Shemini – Thoughts on The Perasha

We recite in our prayers every day “the preeminence of mankind over beast is non-existent…except the pure soul”. We know through our Tradition that the world was created for humankind; all other creatures and kingdoms are there to serve humankind and in exchange, humankind must protect and care for this beautiful world. Our interaction with the rest of the other creations ought to follow a certain modicum of respect, care and protection; despite our right to use them as supporting elements in our nutrition, clothing, housing, and religious ritual work, etc.

The Torah, as it represents the Wisdom of G-d, the Creator of the world and the Father of all creatures, therefore must characterize the right balance between creations. Perashat Shemini opens a chapter that permits the consumption of animals as a staple of food, therefore we can assume that being a “meat eater” is permissible and sometimes required during Shabbat and holiday. However, the Torah limits and circumscribes the types of animals to be eaten and further restricts it to the way the animal is killed, making it “kasher” for consumption by Jews.

Adam and Eve were instructed to only eat fruits and vegetables. It was not until Noah that permissibility to eat meat was extended to him and his descendants.  When civilization at large, at the time of the revelation of the Torah, was eating and treating animals without any limits and restrictions, G-d saw to instruct and inculcate in His People the caring, respect and mercy on all of His creatures. Therefore, we have those restrictions.

A note of interest is that kosher animals are herbivores and not carnivores. Permitted birds are not predators or attack birds, and permitted fish are not attack or cleaning fish.

We need not refer to the ancient civilizations to demonstrate their meat eating habits, we only need to look around the globe and see that in some regions they eat anything that moves, flies or crawls. World travelers who seek the most exotic regions can testify to the most repulsive culinary dishes. For those of us who keep to the Kosher diet, we recite a blessing everyday that “G-d has chosen us”…not to eat any of those species; therefore stopping us from eating anything repulsive.

Animals have been used for religious purifications and atonement offerings, as we read in this week’s Perasha and practically, in the enire book of Vayikra, actions that seem to be incongruent to the respect and mercy that we ought to give those creatures. Again, I must say that these offerings and religious purifications were a limitation to what was being done at that time and a channeling of a human’s desires toward a useful and constructive venue. Additionally, that being the Torah what is, we ought to believe in its Divinity, humanity, mercy and justice.

Let us hope that the world around us respects and cares for those other creatures that G-d has created, and at the same time not lose their moral and ethical compass in regard to human beings.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *