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Torah Sparks

August 3, 2002 - 5762

Prepared by Rabbi David L. Blumenfeld, Ph
Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations

Annual Cycle: Deut.11:26-16:17; Hertz, p. 799; Etz Hayim, p. 1061
Triennial Cycle I: Deut.11:26-12:28; Hertz, p. 799; Etz Hayim, p. 1061
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5; Hertz, p. 818; Etz Hayim, p. 1085

This Shabbat’s Torah Portion Summary

(11:26-32) Israel is given a choice: "See, this day I set before you blessing and curse," and warned to obey God's commandments. A covenant ritual is established to be performed at Mounts Gerizim and Ebal.

(12:1-19) The beginning of the Deuteronomic Code. The Israelites must destroy all pagan shrines and centralize worship "at the place that the Lord shall choose."

(12:20-28) Permission is given to eat meat without offering it as a sacrifice first, a necessary provision once all sacrificial worship is centralized in one place. Eating blood, however, is still prohibited everywhere.

(12:29-13:19) An additional warning against following Canaanite practices; laws concerning the false prophet, the person who entices others to worship false gods, and the traitorous city.

(14:1-21) A review of the laws of kashrut, including the signs of kashrut in animals, fish, and fowl, and the prohibitions of eating an animal that has died a natural death, a "torn" animal, and of eating milk and meat together.

(14:22-29) Laws concerning the second tithe.

(15:1-11) Laws concerning the shemittah, or Sabbatical year. Laws concerning tzedakah and help for the poor.

(15:12-18) Laws concerning the Hebrew slave.

(15:19-23) Laws concerning the first-born of animals, which were dedicated to God.

(16:1-17) The celebration of the three Pilgrimage Festivals: Pesah, Shavuot, Sukkot.

This Shabbat's Theme: "Judaism and Vegetarianism"

When the Lord enlarges your territory, as He has promised you, and you say, "I shall eat some meat" for you have the urge to eat meat, you may eat meat whenever you wish. If the place where the Lord has chosen to establish His name is too far from you, you may slaughter any of the cattle or sheep that the Lord gives you, as I have instructed you; and you may eat to your heart's content in your settlements. (Deut. 12:20-21)

  1. It has been suggested that the purpose of Shehitah (Jewish ritual slaughtering) is to indicate a reluctance to allow the eating of meat altogether. In Genesis it is written: "And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed - to you it shall be for food" (Gen. 1:29). Meat is not mentioned here among the foods permitted to man. Only after the flood was Noah told: "Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all of these" (Gen. 9:3). The implication is that man ideally should not eat meat because it entails taking the life of an animal. Later on there was an effort to limit the use of flesh to sacrifices. How else can we explain the biblical passage (from our parashah)? The permission to eat meat was thus a compromise. Hence the eating should, at least, be controlled by refraining from eating certain parts of the animal, especially the blood, and by special regulations governing the preparation of the meat. (Isaac Klein, A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice, p. 309)
  2. Along with the permission to eat meat, many laws and restrictions (the laws of kashrut) were given. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook ( First Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel. 1865-1935) believed that the restrictions of these regulations is an elaborate apparatus designed to keep alive a reverence for life, with the aim of eventually leading people away from their meat-eating habit (See his A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace). This idea is echoed by Torah commentator Rabbi Shlomoh Efraim Lunchitz, author of K'lee Yakar: "What was the necessity for the entire procedure of ritual slaughter? For the sake of self-discipline, It is far more appropriate for man not to eat meat; only if he has a strong desire for meat does the Torah permit it, and even this only after the trouble and the inconvenience necessary to satisfy his desire." (Richard H. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism, p. 11)
  3. The Torah has admonished us against immorality and forbidden foods, but permitted sexual intercourse between man and his wife, and the eating of meat and wine. If so, a man of desire could consider this to be permission to be passionately addicted to sexual intercourse... and to be winebibbers, and among gluttonous eaters of flesh... and thus he will become a sordid person within the permissible realm of the Torah! Therefore, after having listed the matters which He prohibited altogether, Scripture followed them up by a general command that we practice moderation even in matters that are permitted. (Nahmanides on Lev. 19:1)
  4. The problem with shackling and hoisting is that it causes great pain to the animals and thus violates the Jewish mandate of tsa'ar ba'alei hayim (causing pain to animals). The process involves placing an iron chain around the hind leg of the animal and hoisting the animal into the air by its hind leg while the rest of the body and head are suspended downward. Many humane groups have pushed for legislation banning shackling and hoisting. Unfortunately, some anti-Semitic groups have used the issue to discredit shehitah as well as Jewish law in general. The Jewish community must work for humane alternatives for hoisting and shackling (i.e. holding pens which are acceptable to Jewish law). Of course, the best way to be consistent with Jewish teachings concerning animals is to be a vegetarian (op. cit., Schwartz, p.91)


"The Torah teaches us a rule, that one can include meat in his diet if he is well-to-do." (Rashi, France, 1040-1105)

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