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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.


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