Shabbat Parshat Acharei
Mot - Shabbat Ha'Gadol
In between the Yom Kippur service and the laws of forbidden sexual unions are the mitzvot pertaining to slaughtering animals. In this context, the Torah emphatically prohibits the consumption of blood: Because the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you for the altar, to atone for your souls; for it is the blood that will atone for the soul. Therefore I have said to the Children of Israel, “No soul (person) of you shall eat blood …”(Vayikra 17:11-12).
Therefore, blood spilled in kosher slaughter requires covering: And anyone, whether of the Children of Israel or a proselyte who has joined them, who traps game (ASHER YATZUD TZEID) of beast (CHAYAH) or bird (OFE) which may be eaten (ASHER YEIACHEIL) and he will spill its blood (V’SHAFACH ET DAMO), then he shall cover it with earth (V’CHISAHU BE’AFAR) (verse 13).
This is the positive commandment to cover the blood (kisui ha’dam) of trapped birds (OFE) and non-domesticated animals (CHAYAH) (see Chullin chapter 6; Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deiah, chapter 28). Hunting for sport is cruelty. And although trapping animals is permitted to provide food or clothing, it is noteworthy that the only personalities in Scripture described as hunters are Nimrod (Bereishit 10:8-9) and Esav (25:27); these are hardly role-models for Jews to emulate (Avoda Zara 18b; Noda BiYehuda, R. Yechezkel ben Yehuda Landau, 1713-1793; second edition Yoreh Deiah 10).
Here are some details of kisui ha’dam taken from the 14th chapter of Rambam, “Laws of Slaughter”: Although the Torah says, who traps game (ASHER YATZUD TZEID), the law applies equally to both trapped and ready birds and beasts; the Torah merely gives the most common example. which may be eaten (ASHER YEIACHEIL) These words restrict kisui ha’dam to permissible species, and also excludes creatures that have been sanctified (¶ 2).
Similarly, one is not required to cover the blood of a nevelah (if, for example, the slaughtering was botched) or terefah (the animal sustained a life- hreatening injury) (¶ 10).
and he will spill its blood (V’SHAFACH ET DAMO), then he shall cover it (V’CHISAHU)
The one who slaughters should cover the blood properly. Nevertheless, if he did not do so, another must cover it (¶ 15). with earth (BE’AFAR) – literally “in the earth.” Covering is done with anything that can sustain plant life which is sufficiently pulverized to be called AFAR (¶ 11), or with anything called AFAR in Scripture, such as gold dust (see Iyov 28:6; Devarim 9:21) (¶ 12), or ashes (see Bamidbar 19:17) (¶ 13). First the slaughterer places AFAR below, slaughters over it, and then, after saying a blessing (¶ 1), covers the blood with more AFAR (¶ 14).
As Ramban explains, mankind was permitted to eat meat after the Flood. However, we are allowed to consume only the animal’s body, not its “life force,” which is carried to all parts of the body by the blood: “He permitted man to use their bodies for his benefit and needs because their life was on account of man’s sake, and that their soul [i.e., blood] should be used for man’s atonement when offering them up before Him, blessed be He, but not to eat it.” Sefer HaChinuch (ascribed to either R. Aharon HaLevi or R. Pinchas HaLevi of Barcelona, mid-13th Century) develops this idea further (§ 187): “The life-spirit is integrally bound up with the blood. …It is therefore fitting for us to cover the life-spirit and conceal it from the eyes of those who would see it before we eat the meat. For by this too we would acquire a slight cruelty in our souls, eating the meat while the life-spirit lies poured out before us.”
Domestic animals (B’HEMOT) are exempted and do not require kisui ha’dam, since most were used for the altar, thereby producing atonement: I have given it to you for the altar, to atone for your souls; and the Torah did not want to differentiate between consecrated and non-consecrated B’HEMOT. On the other hand, all kosher species of birds require kisui ha’dam, even though some are offered on the altar, because they are a minority, “and the Torah is never concerned about a minority” (adapted from The Guide to the Perplexed, III 34).
Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808- 1888) sees the difference between those living things which require kisui ha’dam and those that do not as an indication of their fundamental character: “The animals concerned, beast (CHAYAH) or bird (OFE), are thereby designated with reference to their being animals, by their original natures, in the free state away from the power of Man, animals of the open. …the ideal of a free untrammeled animal life is most alluring to the sensuality of Man. It is understandable, that at the moment when animals of this sphere are taken to nourish human beings, the prohibition of blood and the separation of animal nature from Man’s nature which it presents, should be given a further special mark of emphasis.”
Thus bird and beast require kisui ha’dam. On the other hand, B’HEMOT, by their very nature, depend on man. They are not deprived of freedom before being consumed, and since their example is less tempting to man, their blood need not be rejected via covering.
Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (1865-1935), who regards vegetarianism as a Messianic ideal, discusses kisui ha’dam in Afikei Negev (pp. 93-94).
Because B’HEMOT rely on man for their sustenance, man should feel no shame when taking their life for food; in a sense, they “owe him.” Beasts and birds, on the other hand, are by their nature free; when man takes their lives for food, he should feel shame, which is expressed by covering their blood. The mitzvot of ACHAREI MOT demonstrate the scope of man’s potentials: possessed of both angelic and animal aspects, he can rise to great heights or sink to the depths. We are commanded to be cognizant of this range, to avoid its pitfalls and to aspire to its challenges.