SALT - Monday, Yom HaZikaron - 5 Iyar 5777 - May 1, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

            One of the commands issued in Parashat Acharei-Mot is the obligation of kisui ha-dam, which requires covering the blood of a slaughtered animal or bird.  As we discussed yesterday, this mitzva applies specifically to birds and to non-domesticated animals.  After one slaughters a domesticated animal, such as a cow or lamb, the blood does not have to be covered.

            Among the approaches taken to explain this obligation appears in Rav Aharon Elazar Fashkas’ Ma’aseh Avot commentary to Pirkei Avot (p. 3a).  Rav Fashkas takes note of the fact that the Torah introduces this command by addressing the case of a person who “hunts” a non-domesticated animal or bird (“asher yatzud tzeid chaya” – 17:13).  This focus on the act of hunting, Rav Fashkas suggests, perhaps gives us a clue as to the nature of this command.  The Torah allows sacrificing only domesticated animals, and thus whenever a sacrifice is required, one merely has to take an animal from his herd, or purchase an animal from the cattle market, to offer a sacrifice.  Never does the Torah require a person to go out to hunt for a deer or other animals in the wild.  Rav Fashkas thus suggests that the obligation of kisui ha-dam serves to draw one’s attention to the somewhat problematic nature of hunting birds or non-domesticated animals for food.  A person goes out to hunt an animal because, apparently, he is not satisfied with the animals in his herd, and desires something different.  The Torah seeks to admonish this individual for exerting this kind of effort for his physical gratification, a level of exertion that God does not require for sacrifices.  While we are certainly not to ignore our physical and material needs, and we are entitled to enjoy food and other physical delights, we must live with a proper sense of balance and prioritization, devoting as much time and effort as we can to the service of our Creator.  Covering the blood of a slaughtered bird or non-domesticated animal signals that while the Torah looks unfavorably upon – while stopping short of prohibiting – going to hunt for animals when ordinary meat is available with less effort and exertion.

            One could easily question whether this approach is technically correct, as there are occasions when the Torah requires bringing doves or pigeons as sacrifices, and the obligation of kisui ha-dam applies even when slaughtering domesticated birds that do not require hunting, such as chickens.  Nevertheless, the insight reminds us of the need for moderation in our material pursuits, that we must try to devote as much time and energy as possible to spirituality, to studying Torah and performing mitzvot, recognizing that this is ultimately the purpose for which we have come into the world.