Parsha Mitzvot: Shemini: Mitzvah 154 – Concept 458
“If an animal that you may eat has died, one who touches its carcass shall become contaminated until evening (Vayikra 11:39).” We are commanded to observe the laws of impurity caused by a dead beast (Rambam, Hilchot Sh’ar Avot ha-Tumah – The Laws of the Other Major Sources of Impurity).
We are usually taught that there is impurity whenever something that once contained life, loses the life and becomes an empty shell. Negative spiritual forces “feed’ off of the physical that was once animated by life. However, what is there in the remaining physical corpse that has spiritual energy off of which these negative forces can “feed”? We must understand that the physical body was changed by the life it housed. Even an animals body absorbs some spiritual animation from its Nefesh Chaya, living spirit. It absorbs enough for the Negative Forces to now, when the physical is not protected by its Nefesh Chaya, attack and “feed.” This is why the carcass of an animal that was kosher while alive, becomes contaminated; it is vulnerable to these Kochot ha-Tumah. (Eishel Avraham)
Although these laws of ritual impurity do not apply to us when the Beit Hamikdash is yet to be rebuilt, we can derive practical lessons from this Mitzvah/Concept: We can treat anything that was a container for holiness, such as leftover food from the Shabbat table, or any food over which we recited a blessing, as having absorbed some sanctity from the way it was used, and therefore treating it with slightly more respect when disposing of it.