Halacha for Friday 25 Nissan 5784 May 3 2024

Parashat Acharei Mot

From Rav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a, The head of Halacha Yomit
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

Why we May Eat Meat but not Blood and Compassion for all Creatures

It states in the Parashah that it is forbidden to consume blood, “For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I have therefore given it to you [to be placed] upon the altar, to atone for your souls. For it is the blood that atones for the soul(Vayikra 17:11). The straight forward understanding is that the blood of an animal which is slaughtered, is only intended to be sprinkled on the altar at a time when there were offering sacrifices, but it would not be appropriate as food for human consumption. [For example, “black pudding” is a dish made from blood and is a popular food amongst Gentiles in the UK and Ireland. It is forbidden to us as Jews.]

Rabbeinu the Ramban z”l (Rebbi Moshe ben Nachman 1194-1270) explains in his commentary a deep concept here that Hashem Yitbarach created all the creatures in the world for human needs, because people are the unique beings in this world which can recognise their Creator. Therefore it is fitting that all of the other creatures were created to be used by people.

Nevertheless, in the beginning when Hashem Created the world, mankind wasn’t allowed to eat meat but rather only vegetation and “mute or inanimate” items but “living” beings were all forbidden to eaten. This was until Noach left the Ark and then Hashem Yitbarach allowed him to eat from animal flesh. As it states, “Every moving thing that lives shall be yours to eat; like the green vegetation, I have given you everything(Bereishit 9:3).

Indeed, also then, Hashem only allowed us to consume the body of the animal, as the whole essence of living creatures is for the needs and benefits of the person. But the blood, in which is the soul, was only created to assist the spiritual soul of a person, to atone for their sins through the sacrifices, and not with the intention that people consume it.

Rabbeinu the Ramban added to the this that everything eaten by a person, transforms to become a part of the person. When a person eats kosher animals, it doesn’t influence them so much but if they consume blood in which the soul of the animal is found it will cause them to have a rough nature in their soul and bad habits.

We learn from here how much a person must be particular regarding kosher food because any food which isn’t permitted to us, transforms into one body with the person who consumes it and it influences them deeply. Who knows how many years and how many actions must be undertaken by the person in order to purify them from these impurities.

The section of the passuk, “and I have therefore given it to you [to be placed] upon the altar” may be further expounded with what Rabbeinu the Orach Chaim z”l (Rebbi Chaim ibn Attar 1696-1743) writes that Hashem Yitbarach’s intention is to warn us that we must not harm animals unless it is for purpose which is permitted for us, because Hashem Yitbarach didn’t allow to spill animal blood (without a need for eating) unless to atone for our souls. Here the Torah warns that animals weren’t given to us as a gift to do whatever we want with them. The matter is so severe to the extent that if an animal were to kill a person - for example, an ox that gored a person and killed them, that the law is that that ox is liable to the death penalty - we are obligated to judge the ox through the Sanhedrin of 23 judges just like a person who is liable to the death penalty. The animal was only permitted in order to eat or use its flesh because this is what Hashem considered, but G-d-for-bid to kill in vain. On the contrary, about Hashem Yitbarach it states, “and His mercies are on all His works” (Tehillim 145:9) and it is a mitzvah incumbent upon us to be compassionate on all the creatures in the world.

Shabbat Shalom!

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