Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Muse: Shemini 2008

In this week’s portion of Shemini, chapter 11 lists those animals prohibited to eat and those which are permissible. Harav Kook, based upon his understanding of Torah was a vegetarian, and believed that optimally, the Israelites should be vegetarian. However, based upon certain considerations this goal was put on hold. Harav Kook position is based on several considerations:

• In the creation story man is told to eat from the land; but not from the meat of animals.
• In the verse (Deuteronomy 12:20) where man is permitted to eat meat, it is based on compromise, considering the word usage in the verse “ta’avah nafshecha”; as if to say that man is allowed to eat meat so long as he doesn’t treat animals as recklessly and callously as he treats man.
• Harav Kook views the laws in Shemini as a means by which to limit the consumption of meat. For example, the idea that only domestic livestock are allowed to be eaten is for Harav Kook, a way to discourage eating meat. It may be emotionally more difficult to eat domestic livestock rather than wild animals.
• The obligation to cover the blood after the slaughter (chapter 17:13) is indicative of “sheficat damim”, approximating manslaughter, something to be ashamed of.
• He also believes that the biblical injunction against cooking “meat in the mother’s milk” was intended to create a visual image of something so abhorrent that it would deter one from killing animals.
• Harav Kook also suggests that we aren’t allowed to eat from the ‘neveila’ (road kill) because we shouldn’t benefit from an accident whereby an animal was killed.

When considering the scandal surrounding the Rubashkin meat packing company it would do us well to consider the words of Harav Kook. Perhaps we have reached the point where we need to limit or perhaps eliminate the consumption of meat.