“…He who traps a wild animal or fowl that are permissible for consumption, when he sheds its blood, he must cover the blood with dust…” –  Vayikra 17:13

אֲשֶׁר יָצוּד צֵיד חַיָּה אוֹ עוֹף אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל וְשָׁפַךְ אֶת דָּמוֹ וְכִסָּהוּ בֶּעָפָר – ויקרא יז, יג

The Torah instructs us to cover the blood of any fowl or non-domesticated animals that we slaughter. This obligation, known as Kisui HaDam, does not apply, however, when we slaughter domestic animals, such as sheep or cattle.

The Ramban (on Vayikra 17:11) makes the observation that the species the Torah exempts from Kisui HaDam are those typically offered as sacrifices in the Temple. Whereasall types of domestic kosher animals are suitable as sacrifices, merely two species of fowl (doves and turtledoves) are offered on the mizbei’ach, and even then, they were not slaughtered in the regular manner. Non-domesticated animals were not offered as sacrifices at all. In a similar vein, the halacha is that only the blood of animals or fowl that are privately owned must be covered, but not the blood of animals or fowl that belong to hekdesh, the Temple treasury (see Mishna, Chullin 6:1). The limitation of Kisui HaDam to “non-Hekdesh” and “non-sacrifice-worthy” animals indicates that the requirement to cover the blood is essentially due to that blood’s inability to be offered on the mizbei’ach.


This can be understood in light of what the Torah states earlier, “The soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I have therefore given it to you [to be placed] upon the altar, to atone for your souls” (17:11); i.e., the ideal place for blood is on the altar. Accordingly, any blood not suitable for the altar should be covered.

In light of the above, we can understand the inner meaning and lesson hinted in the mitzvah of Kisui HaDam. Blood is synonymous with life and energy, symbolizing liveliness and enthusiasm. The mitzvah of Kisui HaDam reminds us that the ideal place for blood is on the mizbei’ach, meaning that we must sanctify our enthusiasm and excitement and direct them exclusively to activities that are overtly G-dly and holy. Conversely, in aspects of our lives that are not plainly “sacrifice material,” we are instructed to “cover the blood;” meaning, that excitement and physical enjoyment in fulfilling our material needs is “misplaced” and undesirable and we are therefore to restrain it. Instead, our engagement with the material world must be purely for the sake of Heaven.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 37, pp. 52-53


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