G-d called Moshe, and spoke to him from the Appointed Tent, saying, “Tell the Children of Israel that when any of them offer an animal to G-d, it should be either from cattle, sheep, or goats.” (Vayikra 1:1-2)
>From a Kabbalistic point of view, there are four levels to physical Creation. At the bottom of the totem pole is the level of Domeim, which means “silent,” because it refers to things like stones and minerals that are non-life forms (pet rocks included). Above that level is the level of Tzomayach, which means “sprout,” obviously referring to the level of vegetation. Next is Chai, the level of non-human living beings, and the last level is that of humans, called Medabehr -(Speaker), because speech is the chief quality, according to Torah, that separates man from the animal world.
All that exists is the result of these four different realities, which also includes man as living proof since he also possesses physical properties from the three levels below his own. And, it is this inter- dependency that unites all of the physical world, allowing a give-and-take relationship that demands that man take a responsible approach to Creation.
In the Garden of Eden, the relationship of all the parts was much closer, but damaged as a result of the eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Gan Aiden represented a near-perfect harmony of all Creation to such an extent that everything in the Garden was self-maintaining; working and protecting the Garden was an issue of learning Torah on all four levels of Pardes -(Pshat, Remez, Drush, and Sod), not of actually hoeing the ground (Pirkei d’Rebi Eliezer 12).
At first, even Adam HaRishon’s meat did not come from this world:
Rebi Yehudah ben Besira said, “Adam HaRishon was sitting in the Garden of Eden and the angels served him roasted meat. When the snake looked in and observed this honor, he became jealous.” This refers to meat which came from Heaven. But is there any meat that comes from Heaven? Yes! It once happened that Rebi Shimon ben Chalafta came across lions while on the road, and they were stirred against him. He said, “The young lions cry after their prey” (Tehillim 104:21), and a miracle occurred: two legs fell from Heaven. The lions ate one of them and one remained behind, which he brought to the Bais Medrash and asked, “Is this from a clean animal or an unclean one?” They answered him, “Nothing unclean ever comes from Heaven.” (Sanhedrin 59b)
However, all of this changed as a result of the sin. Meat ceased to be delivered from Heaven, and it was just a matter of time before mankind turned to the animals of his world as a source of food. By Noach’s time, eating animal flesh was such a common occurrence that the Seven Noachide Laws had to stipulate how to do it properly. And, when the Jewish people received the Torah at Har Sinai hundreds of years later, they received additional laws and guidelines for taking the life of an animal and preparing it for human consumption.
Thus, it is that the Mineral World that feeds the Vegetation World, which in turn feeds the Animal World. And all of them feed the Human World, in some way or another. And, when this is the case and it’s performed in a holy manner, everything achieves a tikun and the world moves closer back to the state of Gan Aiden, as we shall discuss, b’ezras Hashem.
He must slaughter the bull before G-d . . . (Vayikra 1:5)
Why would a nation forbid shechitah, the slaughtering of an animal as per the Torah’s instructions? They would argue that it is an inhumane way to kill an animal, that they are being sympathetic to animals, that they are protecting the “rights” of the animals. (They would, of course, first have to deny the Divinity of Torah, for what good would it do to show sympathy at a time that G-d Himself does not?) Though from a Torah perspective this would be wrong, even evil, it would appear as a just thing to do in a “civilized” society.
Imagine the following alternative scenario. There is the Sitra Achra in Heaven, looking down on our world for ways to interfere with Jewish observance of Torah and mitzvos. Sometimes he attacks us through the Laws of Family Purity, making the construction and maintenance of mikvaot impossible by stimulating a host nation to ban such religious practices. Sometimes he interferes with the observance of Shabbos, putting it into the minds of gentile employers to tell their Jewish employees, “Either you show up on Saturday to work or you don’t show up on Monday to work, and all the days after that as well!”
Other times, he attacks us through the mitzvah of Kashrus, directing politicians and governments in directions that lead them to believe that the ritual slaughter of an animal, as per the Torah, is uncivilized. The Sitra Achra knows only too well how to get people to make a mitzvah out of a sin, and not knowing him or his methods, people believe their decisions are the result of their own intellectual processes and pursuit of truth.
One of the tell-tale signs of the Sitra Achra’s hand in such affronts to Torah is the inconsistency of the people who carry them out. To the needs of animals they will be super-sensitive and yet, when it comes to humans, they will be insensitive. They will fight to save the lives of whales while doing little or nothing to save starving humans somewhere else in the world, etc. True, everyone has their pet cause (pun unintended), but EVERYONE’S cause should be the survival of humans first.
Fine. So let’s say that it is the Sitra Achra creating such a stir against shechitah. Why does he care so much about it in the first place?
The answer has to do with why Adam HaRishon was not permitted to eat meat in Gan Aiden, and why he was able to after the sin. And, this is something that is best understood through the idea of Korbanos -(sacrifices) which these parshios begin to discuss, and which incorporated all four aspects of physical creation: Domeim (salt), Tzomayach (wood), Chai (the animal), and Medabehr (the people involved and those who consumed it):
An animal sacrifice involves salt, which is from the realm of Domeim, wood for the altar, from the World of Tzomayach; the nefesh (animal) itself is atoned for by the animal itself. In other words, in the beginning, they caused the sin, and they went from being only a potential to an actuality. Through the sin they became revealed and increased. Now, (through the sacrifice), they have become consumed and destroyed by the fire of the altar (Sha’arei Leshem, p. 493).
In other words, what was it in man that caused him to disobey G-d in the first place? True, the Snake appealed to Chava to eat, to understand more and better, and Adam HaRishon had his reasons for taking the forbidden fruit from his wife and eating from it too. But, bottom line, what was it in Adam that gave him the ability to rationalize and eat against the will of G-d, if not his very physicality?
Indeed, as Rashi points out, it was the ground itself that sinned before anything else, producing trees that do not taste like their fruit, against the commandment of G-d (Bereishis 1:11). And, it is from that very ground that man’s body was first fashioned, and thus, as Rashi points out, it too was “visited” by G-d when man was being punished for his own sin later on Day Six.
But what could man’s body do without the power and life force of the soul? But can a soul sin, G-d forbid? Not the upper levels of the soul, but the Nefesh can, the level of soul that we have in common with the animal world, that could be dragged into a sin, so-to-speak. And thus it was these three components of Creation that led to the unholy consumption from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and which undergoes a tikun when they are consumed on the holy altar through a sacrifice.
And, not only this, but every aspect of the preparation of the sacrifice was part and parcel with the tikun as well, including the shechitah, all of which brought the world and mankind closer to complete rectification – something the Sitra Achra could never tolerate. For, such rectification means the end of his existence, and therefore he must fight against it at all times and anyway he can.
He doesn’t really care how it happens, just as long as it does happen. For, the ritual slaughtering of animals as per the Torah’s strict specifications, and the preparing of the meat as the halachah describes, reduces the Gevuros in Creation, as the following explains:
Now, usually regarding sacrifices that are brought because of a sin, these in truth, apply to all sacrifices, whether obligatory or voluntary; this makes it more in line with the will of G-d. For, all sins are the result of the zuhama in the animal soul and the “murky” Domeim and Tzomayach. Therefore, when one sacrifices before G-d, the fire burns and destroys them, weakening the reality of zuhama and spiritual impurity. Evil is weakened and the land is purified, preventing people from coming to sin. (Ibid.)
Just one question. What’s a Gevurah?
The descendants of Aaron, the priests, must put fire on the altar and arrange the wood on the fire. (Vayikra 1:7)
Literally, Gevurah means strength and is considered to be the opposite of another known spiritual trait, Chesed, which means kindness, as different from each other as is fire and water. Thus, whereas Chesed seems more laid back, Gevurah is more forceful. Whereas Chesed seems to want to reveal the light of G-d, Gevurah tends to want to conceal the light of G-d, for that is its role within Creation without which there could be no free-will, the purpose of Creation.
Yitzchak, the second of our Forefathers, represented the trait of Gevurah, and we know how righteous he was. On the other hand, Eisav his son was also rooted in Gevurah, and we know how evil he was (and can be until this very day). Indeed, it is Gevurah that compels a person to sin, or gives him the ability to withstand the temptation to sin. It is Gevurah that is the basis of Divine justice, and the instrument through which it is carried out.
Clearly, therefore, Creation requires Gevurah just as it does the trait of Chesed. However, just as too much Chesed can be very negative, too much Gevurah can certainly be destructive, as history testifies millions of times over. And, therefore it must be kept in check, which is the way it was just before Adam HaRishon sinned. Creation, until Adam HaRishon partook of the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah was a near-perfect blend of Chesed and Gevurah, allowing physical Creation to exist, and also for a tremendous ongoing revelation of G-d within Creation.
This perfection was reflected in all that existed, except for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is why Adam was forbidden to eat the animals around him, because the only reason to do so would be to rectify the sparks within them, something that was unnecessary to do before the sin. Using animals for a higher purpose brings them rectification, but before the sin there was no higher purpose for them than simply keeping Adam and Chava (and the “kids”) company in the Garden.
However, once Adam even began to contemplate the nature of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Creation plunged to lower levels with everything in it. Thus, the perfection the animals possessed prior to the sin was lost as a result of it, and all of a sudden they possessed more Gevuros than they were suppose to have. Eventually, animals that would be called “treif” for the Jewish people would be the ones whose Gevuros is too much to be rectified through Kashrus processes, whereas the “kosher” animals would be the ones that could be rectified through shechitah, de- fatting the meat (of non-kosher forbidden fats) and salting it to remove the blood.
And, each time this process takes place, and a Jew eats meat for a holy reason, first and foremost to nourish himself in order to perform mitzvos, and secondly, in the actual performance of a mitzvah, such as a Seudos- Mitzvah, he or she brings Creation that much closer to overall rectification. How much more so was this the case when a sacrifice was brought:
There is a second reason for sacrifices which is more spiritual, and which is that they come to “sweeten” (i.e., rectify and elevate) the judgment and change it from the “Trait of Judgment” to that of Mercy. For, Domaim and Tzomayach are the result of the “Strong Judgment” and physicality, and thus, when they are offered to G-d, they became “sweetened” and “fragranced” (i.e., pleasing to G-d). (Sha’arei Leshem, p. 493)
G-d called (vayikra) Moshe . . . (Vayikra 1:1)
Thus, the Sitra Achra’s intense interest in interfering with shechitah. He knows something the governments of the world do not, that shechitah is a way to sweeten the Gevuros in creation along the path to the final rectification and redemption. However, for the Sitra Achra, the less people know, the better, because they might end up supporting the Torah and not interfering with it.
This is the what the Talmud says regarding the Temple, that if the nations of the world understood the protection the Temple provided them and the goodness it brought them, not only would they not have destroyed it, they would have built a wall around it to protect it! But, instead, they were kept blind to the true worth of the Temple, and instead were made to see it as an obstacle to their own national goals and fulfillment, and destroyed it with pride and pleasure.
In a rare moment of realization, Neron, a Roman general realized what was happening through his own hands and fled his position of power and converted to Judaism instead (Gittin 56a). Amazingly, in the process of destroying the Temple and Jerusalem, he saw through the veil of nature and recognized the hand of G-d in all that was transpiring, and instead realized the ultimate worth of the Jewish people and all that they did.
Another example of this was a Roman advisor Katiyah bar Shalom. Caesar saw the Jewish people as a cancer in his kingdom, and wanted to destroy them once and for all. However, even though Katiyah was a loyal Roman, he still saw the necessity of the Jewish people in history, and advised against their annihilation.
Even though Caesar had to heed Katiyah’s logic, he also had to sentence him to death for opposing Caesar’s opinion. However, this set up the opportunity to convert to Judaism right before death, and Katiyah went right to the World-to-Come – another rare story.
Perhaps this is why the Aleph of Vayikra in the first word of this week’s parshah is small, alluding to the word vayikar and Amalek. As vayikra, it is an allusion to the direct and obvious hand of G-d in Jewish history, and by extension, the clear meaning of the sacrifices and their power to return mankind back to the Garden of Eden, albeit step-by-step. As vayikar, it is an allusion to how easily something as holy and important as shechitah can be turned around and made into a cruel and inhumane act.
And the difference between the two is both small and large. It is the difference of a single Aleph, and yet it is the difference between a world of doubt, darkness, and hatred of the Jews, and a world of intellectual clarity, light, and respect for Torah and those who uphold Her.
And now, with Pesach just around the corner, we are reminded that this is the very reason we were freed from Egypt in the first place. In Yosef’s time, Pharaoh had respect for the Jewish people and all that they did. He didn’t necessarily want to live that way himself, but he was certainly content to let Yosef’s family continue on with the ways of their fathers.
But, as the community settled in and began to be influenced by the gentile population rather than influence them instead, they lost the meaning of what being a descendant of Avraham Avinu was all about – and so did the Egyptians as well. One hundred and sixteen years, ten plagues, and 12,000,000 Jews later, we were at Mt. Sinai re-learning the meaning of what is most meaningful. That is the Aleph of Vayikra – the G-dly knowledge that makes us look wise in the eyes of the world, not like fools.
Vayikra is the call to learn it all over again.
And, speaking of responding to the call, there is a famous story told over in the name of the Chofetz Chaim about kiruv rechokim — outreach.
As the story goes, there was a king who went and visited the towns under his rulership. While sipping tea with the mayor of one town, he was disgusted by the taste of the tea and asked the mayor how it was made. Upon finding out that water from the river was put straight into the pot to boil, the king explained that it would taste better if it was distilled first, and then boiled for tea. The mayor thanked the king for his great piece of advice, and the king left for the next town.
Shortly after returning to the palace, the king heard that the town had burned down, and he quickly left again to survey the damage. Upon meeting the distraught mayor, the king asked him,
“Don’t you have a fire department to put out fires?”
“Yes,” the mayor responded, “but by the time they distilled the water, all the buildings had burned down to the ground!”
The king could only shake his head in disbelief and say, “No, no, no! That you can afford to do when you are making a cup of tea. But when it comes to putting out a fire, any water will do!”
In other words, the Chofetz Chaim was saying, when the Jewish people are facing a major crisis, then anyone and everyone who can help stem that crisis must pitch in the best they can.
The underlying premise of my web site (www.thirtysix.org) is that the Jewish people, and the world for that matter, is in crisis. First, it was a matter of sources that seem to speak about our times and project a picture that creates reason for concern. Now, over the last few years, history has given even more credence to those sources and that projection as our most recent golden era seems to be coming to an abrupt close.
As a result, I have been honing the material in an effort to make it teachable to others, to train those who relate to the material and the present-day situation, so that they can be better informed and more capable of transmitting the message to those whom they can impact. The next stage is to go on the road and actually present the material, something I would like to start doing, b”H, in the weeks before Shavuos.
If you are interested in organizing such a presentation/training session in your city, please contact me as a soon as possible: [email protected], for more details. May our efforts make a significant impact so that we can witness the transition from exile to redemption without further suffering.
Have a great Shabbos,
Copyright © by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Project Genesis, Inc.
Rabbi Winston has authored many books on Jewish philosophy (Hashkofa). If you enjoy Rabbi Winston’s Perceptions on the Parsha, you may enjoy his books. Visit Rabbi Winston’s online book store for more details! www.thirtysix.org