In the course of teaching about the sacrifices, the Torah also
delineates certain general rules governing food. Among these are the
prohibitions against eating blood and the fat called chelev:
And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the Children of
Israel, saying: All suet (CHELEV) of ox, or sheep, or goat you shall not eat.
And the suet (CHELEV) of an animal that dies of itself (NEVELAH) and the suet
of a fatally injured animal (TEREFAH) may be used for any work, although you
shall not in any way eat it. Because anyone who eats suet (CHELEV) from the
animal of which he offers a fire-offering to Hashem, the soul that eats shall
be severed from its nation. And all blood you shall not eat, in all your
dwellings, of fowl and of animals. Any soul that eats any blood, that soul
shall be severed from its nation (Vayikra 7:22-27).
Chelev refers to the outer layer of fat, also called suet. The prohibited
chelev is the abdominal fat on the stomach, kidney and flank. It can be peeled
away like a skin. When kosher meat is purchased the chelev has already been
removed. The rest of the fat, which is permissible, is called shuman.
The Torah prohibits the chelev from the animal of
which he offers a fire-offering to Hashem.
At first glance, this seems to restrict the prohibition to the
chelev taken from animals actually offered on the Altar. However, it refers to
the types of animals that can be offered, and whose chelev is offered, namely
the three species in the verse:
ox, or sheep, or goat.
Therefore, while chelev is often spoken of together with the
prohibition against consuming blood, the comparison to blood is not exact.
While the blood of all permitted species – “of fowl and of animals” – is
forbidden, only the chelev of “ox, or sheep, or goat” is forbidden.
The prohibition against chelev applies whether or not there is an active
Temple, and it applies both in the land of Israel as well as outside it.
The fats of all other permitted species, whether non-domesticated animals
(e.g., deer), fish, fowl or kosher locusts, is permitted.
It is also derived from this passage that the chelev of a nevelah (an animal
that died without shechitah) or a terefah (an animal that sustained a
life-threatening injury) is not tamei; such chelev may of course not be eaten.
All chelev, while forbidden for eating, is nonetheless permitted for any other
use, whether privately or publicly, even for holy use. Therefore, chelev may
be made into tallow for candles, and it may even be smeared onto leather for
use in repairs to the Temple!
If these substances are unsuitable for our consumption, why are they the chief
elements of all sacrifices?
Although the prohibitions against chelev and blood are not confined to animals
that were sacrificed, the Torah clearly wishes to draw a connection between
chelev and blood, and the concept of sacrifice. This connection was mentioned
earlier in Parshat Vayikra, after a discussion of the chelev that is offered
on the Altar:
…all chelev is for Hashem. It is an everlasting statute to
your generations, in all your dwellings: all chelev and all blood you shall
not eat (Vayikra 3:16-17).
The proper place for chelev is as an offering to Hashem, not
to be ingested.
It is interesting to note a comparison between these animals and the Covenant
between the Pieces, which Hashem made with Avraham:
And He said to him: “Take for Me three calves and three goats
and three rams, and a turtle-dove and a young dove” (Bereishit 15:9).
Rashi says that these animals are the prototypes of the
sacrifices that the Children of Israel would offer.
Perhaps the Torah wishes to teach that we are to reserve the best for Hashem.
On the verse
And eat the fat (CHELEV) of the land (Bereishit 45:18)
Rashi comments that the term chelev means the best, the choicest part.
A symbolic approach to our question is found in “Shaar Bat Rabim,” by R.
Chayim Aryeh Leib of Yedvabno, Poland. He notes that blood’s effectiveness
occurs only when it flows, while chelev, the thick, weighty outer layer,
accumulates due to inactivity. Therefore, blood is symbolic of zerizut:
motion, alacrity, and readiness; while chelev is symbolic of yetzivut:
stability, inertness, and inaction.
These qualities are not inherently good or bad; everything depends on how they
are used. Zerizut can be enthusiasm, or it can be recklessness. Yetzivut can
be steadfastness and restraint, or it can be sluggishness and stubbornness.
The message of the chelev and blood – which are sacrificed on the Altar, but
not consumed – is to apply these qualities appropriately. Zerizut and yetzivut
should be used only in the service of Hashem, not in satisfying our own
A story (taken from “Likutei Chazal”) illustrates this idea. One day, a
merchant sat studying in the beit midrash. A supplier came to his home with a
business deal. His assistant answered the door and said laconically that the
merchant is not home, so the supplier left to find someone else to offer the
deal. When the merchant found out what had happened, he upbraided his
assistant: “This was important! You should have fetched me! Be careful the
Some days later, when the merchant was once again in the beit midrash, a tax
collector came to the merchant’s house. This time, the assistant ran to the
beit midrash to bring the merchant home. After dealing with the tax collector,
the merchant said: “Fool! When a good business deal came my way, you were in
no hurry. Now when the tax collector comes, you rush to get me?! You need to
know when to call me, and when not to!”
We also need to learn how to utilize appropriately the abilities that Hashem
has granted us.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"- Torah from Aloh Na'aleh*
"Tzav et Aharon ve’et banav…” "Command Aharon and his sons (Vayikra,
6:2)." The term “tzav - command” poses a difficulty; why was it necessary
to use such strong language? Rashi cites the Midrash in which Rabbi Shimon
explains: The term "command" denotes urging on to carry out a command,
both now and in future generations. Such admonishment is especially
necessary whenever a monetary loss is involved.
The pasuk refers to an olah - a whole-burnt offering - which is given
entirely to Hashem, so that a kohen derives no benefit from it whatsoever.
In the eyes of a kohen, this may be seen as a financial loss, and thus,
all the greatness of Aharon and his sons notwithstanding, special urging,
“tzav,” was necessary.
This principle of “tzav” is relevant to Aliyah. When HaShem offers us the
opportunity to return home, the greatest obstacle standing in our way is
the sense that we simply cannot leave things behind. What would be of our
nice homes, cars, and other conveniences of life? We do not stop to think
of all the marvelous gifts that HaShem gives us. We are blind to the real
gifts bestowed upon us in the land of Israel, and seek refuge in false
interpretations of the applicability and urgency of the mitzvah of yishuv
So perhaps we should simply wait for HaShem to pave the road? No! The
flame on the altar was self-sustaining; nonetheless, we were commanded to
bring a fire of our own. HaShem already blessed us with opportunities. Now
it is our turn to act. The commandment is loud and clear, we know what
“sacrifices” we must make, and HaShem is urging us… come home!
Rabbi David Marcus
CEO, The RDM Group
*D’var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh:
an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully
made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting
Aliyah. They send emissaries – Rabbis, academicians, and others – on
speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Tel: 972-2-566-1181 ext. 320