Re’eh – Sheini

I Got Yer Oral Law Right Here

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

When God selects His special place, that will be the only place where one may offer sacrifices. The Jews will be able to slaughter animals for food in other places. They can even eat kosher animals not used for sacrifices, like deer, though not the blood. But sacrifices may only be offered in the Temple and tithes will only be eaten in Jerusalem. (The Jews are cautioned to remember to give the Leviim their portions.)

While we’re on the subject of regular meat (that is, not sacrifices), we’re given a few rules on the matter. The Jews can eat as much meat as they wish, they just have to follow the rules of shechita (ritual slaughter). It’s not like sacrifices in that people who are ritually clean and unclean can both eat it. And, as we have said, one may not eat blood. Rather, it must be spilled on the ground like water.

This section contains one of the clearest indications of the Torah sheb’al peh (the Oral Law, the verbal instructions given Moshe along with the written Torah). Verse 21 says that meat must be slaughtered “in the way I have commanded you,” but the laws of shechita are not found anywhere in the Torah! Clearly, they were commanded but not recorded – that’s the very definition of the Oral Law!

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