Let Them Eat Meat

August 14, 2017 at 2:41 AM , , ,

“…When Hashem, your G-d, expands your borders, as He has spoken to you, and you say, “I will eat meat,” because your soul desires to eat meat… However, be strong in not eating the blood…” – Devarim 12:20-23

כִּי יַרְחִיב ה’ אֱלֹקֶיךָ אֶת גְּבֻלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר לָךְ וְאָמַרְתָּ אֹכְלָה בָשָׂר כִּי תְאַוֶּה נַפְשְׁךָ לֶאֱכֹל בָּשָׂר בָּשָׂר . . רַק חֲזַק לְבִלְתִּי אֲכֹל הַדָּם – דברים יב, כ-כג

According to one opinion in the Talmud (Chullin 16b), Bnei Yisrael in the desert were not permitted to eat any meat other than that of an animal offered as a sacrifice. The Torah therefore states that when G-d “expands your borders,” i.e. when Bnei Yisrael will arrive in the Land of Israel, it will be permissible for them to eat meat whenever “your soul desires to eat meat,” even from an animal that was not brought as a sacrifice.

The permission to consume non-sacrificial meat upon entering the Land of Israel reflected the shift of spiritual focus that would accompany Bnei Yisrael’s departure from the desert and entry to the Land.

Upon entering the Land of Israel, Bnei Yisrael would begin engaging with the world on a natural level, working the land and settling it. Their Divine mission would be to elevate the material world by imbuing it with G-dly purpose.

In the desert, however, G-d provided all their material needs through miraculous means, allowing them to devote themselves entirely to their spiritual development and to the study of the Torah. Therefore, in the desert, there was no justification for eating “mundane” meat, for the job of elevating the mundane had not yet begun. Animals were to be offered to G-d as sacrifices; only in that holy context was meat permissible for consumption.

Non-sacrificial meat became permissible for consumption only when Bnei Yisrael entered the Land of Israel.  Now they were permitted to partake of the physical world—even beyond that which is obviously sacred (as the sacrifices were), for they now had the ability and responsibility to infuse even their mundane desires with a G-dly purpose.

The Torah warns, however, “Be strong in not eating the blood.” Blood is a metaphor for energy, enthusiasm and passion. The Torah’s admonition to only eat meat that has been drained of its blood means that when we utilize what the world has to offer for a G-dly purpose, we must do so without blood, i.e. without excitement or lust for physical enjoyment and pleasure.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 4, pp. 1108-1110


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