Slave Rights

April 30, 2018 at 1:22 AM , , ,

“…No non-kohen may eat holy things… But if a kohen acquires a person, as a monetary acquisition, he may eat of it…” – Vayikra 22:10-11

וְכָל זָר לֹא יֹאכַל קֹדֶשׁ . . וְכֹהֵן כִּי יִקְנֶה נֶפֶשׁ קִנְיַן כַּסְפּוֹ הוּא יֹאכַל בּוֹ – ויקרא כב, י-יא

The Sages taught that one may not derive benefit from this world without first reciting a bracha, a blessing in acknowledgment of the world’s Creator. They compared partaking of this world without a bracha to (the prohibition of) deriving personal benefit from hekdesh, objects dedicated to the Temple, since the entirety of the world belongs to G-d (Talmud, Berachos 35a).

Yet how does the recitation of a bracha render benefit from G-d’s world permissible? Does the bracha cause G-d to relinquish His ownership of the universe?

The answer is that the bracha does not change the ownership of the item over which it was recited, but it changes the status of the individual reciting it. And in his changed status, he may partake even from that which does not “belong” to him but to G-d.

Slave Rights

To explain: The Torah prohibits non-kohanim from eating terumah, the share of our agricultural produce that we give to the kohanim.  An exception to this rule, however, is a kohen’s servant, of whom the Torah says, “If a kohen acquires a person, as a monetary acquisition, he may eat of it.” Similarly, there are select portions of the sacrificial meat that are off-limits to anyone other than a kohen, yet a kohen’s acquired servants may nevertheless partake of them (see Zevachim 55a).

We can likewise explain the significance of reciting a bracha. The text of the bracha affirms our acceptance of G-d as, “Elokeinu Melech ha’olam, our L-rd, King of the Universe.” Hence, the bracha declares G-d’s mastery of the entire universe, including the individual. Therefore, just as the servants of a Kohen may partake of foods that are ordinarily exclusive to their owner, so may those who recite a bracha enjoy the goodness of the world that is exclusively owned by G-d.

—Sefer Hasichos 5751, vol. 2, p. 847


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