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Vol. 17 No. 43
The Prohibition of Blood
In Parshas Acharei-Mos, Rabeinu Bachye, quoting the Ramban, presents three reasons for the Torah's prohibition of drinking blood.
First of all, he attributes it to the fact that like Cheilev, (non-Kasher fat) it is 'the portion of G-d'. Just as the Cheilev of every Korban is burned on the Mizbei'ach, so too, is the blood of the Shechitah from every Korban sprinkled on the Mizbei'ach; and it is not correct to eat something that is designated as a gift to G-d.
And the reason that even the blood of a Chayah (which is not eligible to go on the Mizbei'ach) is included in the prohibition is because the Torah did not want to distinguish between the blood of one animal and the blood of another, seeing as the two are physically indistinguishable. Not so the Cheilev of a Chayah, which is permitted, since the Cheilev of a Chayah is discernable from that of a Beheimah.
The second reason is that blood is synonymous with the soul of life ("ki ha'dam hu ha'nefesh"), and when G-d permitted No'ach to eat the flesh of animals, he permitted only their bodies, but not their souls. Consequently, the initial prohibition of eating animals that was given to Adam, remains intact vis-?-vis the B'nei No'ach. (According to this however, the prohibition of drinking blood ought to apply equally to the B'nei No'ach?)
And precisely because the blood and the soul are intertwined, it is not befitting for them to drink blood. It is not befitting for people who received the Torah, which trains a person to be merciful and refines his character, to align himself with an animal, and to adopt its cruel and unrefined character-traits by drinking its blood. For, as is well-known, the food that a person eats affects his personality. Nor is the blood comparable to the meat, which changes its status during the digestion-process, so that it is not the same entity that enters one's body when one eats it - quite apart from the fact that the meat is not synonymous with the soul to begin with, so that its impact on the eater is minimal.
That is why the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (17:11) "For the soul of all flesh lies in its blood" - and it is not appropriate to combine the soul that is cut off with the soul that is everlasting.
The Rambam adds a fourth reason for the prohibition of drinking blood. He ascribes it to the practice that Yisrael learned from the Egyptians, who used to make orgies in Egypt. The guests of honour at these orgies were demons, on whose behalf they would then slaughter an animal beside a pit, into which they would pour its blood; with this they would then feed the demons, since that is what the demons ate. The purpose of the orgies was to obtain from these demons information concerning the future, to which they had limited access.
Yisrael became heavily addicted to this practice, and it was to break this addiction that the Torah issues the prohibition. Better, the Torah says, to sprinkle it on the Mizbei'ach to atone for one's sins.
The Rambam presents this as the only reason for the prohibition, and that is what prompts the Ramban to take him to task, though he does not like the reason per se. If that was the main reason, he asks, why is it that whenever the Torah speaks of the prohibition, it invariably adds that the blood is the soul? According to the Rambam's reason, what is the connection between the prohibition and the soul?
Perhaps we ought to point out at this juncture, that the connection between the two is manifest even according to the Ramban's first reason, inasmuch as G-d chose the blood of each Korban as His gift precisely because it is synonymous with the soul; as the commentaries explains, it is the soul of the animal that atones for the soul of the sinner, for when the Kohen sprinkles the blood of a Korban, it is as if it is the owner's soul that he is bringing on the Mizbei'ach.
In answer to the Ramban's Kashya on the Rambam, the Ritvo links the blood orgies with the fact that the blood is synonymous with the soul. He explains that these orgies were based on the belief that the demons drank blood itself was based on the fact that the demons themselves were formed from air and fire (the two lightest and most spiritual of the four elements from which the world was created). Consequently, their food too, needed to consist of the spiritual soul that lies in the blood.
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(Adapted mainly from Rabeinu Bachye)
Har Gerizim & Har Eival
"And you shall give the blessings on Har Gerizim and the curses on Har Eival" (12:29).
It is most likely, R. Bachye quotes the Ramban as saying, that Har Gerizim was situated south of Har Eival, and Har Eival north of Har Gerizim, to conform with the Pasuk in Yirmiyah (1:14) "From the north the evil will be released".
"Only (Rak) exert yourselves not to eat blood" (12:23).
The Torah finds it necessary to issue such a stern warning, because Yisrael were accustomed to drinking blood in Egypt, where this was common practice as a means to make contact with the demons. And that is why the Torah sees fit to repeat this prohibition no less than seven times, because it was so much part and parcel of them that they had great difficulty in ridding themselves of the practice, all the more so because this sin leads directly to idolatry.
(Refer to the following Pearl, where the author cites the opposite view.)
And so we find that the Torah tends to repeat issues that are of great importance many times - as we find by Shabbos, which, is equal to all the Mitzvos, and which the Torah repeats twelve times, and Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, which is the basis of many of the Mitzvos, it repeats no less than fifty times.
Alternatively, the Torah uses an expression of 'being strong', because blood strengthens the person who drinks it. Consequently, G-d promises to counter the loss of strength that one incurs by overcoming the urge to drink it, by boosting his strength accordingly.
From the word "Rak" (only), which always comes to exclude something, Chazal learn that an animal's liver is precluded from the above La'av, even though the liver is formed entirely from blood.
Three Levels of Prohibition
" … in order that it shall be good for you and for your children after you" (12:25).
From here we can learn, says the Mishnah in Makos, the extent of the reward that is due for performing Mitzvos: If someone who abstains from drinking blood, which people find abhorrent (see previous Pearl), earns reward both for oneself and for one's descendants, then how much more so someone who abstains from theft and adultery, for which one tends to have a strong desire!
R. Bachye goes on to subdivide the Mitzvos into three categories: Those that a person has a natural urge to transgress (such as theft and adultery); those that they generally find abhorrent (drinking blood and eating rodents), and things to which most people are indifferent (such as planting Kil'ayim and wearing Sha'atnez). That is why the Torah finds it necessary to warn against transgressing all three, to keep one's distance and to develop an abhorrence of those things that one desires no less than those that one naturally detests, simply because that is what G-d commanded us to do - for so Chazal have taught 'A person should not say "I could not bear eating the meat of a Chazir!', but rather 'I would love to eat it, but what can I do, seeing as Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu has forbidden me to do so!'
The Shesu'ah and the Ro'oh
The Ayoh and the Dayoh
"And these are the animals that you may not eat from those that chew their cud …" (14:4).
Even though the Torah has already listed the Kasher and non-Kasher animals in Shemini, it repeats them here, on account of the Shesu'ah, an animal with two backs and two spinal cords, which it did not mention there. It forbids it here - despite the fact that it chews its cud and has cloven hooves.
Likewise, it repeats the list of forbidden birds here on account of the Ro'oh (a species of vulture), which it did not mention in Shemini either, though it is synonymous with the Do'oh that it mentions there. The reason that it is called 'Ro'oh', Chazal explain, is due to its remarkable eyesight ('It stands in Bavel and sees in Eretz Yisrael').
The Ayoh and the Dayoh as well (both mentioned here) are one and the same, says R. Bachye. It too, is a species of vulture, and is listed by both its names, to prevent people from thinking that they are two different species, one of them forbidden, and the other, permitted.
"You shall surely give Ma'aser (Aser te'aser)" (14:22).
The Gemara in Ta'anis (9a) explains 'Aser bi'shevil she'tis'asher' - Give Ma'asros (with reference to Tzedakah in general).
But this cannot be correct, asks R, Bachye, seeing as both words contain Siynin; neither of them is a Shiyn?
Consequently, he explains, quoting the R'avad, that what the Gemara must really be saying is 'Aser bi'shevil she'te'aser', which rather means 'Give Ma'aser (this year) in order that you should continue to give Ma'aser (for many more years)'.
This Pasuk seems strange, asks R. Bachye, inasmuch as it appears to permit testing G-d - an odd concept in itself. But besides, how will we reconcile this with the Pasuk in Va'eschanan (6:16), "Do not test Hashem"?
And he cites the same Gemara in Ta'anis, which explains that this is the area where the Torah permits challenging G-d and putting Him to the test. The Gemara bases this on the Pasuk in Mal'achi (3:10) - "Bring all the Ma'asros to the treasury; let there be sustenance (for the Kohanim and the Levi'im) in My house. Test Me if you will, says Hashem, (and see) if I don't open the skylights of the Heaven and pour out upon you blessings without stop!"
Sh'mitah & Yovel
"At the end of seven years you shall make the Sh'mitah year" (15:1).
This has the same connotations as " … to make the Shabbos" (Va'eschanan 5:15). Both refer to desisting from work, on the Shabbos-day, from all work, in the Sh'mitah-year, from work in the field. In fact, with regard to Kedushah, Shabbos, Sh'mitah and Yovel are all equal, one in days, one in years and one in Sh'mitos (i.e. the seventh day is sanctified from the six preceding days, the seventh year from the six preceding years, and the Yovel, from the seven preceding Sh'mitos).
According to R. Bachye, it transpires that the Pasuk has two dual connotations: 1. That the last year in the seven-year cycle is the Sh'mitah, and 2. that the Sh'mitah cancels all debts only at the end of the year (as he himself explained at the beginning of the Pasuk, quoting Chazal).
Chazal have a tradition, says R. Bachye, that both Batei-Mikdash were destroyed on Motza'ei Sh'mitah, and he cites a Gemara in Erchin (11b) After commenting that G-d brings about happy events on 'meritous days', and disasters on days that are 'guilty', the Gemara states that the first Beis-Hamikdash was destroyed on Motza'ei Shabbos and Motza'ei Sh'mitah. And the Gemara in Avodah-Zarah (9a) states that the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash took place 172 years before the year 4,000 (in 3338).
Elaborating on this, the author explains that according to Rabeinu Tam (with whom he concurs) the Churban took place at the end of year 421 (after the Beis-Hamikdash was built), and he goes on to point out that, as the current year was 5051, bearing in mind that every hundred years comprise two complete Yovel-cycles, one merely needed to add 72 to 51 (47) to know that the next Sh'mitah would occur in two years time (in 5053) and that the Yovel year would follow (in 5054).
According to Rashi however, in whose opinion the Beis-Hamikdash was destroyed in year 420 (after the Beis-Hamikdash was built), the next Sh'mitah would occur the following year (in 5052) and that the Yovel year would follow (in 5053).
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... TARGUM YONASAN
'Do not eat Chametz on it (The Pesach); seven days you shall eat in its name 'poor bread' … (16:3).
'Only in the location that Hashem wants to rest His Shechinah, there you shall Shecht the Pesach. And at at night-time from when the sun sets you shall eat it, up until midnight, the time that your redemption from Egypt began' (16:6).
'On the first day you shall bring the Omer (see Nosei Klei Yonasan) and you shall eat Matzos from the old produce, and the remaining six days you are allowed to eat Matzos from the new produce. On that seventh day, you shall gather to praise Hashem your G-d …' (16:8).
'And you shall rejoice in the joy of your festivals, with water-drawing and flutes, you and your children … (16:14).
'Seven days you shall celebrate before Hashem … because G-d will bless you … and you shall rejoice in your success' (16:15).
'Three times annually all your males shall be seen before Hashem … you are not allowed to appear before G-d empty-handed from all Mitzvos' (16:16).
... THE BA'AL HA'TURIM
"Only there will not be among you a needy person, because Hashem your G-d will bless you …" (15:4).
The Torah juxtaposes "Hashem your G-d will bless you" next to a needy man - hinting at the Pasuk in Tehilim "for He (G-d) stands at the right of the needy".
"You shall surely open (poso'ach tiftach) your hand to him …" (15:8).
The double 'Pey' denotes that one should open, not only one's hand, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, but also one's mouth, to offer him a kind word.
Alternatively, if the poor man needs bread, give him bread, if he needs sweets, then give him sweets - open your hand to him in every way that assists him.
Alternatively, if he is embarrassed to come to you, you bring it to him.
Alternatively, the Torah writes a double expression in all matters that concern Tzedakah - "Poso'ach tiftach", "Noson titein", Ha'anek Ta'anik" (when an Eved Ivri he goes free). The message comes across loud and clear - there is no limit to giving; give and give again!
" … Anything that he lacks (dei machsoro asher yechsar lo)" Ibid.
The first letters of "dei machsoro asher yechsar" spell 'D'mai', the Ma'asros that Chazal obligated one to separate from food that one purchases from an am-ho'oretz.
This hints at what the Chachamim have taught that one is permitted to feed the poor D'mai.
to them softly (like a woman), because they could not take G-d's powerful voice any longer.
(See also Rashi).
Moreover, he observes, the Gematriyah of "ve'at tedaber" is the equivalent to that of 'Shemonah Dibros', corresponding to the eight commandments that they heard from Moshe, as the first two ("Anochi" and "Lo ih'yeh l'cho") they heard from G-d directly.
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AND THEIR MEANING
(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)
Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article
reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch
and are not necessarily Halachah.
To Return a Stolen Article
We are commanded to return a stolen article to its owner intact provided it is still in one's possession and has not been altered. One is not permitted to keep the article and pay money in its stead, as the Torah writes in Parshas Vayikra (5:23) " … and he shall return the stolen article that he stole …". And, as the B'raisa in Bava Kama (112a) explains, the Torah adds the words "that he stole" to teach us that he must return the article intact, and that if it has not been altered, he may keep the article, and pay only its value and he has fulfilled the Mitzvah with that, despite the fact that the owner has not despaired from getting his article back. When we say that if the article has been altered one may keep it, this refers specifically to one that is permanent, so that it cannot revert to its original status. An example of this would be if one steals wood and burns it into coal, chops some of it off or carves a cavity into it. The same will apply if one steals either wool and dyes it, or dyed-wool and weaves it into a garment. If on the other hand, one steals boards and builds a cupboard out of them, this is not considered a change that cannot revert to its original status, since it is possible to take the cupboard apart and be left with the original boards. In such a case and similar ones, one would be obligated to return the cupboard (or to take it apart and return the boards).
The reason for the Mitzvah is well-known.
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