Shemini – Molding Our Future

For Food for Thought in Spanish: Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.

The Mesilas Yesharim in the first chapter, “Man’s Duty in This World,” relates: “If you look more deeply into the matter, you will see that the world was created for man’s use. In truth, man is the center of a great balance. For if he is pulled after the world and is drawn further from his Creator, he is damaged, and he damages the world with him. And if he rules over himself and unites himself with his Creator, and uses the world only to aid him in the service of his Creator, he is uplifted and the world itself is uplifted with him.” This concept is precisely illustrated by the laws of kashrus in this week’s Torah portion of Shemini.

The Medrish Rabba in this week’s Torah portion says that when the Torah says: “This is the domesticated animal [you are able to eat],” this aptly fits in with the pasuk in Mishlei which says: “Every word of God is refined” (Mishlei 30:5). Rav says that the mitzvos [commandments] were only given to the Jews in order to refine through them all the creatures in existence. Why was this done, because it says at the end of this pasuk in Mishlei: “He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.” The Maharz”u explains that by performing mitzvos with the creatures amongst us, we are refining them to be brought into the life of the World to Come as reward for fulfilling the mitzvos [through them].

The Medrish goes on to list the ramifications of treating the creatures in this world properly. There is an eye-opening lesson that will be learnt from this part of the medrish. “Rebbe Yudan the son of Rebbe Shimon said: ‘Behemot and Leviatan shall be the beasts of contest (the show) for the righteous in the hereafter, and whoever abstains from witnessing the beast fights of the nations in this world, shall be admitted to see them. How will they be slaughtered? Behemot will chop Leviatan with its horns and rip it apart and Leviatan will chop Behemot with its fins and stab it. (To see more on Behemot vs. Leviatan click here.) The sages asked, is this a kosher slaughtering? Didn’t we learn that one can slaughter with anything at any time besides with a sickle, harvesting blade, a saw, and teeth, for they choke [the animal]. Rebbe Abba bar Kahana answered, Hashem said, ‘The Torah was established by me, so I can commence anew a Torah law from myself.’

The Yidei Moshe, explaining the last statement, says it is permissible for Hashem to slaughter with fins, but for a person, for whom the Torah was given in order to refine their hearts and to instill in them the attribute of mercy, it is forbidden to use fins because it is cruelty to animals.

The Medrish concludes with another thing which Hashem is going to provide in The Next World, which is unkosher in this world: “Rebbe Brachia said in the name of Rebbe Yitzchok that in the future Hashem will make a breakfast for His righteous servants, and anyone who did not eat carcasses (non-shechted animals) in this world will merit to eat it in the World to Come as it says, ‘The fat of carcass and the fat of an animal with a fatal disease or injury, may be used for any work, but you shall not eat it’ (Vayikra 7:24). This is in order so that you can eat it in the future, therefore Moshe warned all the Jews and said ‘this is the wild animals you can eat.’” (Click here for Hebrew text)

It is very clear from what was said earlier that Hashem gave us the mitzvos for the benefit of mankind, and indeed all of creation, in order to mold and refine us so that we will be properly prepared and deserving of The World to Come. The World to Come is one of perfection and bliss, which the beginning of the first chapter of Mesilas Yesharim describes as “rejoicing in G-D and deriving pleasure from the splendor of His Presence; for this is true joy, and the greatest pleasure that can be found. The place where this joy may truly be derived is the World to Come.”

It would seem from this medrish that there will be some level of a physical manifestation of this pleasure in the World to Come where Hashem, lihavdil, will be serving the righteous breakfast and special meat from the giant creatures, Behemot and Leviatan. (It seems obvious that this is not just figurative from the fact the medrish asks how a non-kosher shechita can be performed on the Behemot to be eaten by the righteous). What seems questionable is how Hashem will allow and even “serve” non-kosher meat; whether it is the chelev (which is non-kosher fats) of an animal who was not slaughtered, or even if the animal was slaughtered properly, of a treifa (an animal with a blemish), which will be served at the breakfast in the World to Come, as well as the Behemot which will be halachically not slaughtered properly? Isn’t this contradictory? How can Hashem tell us not to eat from a non-kosher animal, or not to eat non-kosher fats, and then proceed to feed it to us in the World to Come? Especially, as the Yidei Moshe says, as the whole point of kosher slaughter is to instill in us a feeling of mercy by not being cruel to animals. So how can the righteous then eat from Behemot which are inhumanely slaughtered in a “dog fight” with the Leviatan, which the righteous will watch as part of their reward for not watching “dog fights” and the like in this world?

There is a very deep and important lesson to learn from this medrish based on the Yidei Moshe. That is, that Hashem created the mitzvos in order to emulate Him and refine ourselves in this world for preparation for the next world, as the Mesillas Yesharim in fact continues in the beginning of the first chapter: “but the path to the object of our desires is this world, as our Sages of blessed memory have said, ‘This world is like a corridor to the World to Come’ (Pirkei Avos 4:21).” That is, the whole purpose of Hashem creating the Torah, the blueprints of creation of this world, and the guidebook to life in this world. Ultimately however, Hashem created the Torah, and he can do whatever he wants; He is not bound by His Torah. He only said to emulate Him for how He runs existence in this world; but ultimately He knows what is best in the Next World. Therefore, what he forbids us to watch in this world (such as animal fights, which are in fact cruel and inhumane), will be totally permissible and indeed a reward for the righteous to watch and partake in, in the World to Come – under Hashem’s jurisdiction. So too the non-kosher fats or non-kosher slaughtering which is forbidden in this world and is detrimental to our spiritual health will be permitted and given as a reward for the righteous in the Next World; but, again, under Hashem’s jurisdiction – because he knows how to make and serve it in the most perfect of ways.

Leave a Reply