Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Appreciating Why We Just "Don't Get It" About Animal Sacrifices

We all eat meat (the sane amongst us, anyway), so we cannot possibly have an issue with slaughtering animals.  By "slaughter", of course, I mean the killing and butchering of an animal for food; not murder nor carnage.  Even so, when we read the description of the animal sacrifices in the book of Leviticus, we are... well... ok, I'll just say it; we are horrified by apparent carnage.  We are pretty much ok until we get to the "throwing the blood around" part.  Really?  And what's the point?  To effect an atonement for our sins.  Or to give thanks for emerging unscathed from a life threatening predicament.  Somehow murdering an animal and throwing its blood around is going to make me a more thankful human who is more free of sin.  How does something that seems so savage enable something so noble?

Suppose I tell you, "Heck... we do all sorts of weird things!  I mean, we wave palm fronds with myrtle and willow branches along with a very expensive citron to ward of bad rains and dew!"  True, true, you will likely respond; but that just weird and not barbaric.

Suppose I tell you that before bringing an offering, the bringer needs to get in the correct frame of mind.  If he had sinned, he needs to repent.  Whether thankful or repentant sinner, he needs to appreciate that he is now alive due solely and only to the Grace of G-d.  His life is now -- more than ever -- a free gift from the Creator.  In order to make that thought more concrete, the Torah wants us to actually walk through the process.  As he watches the animal being slaughtered, he is thinking, "That is what strict letter of the law would demand happen to me.  I deserve to have died -- either because of the dangerous predicament or the as punishment for my treacherous rebellion.  That should be my blood being thrown on the altar -- just giving back that life giving fluid to the One who gave my life in the first place.  That should be my body being consumed by fire -- by what right to I exist at all?!  HaShem, in His infinite mercy, created surrogates -- animals for the wealthy, birds for the middle class, and flour/oil mixture for the poor -- to absorb the punishment I am actually due.

You'll say; yes, it's bad what the sinner has done, but why should an animal suffer?  Now you sound like PETA.  Yes, they say, we understand you need nutritional food, but why should and animal suffer for that?

We can all answer that one.  Yes, an animal is suffering for me to live.  However, it is not wanton carnage, it is all according to instructions handed to us by the One who gave us both (people and animals and flour and oil) existence.  We are used to not understanding why HaShem cares that we don't cook meat with milk and that we don't wear mixtures of wool and linen and that we don't work on Shabbos and that we eat matzah at Pesach and go out to a hut during Sukkos and... and... and...

Some we can appreciate, some we cannot.  In some we see nobility, in some we see carnage.  We understand none of it, but neither are we free to refrain from trying to make sense of it all.  Nothing created can ever understand its creator; Mario and Donkey Kong can never understand Shigeru Miyamoto.  We, though, have not a creator, but the Creator.  Our questions are also from Him, and our search to understand is how we bridge the chasm that separates us.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…