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Aspaqlaria: Parshas Re'eih

Scattered throughout parshas Re'eih are various laws about kashrus. Perhaps we can construct something about the purpose and nature of kashrus by looking at these pisukim.

Just be strong, lest you eat the blood; because the blood, it is the nefesh (soul) -- and you should not eat the nefesh with the flesh.

- Devarim 12:23

To the Torah, the blood is the material which at every beat of the pulse circulates through the whole body, is the medium by means of which the soul exercises its ever-present mastery of the body. So that it is eminently the foremost bearer of the soul, and the Torah forbids animal blood, as the bearer of the animal soul, animal life, any entry into the realm -- the holy morally free-willed realm -- of the human soul, human life...

...and just as you are not to consume the blood, in which the soul has its foremost representative, so also you are not to eat the meat at the time when the soul is still in connection with it, in which the joint you are taking for consumption is still under the mastery of the soul.

- R. SR Hirsch, ad. loc.

As R. SR Hirsch explains, the prohibition against eating circulatory blood is because it is the seat of animal life, and the animal soul. This is why the pasuk ties it to eating flesh from a living animal -- animalism should be beneath man, you shouldn't try to absorb it.

There are three terms the Torah and Talmud use to refer to the soul: nefesh, ruach, and neshamah, often referred to in Kabbalistic literature by the acronym "Naran". The Zohar in numerous places finds the Torah's choice of term for "soul" to be significant, that each refers to a different aspect.

R. Chaim Vilozhiner (Nefesh Hachaim 1:15) comments:

Our Rabbonim za"l already compared the three-fold living ruach of man -- the making of a glass utensil to reviving the dead. They said, "It is a kal vachomer (a fortiori) argument from a glass utensil, which is made by the breath of flesh and blood... Flesh and blood, which is made by the breath of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, how much more so!"...

For the moral must be similar to the metaphor. When we study the breath of the mouth of the worker into the glass container when he makes it, we find in it three concepts. The first idea is when the breath of air is still in his mouth, before it goes into the opening of the hollow tube, we can only call it then a "neshimah". The second idea, when the breath enters the tube, and continues like a line, then it is called "rauch" (wind). The third, lowest, idea, is when the breath goes from the tube and into the glass, and inflates in it until it becomes a container to fit the will of the glass-blower, then his wind stops and is called "nefesh", a term of rest and relaxation.

The term our pasuk uses for an animal's soul is "nefesh". Nefesh is the force which controls and maintains the body, its life force. The term "nefesh" describes the physical drives. We say in morning prayer, "My G-d, the neshamah which you have placed within me is tahorah (pure)..." The neshamah remains unsullied even in the present. Our first words upon waking up are "...for you have returned my neshamah within me..." The neshamah joins Hashem's presence in heaven when we sleep. It contains the spiritual side of man.

No matter how much man gets caught up in his day-to-day life, the Zohar teaches that the neshamah is his link to the heavenly realm. It still is aware of man's origin in heaven before birth, and strives to return to that purity. No matter how rote or habitual one's observance becomes on the conscious realm, the neshamah is aware of the significance.

This is the basis of the common explanation about why tephillah has some value even without kavanah. Within the neshamah, well below the conscious mind a connection is made with the A-lmighty.

In the middle -- "connected", as the Zohar tells us, to both -- resides the ruach. Literally ruach means "wind", the unseen air blowing about the seen objects of the world. By extension, it is man the creator's power to control the world around him.

The ruach too has desires, the urges of the world of man. The drives for fame, for wealth, and for power are all contained in the ruach. These tendencies are direct consequences of consciousness and free will. With the notion of "self" comes the ability to place that self ahead of the rest of the world.

Naran is perhaps one of the most fundamental concepts in Kabbalistic thought. For example, the Likuttei Amarim of the Tanya, an overview to Chassidic thought, assumes knowledge of naran with no explanation. Even though the concept is used repeatedly (Chapters 2, 4, 14) it is never explained. Similarly, R. SR Hirsch (Collected Writings, vol. VIII) uses the idea without explaining it -- even though he explains ideas that are currently far more commonly known. It appears as though naran was a well known concept, not needing elucidation.

It seems natural to identify naran with the concepts we have developed in our studies of parshiyos Chukas and Balak.

We understood the Messilas Yesharim and R. SR Hirsch to explain tum'ah as the adulteration of the mind, the prejudicing of the free-will, with the notion that man is only an animal, a passive victim of physical urges of forces. In the Zohar's terminology, we would say it is the absorption of nefesh into the ruach.

In light of this, the pasuk tells us the motivation behind prohibiting blood by its choice of term for soul. "The blood, it is of the nefesh." Hirsch's explanation "the Torah forbids... the bearer of the animal soul... any entry into the realm... of the human soul," tells us that the prohibition against eating blood is to prevent tainting, prejudicing, the ruach with a symbol of the nefesh. Eating blood causes the mental state the Messilas Yesharim identifies as tum'ah.

Our parashah lists the kosher species, also connecting them to the dichotomy between tum'ah and taharah.

But these you shouldn't eat... because they raise their cud, but their hooves aren't split, it is tamei to you....

And all [fish] which don't have fins and scales you should not eat, it is tamei to you. All birds that are tahor you may eat.

- Devarim 14:7, 10-11

The last kashrus laws in this week's parashah are the prohibitions against eating meat killed improperly, and eating meat together with milk.

Don't eat any carcass, to the foreigner who lives inside your fences it should be given for him to eat, or sell it to a gentile, for you are kadosh -- a nation dedicated to Hashem your G-d; do not cook a kid in its mother's milk.

- ibid. 21

When our pasuk discusses "kedushah" it says "you are a kadosh nation to Hashem your G-d". Kedushah is a relationship between two things, one thing committing to another. As we saw in our discussion of tzitzis, general man's goal is pursuit of the seven, the perfection of the mind. The Jew was given the extra task of the bris of the eighth day, the techeiles, eighth string of the tzitzis, the dedication of the mind to G-d, of the commitment to use the ruach as a tool of the neshamah.

The insertion of middle phrase into the pasuk draws a connection between these two prohibited foods, and the extra kedushah of the Jewish nation. This kedushah originates in the extra commandments incumbent on the Jew.

People, like animals, eat. It is a function of the nefesh. As such, eating has the potential for causing tum'ah. In order to prevent this, we sanctify the act of eating. These last two prohibitions do not involve what is eaten, but how it is prepared. Even the preparation is subject to mitzvos, and so becomes kadosh. Kashrus gives us the power to take a tamei act, which should reduce human potential, and use it to elevate ourselves, to become higher beings.

This relationship between man and the physical is summed up in the pasuk obligating us to bentch.

And you shall eat, visavata -- and be full, and you shall bless Hashem your G-d for the good land which He gave you.

The pasuk shows the ideal, the sequence of all things through the three realms in which we live; from the physical universe, into the world of man, to become tools in spiritual service and progression. The first step is eating, gratifying the nefesh's hunger. From this, the ruach becomes full. It's interesting to note that the root of visavata, shin, bet, ayin, spells sheva, seven. Seven represents completion, wholeness, and the seventh is the mental component, of that whole, the Shabbos of creation. Visavata, and your ruach shall feel whole. We then take this feeling and apply it to the service of G-d, blessing Him, and showing our gratitude for the physical world He gave us to use in our service to Him.

© 1995 The AishDas Society