its wings and it always hits things in front of it exactly where it targets, it is incredible. The sheep’s liver fluke, these things are incredible. (Audience: There was an article in the times … study cockroaches … fascinating creatures …) Well someone just wrote a novel last year called The Roaches have no King.

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