Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Table Talk -- Acharei Mos Kedoshim 5767

אחרי מות-קדושים תשס"ז

Where does meat come from? While you and I know that it comes from a cow, or a sheep, as your three-year-old the very same question. It would not surprise me at all if she answered: “One Stop Kosher.” After all, if you’ve never seen a animal slaughtered, and never witnessed the salting and soaking of the meat to remove the blood, how would you know that meat did grow on trees shrink-wrapped in plastic?

Our parshah relays the commandment of כיסוי הדם – the covering of the blood. After the slaughter of an animal, God commands us to cover the blood of that animal that spilled on the ground with dirt. But, this rule doesn’t apply to all animals. The Torah divides kosher animals into two basic categories: בהמות – domesticated animals such as cows and sheep, and חיות – undomesticated animals like deer. The rule of כיסוי הדם – covering of blood -- applies only to fowl and חיות – undomesticated animals. Why must we only cover the blood of the undomesticated animal, but not the blood of the domesticated animal?

Kli Yakkar suggests that the root of this commandment stresses the need for us to be sensitive and appreciative of the nature of blood. We find this commandment in the context of the prohibition to eat any type of blood. The Torah stresses that blood represents the spirit of all living things. While God permits us to eat the flesh of other animals, the spirit belongs to Him alone, so God forbids us from consuming any type of blood. Therefore, because the Jewish people regularly offered the blood of domesticated animals as sacrifices to God, there was no need for any additional prohibition. We would never keep for ourselves that which we offered to God alone. But because we never offer חיות – undomesticated animals – as sacrifices to God, we must carry out the additional action of covering the blood to remind us that the animals belong, first and foremost, to God Himself.

That leaves me to wonder: while we might have appreciated the value – and ownership – of blood during the times of the Temple when we offered sacrifices, is there any way for us to compensate and have that same level of understanding and appreciation today? Isn’t it interesting that our society, with all its infatuation with blood and violence (see my sermon from last week), goes out of its way to insulate itself from any kind of real blood?