Friday, May 24, 2013

#177 - Kosher Slaughter?

Today, the 15th of Sivan, marks two things today.  First, on the national level, it's the birthday of Judah, son of Jacob, whom I wrote about in the past in relationship to his birthday.  Second, on a personal level, today is the 44th day of my 44th year of life in this world.

But first, before getting into more details about these factoids, I will cut right to the chase, or rather, slaughter right to the chase.  You see, during the Sephira period, I learned Hilchot Shechita (Laws of Kosher Slaughter), which is at the very beginning of the second of four parts of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) composed by Rabbi Yosef Karo, which is called Yoreh Deah (literally means Instructing Knowledge). I had a certain reason to learn these laws during this period, about which I won't go into detail in my post because it isn't relevant to it; and no, I am not studying to be a Shochet (kosher slaughterer) either.  I did have a curiosity to count the amount of laws in this section about kosher slaughtering; and lo and behold, there are exactly 177 laws, and this is my 177th post.

At this time, I don't have anything specific in mind about the significance about this number in the Torah.  However, noting the Hashgacha Peratit (Divine Providence) of this number in terms of my posting, there is definitely a message that is meant for me to deliver here, as you will soon see.


In recent times, we have learned that there are a few different blood types in people: A, B, AB, and O, with plus or minus based on certain factors.  As we know, there are sick people who need blood transfusions or vital organs to stay alive.  Blood or organs coming someone else's different blood types than the awaiting patient's can turn deadly.

People will ask, "O.K., I understand if G-d has reasons why people should be sick in the world.  But why did He (if they aren't atheists, and believe that G-d will sometimes do things that aren't so good even as a "good" G-d) have to make things quite complicated.  It's enough that there are different types of genes, or people with different colors though this has lead to much bigotry, violence, racism, etc., but what was the purpose of making different types of blood that we can't tell the difference by looking at the different bloods with the naked eye anyways.  It's hard enough as it is for these sick people; why make them have to wait in agony at times for things to match exactly right, especially to receive a vital organ, like hoping to win the lottery when the odds are one in so many million?"

We may never have all the answers as to why G-d has created nature in certain ways.  However, what we do know is the happiness that takes place between the giver and receiver of the vital organ that brought life back to the patient who would not have made it otherwise.  And perhaps if various blood types or other factors that limit the chances of finding a donor would not exist, the whole situation of donated blood or organs would get out of hand.  Who knows how many babies or sick patients would be "accidentally" killed by doctors if they knew how easy it would be to secure the organ for the next patient waiting, without that patient realizing that someone was actually murdered in order for him to receive it because the doctor knew where his next paycheck was coming from?  And so, since G-d made it as such that it would take some effort to find the right blood donor (especially if it's an O type) or organ donor, doctors aren't going to take people's lives at random since it usually won't be successful at the end anyways.

But one thing is for sure.  The more effort that it takes to acquire something, the more chance there is of appreciating it at the end.  After all, this is what life is all about.  It is when we realize that everything about ourselves and all around us is not mere nature, but miracles from Hashem that take place every moment, that we are able to honestly thank Hashem for all the things that we receive in life; and especially in recent times that modern technology has come into existence thanks to Hashem giving mankind the wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and intellect to invent things that make our lives today so much easier in certain ways than our ancestors who lived for over 5,000 years without them; and to even use the facilities, they had to either use public facilities that weren't shaped the way that they are today and smelled horrible, or had to empty themselves in public doing their best to hide themselves if even possible, and this, regardless of heat, cold, or rain.

In the beginning of Jewish history, at least after Jacob had his children, we became known as the "Children of Israel", being that he was given the name Israel later in life.  Later in history, as shown in the Tanach (Jewish Bible), we are given another name - Yehudim (Judeans), which beings in Sefer Melachim (Book of Kings), and continues in the books of Jeremiah, Esther and Nehemiah.  This name for Jews should be quite familiar to us, because out of 60 times that this name (at least in the Hebrew, the Aramaic parts in Daniel and Ezra could add up to more times) is mentioned, 39 of them is mentioned in Esther, which is read twice annually on Purim.  This name comes from none other than Judah, from whom is descended the Davidic kingly dynasty and Moshiach.  But more than just the fact that this is named after Judah, who was the leader among his brothers even though he was the fourth son born from Jacob and Leah; it's the name itself that is based on the word which means thanks or giving thanks, as Leah, who wasn't married to Jacob as his favorite wife, was granted four sons, more than she expected being that Jacob had three other women at his disposal, and hence improved their marital relationship.  And so, we Jews have been given this name, not only because we are named after Judah, but also, because we as Jews have the most to thank Hashem for, especially for the greatest gift in the world that exists - the Torah, as well as the chance of receiving the maximum eternal reward possible, which is what counts the most at the end.  And it is especially significant why we Jews are named as Yehudim especially in the Book of Esther, since we had much to thank Hashem for after we had the close call of being decimated thanks to Haman's evil schemes.

Now, despite Judah's accomplishments, he had failures too.  First, pertaining to the sale of his brother Joseph following the fiasco of Joseph's brothers being jealous of him, Judah was the one who suggested that they should sell him to merchants who were passing by.  Now, Judah had some good intentions here, for at that moment, Joseph had been thrown down a pit by the brothers who wished for him to die, and so, Judah suggested this to at least avoid bloodshed on their part.  Following this, Judah realized that they couldn't just tell the plain truth to their aged father Jacob.  And so, Judah (actually, the Torah puts this in the plural for, but as evident from Rashi later, he was the one in charge of this, as he was punished as a result) slaughtered a goat, and dipped Joseph's special coat that Jacob had given him and stripped off of him by his brothers in their jealousy of this preferential treatment - into the goat's blood, which they then presented to Jacob to make him that it was a wild beast killed Joseph.

In the aftermath of this, the brothers felt guilty about what they had done and having caused much distress to their father Jacob (see Rashi), and so to help assuage their guilty feelings, they did what is called the blame game, and hence, blamed Judah for being the one who had Joseph sold, for as they told him, "If you would have insisted on returning Joseph to our father instead of selling him, we would have listened to you", and hence, dismissed him as their brother leader.  Following this, Judah left to live on his own, started a business, and married.  Our rabbis tell us that the first two of his three sons died young because this is the punishment that could happen to one who begins a Mitzva, but doesn't complete it; the same way that Judah performed an action to save Joseph from death, but instead of saving him totally by having him remain in the family, he had him sold.  And then later, in his one night stand with his daughter-in-law Tamar to whom he gave what was on him as collateral until he would send her official payment for sex (Note: Please refer to the Midrash for what really happened between Judah and Tamar, I'm just not getting into details here at this time).  When he got back to town, he sent her a goat with the hope of getting back his collateral, but despite his efforts of locating her through his messenger, Tamar was no where to be found.  Rashi notes at this point that he got back measure for measure in just measure for fooling Jacob with Joseph's coat covered with a goat's blood to hide the truth about what really happened to Joseph.

This is all very nice, but why am I making a special connection here between Judah and blood?  If you see what I wrote at the beginning of this post, this date of 15 Sivan which marks Judahs' birthday is also this year the 44th day of my 44th year of life; and the Hebrew word Dam (blood) has the same letters as the Hebrew number 44.  A little later on here, I will related this concept of blood and slaughtering in terms of the Jewish people.

In time, Judah stepped up to the plate - he confessed his one night stand with Tamar, which saved both her and the twin babies that she bore through him from death, as he originally had condemned her to be burned for being a prostitute.  And then when it came time for him and his brothers to come to Egypt to get food for the family in the famine years for the second time, he took personal responsibility for their youngest brother Benjamin, being that Benjamin was the only other son of Rachel who was alive as far as Jacob knew, since Joseph as the viceroy to Egypt, whom the brothers did not recognize as their brother when they were in Egypt the previous time, told them not to come back to Egypt without their youngest brother, who was in fact Joseph's only full brother from Rachel, and so, Judah forfeiting his eternal reward should anything happen to Benjamin, as his promise to Jacob, assured Jacob that it would be O.K. to allow Benjamin to join the brothers to get the well needed food.  In fact, even though everything turned out successful at the end, as a result of his self imposed conditional curse, Judah was in fact barred from joining the righteous in Heaven for centuries until Moses in his last day of his life, in the midst of blessing Judah's tribe, implored Hashem to allow Judah to retain his rightful position in Heaven along with the other righteous people.  But the important thing is that despite Judah's earlier failures, he took full responsibility for his actions; and unlike his three older brothers Reuben, Shimon, and Levi who were in fact more castigated by their father Jacob than blessed, Jacob blessed Judah with blessings comparable only to the blessings that Jacob gave his favorite son Joseph in his blessings of his sons right before his passing.

In time, Judah was blessed with his most illustrious descendant in the Tanach, and as hinted in the blessings that Jacob gave Judah- King David, one who also made sinful mistakes, but just as his ancestor Judah who confessed and took responsibility for his actions, he did the same, as especially evident when Nathan the Prophet came to David following his affair with Bath-Sheba.  But being that King David was in fact a most righteous person, this resulted with his composition of Psalm 51, which is a psalm that not only addressed his own immediate repentance, but serves as a model for Jews to take a lesson from this and repent as well.

There is another aspect about King David's life that also involves the concept of blood.  You see, he wanted to build the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) very badly.  However, Hashem told him that this would not be possible, because he had spilled much blood in killing his enemies.  Now mind you, these enemies weren't simply people that King David didn't like and did away with as a king who punishes his disobedient citizens with a sword execution, but were in fact sworn non-Jewish enemies of the Jewish people.  Nevertheless, despite the necessity of King David killing Hashem's enemies, as the enemies of the Jewish people are automatically enemies of Hashem, Hashem did not want the hands who spilled blood to build the Temple.  Instead, it would be built by his son King Solomon (though not necessarily literally by David or Solomon, but under their kingship) who would be living in an era of peace.

Now, we see in Gematria that if we combine the names of Judah=30 and David=14, Judah's most illustrious descendant, the total Gematria is 44, which in turn is the Gematria of Dam (blood), for in fact, just as blood is the lifeline of a human being (as well as other creatures who also have blood), and as operated via the heart, so too is the king in Judaism, who is supposed to be both the physical and spiritual leader of the Jewish people, is our lifeline.  For in fact, while the judges of the Beit Din (Jewish court) or Sanhedrin are the ultimate instructors or rabbis of the Jewish people who instruct us of the laws that we are bidden to observe, it is the king who is supposed to be a reflection of the King of Kings who has commanded us with the Taryag Mitvot (613 Commandments), and it is the job of the Jewish judges to instruct us on the details on how these Mitzvot are supposed to be performed.

Bearing in mind that the Gematria of Judah's name is 30, just as the numerical value of the letter Lamed, the remaining letters of the word for the letter Lamed, which are Mem and Dalet, spells the Hebrew number 44. And as related to King David, as I mentioned in my previous post #176, it was the king who read from the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) in the Beit HaMikdash every seven years, which were selected parts from Sefer Davarim (Deutronomy), which included the entire first Parsha of this Sefer, Parshat Devarim, which is the 44th Parsha of the Torah.  Moreover, as noted in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), one begins learning Gemara (Talmud) at the age of 15 (though today, the suggested learning at the particular age as listed in Pirkei Avot isn't necessarily followed, there is still a spiritual connection of the number of the age with the particular learning or stage of life), and as can be seen in the word LAMED, having the connotation of the meaning of both learn and teach, which is comprised of the numbers Lamed=30 and Mem-Dalet=44, there are 15 numbers from 30 through 44.  And as connected to Judah, he was born on the 15th of Sivan, the month in which we received the Torah, as so too was King David both born and passed away during the month of Sivan, on Shavuot.

Moreover, we see that Judah had another important role in the development of the Jewish people.  When Jacob and his family all came to Egypt, the verse states "He (Jacob) sent Judah in front of instruct in front of him to Goshen" (Genesis 46:28).  On this, Rashi quotes the Midrash Aggada that this was Jacob's instructions to Judah to prepare a Beit Talmud (house of study or Yeshiva) from which Torah instruction would issue forth. The key word here in the text in relationship to this explanation is LeHorot (to instruct).  The first letter, which is a prefix, is Lamed (to), which is the numerical value of 30, the Gematria of Judah's name, and the remaining letters are the same letters as the word Torah.  Moreover, the last three letters are the same letters as the name Ruth, King David's great grandmother who was married to Boaz, parental descendant of Judah; and the Book of Ruth, whose last word is King David's name, consists of 85 verses, the book of the 24 books of Tanach with the least amount of verses, but this number 85 which is Pei-Hei in Hebrew, is also the word Peh (mouth), as in Torah She'B'Al Peh (Oral Torah), and we read this book of the Tanach particularly on Shavuot, the day on which we received the Torah.  Along these lines, it is interesting to note that the Parsha of this week - Parshat Be'Ha'alotcha, consists of a section (surrounded in the beginning and end with an inverted letter Noon) that has 85 letters (Numbers 10:35-36), and in one sense, is considered as a separate book in the Torah.

So, as we can see here, the letters of the word for the letter Lamed represent both Torah learning and warfare; that is, the first letter Lamed-Limud (learn/teach) and the letters Mem and Dalet that make up the word Dam (blood), as representing the spilled blood of our enemies.  This was the combination of both Judah, who was among the strongest of his brothers, as well as his descendant King David, who both were established Torah scholars as well as being very strong in fighting their enemies which also came with special assistance from Hashem.  And while there aren't many stories about Judah about fighting enemies as with King David, there is the story in the Midrash about Jacob's funeral at which Jacob's brother Esau challenged Jacob's right of being buried in the Mearat HaMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs), even though Jacob gave much money to Esau in lieu of the burial spot and was even recorded in a deed, but of course, the evil Esau wanted his cake and eat it too.  Meanwhile, Dan's son Chushim, who didn't know what was going on between Esau and Jacob's children as he was hard of hearing, asked what was happening, and when he was told of this, he knocked Esau unconscious, and then Judah took out his sword and beheaded his evil uncle.  This was most significant, because when Hashem went around to give a chance to all the nations to ask if they wanted the Torah, the nation of Edom who was descended from Esau when offered the Torah being told that it states Lo Tirtzach "Do not murder", it excused itself saying that it lives by the sword.  And hence, Judah who represents the spiritual blood, the lifeline of the Jewish people, killed the ancestor of the nation whose whole being is murdering others which is shedding the blood of innocent people.

Nowadays, based on the above about the concept of the combination of Torah learning and fighting our enemies, there has been a big push among especially the Dati Leumi (National Religious) or religious Zionist camp in Israel to serve in the Tzahal (IDF).  In fact, there are some Haredi or "Ultra-Orthodox" ones who also willingly serve in this army, though they are far from the majority of this group who don't serve.  And while there may eve be some Zionist rabbis who may slander the Haredi group for not joining the Israeli army in large number, accusing them of loafing off the State of Israel, let us see for a minute what kind of army this is.  You see, if this was an army that everyone could rely on to truly defend our enemies, even if most of the ones serving were not observant Jews, at least one could say that it is very important that everyone takes turns in protecting our country from our enemies.  However, aside from various violation of religious rights, including viciously attempting observant Jews to hear woman soldiers sing, aside from the fact that the government has no right according to the Torah to force women to be in the army.

But over all, the problems of this army is that these days, they are given orders that go against the Torah as well as all common sense, such as throwing out Jews from areas to allow Arabs to live there instead, making this country all the more vulnerable to attacks, such as the Yamit/Sinai and Gush Katif fiascos, and the day-to-day basis of orders to run away, or at most, to shoot in the air when Arab children are throwing stones at them, instead of following the Torah which is to kill those who are out to murder us EVEN BEFORE they actually attempt to murder, let alone afterwards, and it doesn't matter if the chaser is a man, woman, or child, especially from our Arab enemies.  This may sound a little fanatic, but this is the Torah away, and anyone who has a problem with this evidently has a problem with what the Torah says, and if it's a rabbi who has this problem, then he is not fit to teach Torah to anyone until he changes his views to the views of the Torah, which can be found especially in Rabbi Meir Kahane HYD's book "The Jewish Idea", and only after sincerely repenting of teaching heresy and openly showing his support for the Kahane ideology = Torah ideology, even if the dictator Israeli government will stop stuffing his pockets with money or threaten him with prison, then and only then can his words that he delivers as Torah lectures can be considered words of Torah.

It seems that the soldiers in this army are apparently more afraid of going to prison or loosing their privileges or status in the army if they dare even defend themselves, than taking a chance of being murdered, injured or maimed for life (Note: The real reason for this is because the evil inclination convinces them to do something that goes against the Torah, despite being so illogical).  Running away from Arab children defeats the whole purpose of being in an army to begin with, and worse, this makes the Jewish nation living in Israel even more vulnerable to Arab attacks being that the Arabs see how weak we look, despite the Israeli army being considered the best army in the world as far as manpower capabilities are concerned.  And so, why should anyone, especially Haredim who are learning Torah which is the ultimate protection of the Jewish people if not the only way, should be motivated in the slightest to be part of such a pathetic army in which few soldiers have true fear of Hashem and believers of Kahane - including Rabbi Binyamin Kahane who in his last written address to Jews, tells soldiers to take matters in their hands in properly fighting their enemies, even if given orders to the contrary - who will shoot even Arab children if this is what it takes to stop them from attacking us, despite of how "immoral" or "cruel" this may sound?  This is certainly NOT the type of army in Israel that Judah or King David had in mind, when in those days, even babies were killed if the war the Jews were fighting was considered a "Mitzva war".  After all, can we really expect Hashem to protect us anymore if we don't employ our immediate resources to defend ourselves properly because we are more afraid of the IDF head, dictatorship government, the United States or United Nations who will hate us no matter what we do anyways?

And in terms of Jewish education being that I wrote here about Torah learning in relationship to Judah and King David, the great "Tzadik" Naftali Bennett - as some viewed him as being the reason that they voted for his party "Jewish Home", as the "official" religious Zionistic party in lieu of the only true Torah party called "Power to Israel" headed by Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, Shlita, since his views are considered too "fanatic" along the lines of Kahane ideology - put the nail on the coffin over Torah learning in Yeshivot last week when he announced that less funds will be given even to the national religious/Zionistic Yeshivot, and not just Haredi Yeshivot that he already held back funds from.  This is a clear message from Hashem to all the ones who voted for him, especially to the rabbis who had the power to tell everyone to vote for the "Power to Israel" party instead, but thought that the "righteous" rich Bennett would be stuffing more money in their pockets, and so they told everyone to vote for Bennett's party, and now, they are all being punished, aside from the fact that they didn't give a damn about Bennett holding back money that Haredi Yeshivot used to receive since it wasn't "their" problem, so now, they will now be forced to unite with the Haredi world, and realize that it's about time to stop hiding being the scenes of what this government that is presently dictatored by Prime Monster Bibi Netanyahu is really doing to Israel, including his SECRET construction freeze even in Jerusalem.  And for the cherry on top, while Bennett's revealed his evil scheme of lessening money for Torah learning, one of the rabbis in his party was busy posing for a picture of himself in soccer gear wearing shorts in the same picture as an Israeli cop in a parking lot.  Woe is to us to have such rabbis who are supposed to representing our best spiritual interests, but instead of castigating Bennett for the spiritual harm that he already had and wants to continue to do to the Jewish people, he ignores this sad reality in his sports and shorts gear while he receives his annual six-digit Knesset member pay!

And while it must be admitted that today, there is far more unity between Hasidic and non-Hasidic groups then there was even 50 years ago, there is unfortunately still fighting from words to actions between various groups, to the point a couple of years ago where in an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, fire bombs of sort where thrown into homes of another group to force them out of the homes, since they claimed that the area homes were the exclusive property rights of their own group.  As a member of one of these groups said, such a thing has not happened among Jews since the Holocaust, in which someone in a Jewish community could put on fire a residence in which little babies are in!

In fact, it doesn't even need to reach actions as far as the spiritual worlds are concerned - but also just words, or even thoughts, about beating up another Jew can do spiritual harm.  There is a story told about the Ba'al Shem Tov who with his students witnessed a Jew who shouted at another Jew with whom he was bickering with that if he could, he would tear him up like a fish.  Following this, the Ba'al Shem Tov told his students to hold each others hands together and close their eyes.  The next thing you know, they were all screaming, since they saw a vision of this Jew tearing the other Jew into pieces like a fish, even though that physically, this did not happen.

Now, getting back to the concept of slaughtering - hopefully just kosher animals - there is a mnemonic given for seven types of liquids that can cause fruits to be prepared to be impure if they come into contact with them.  For each of these, I will first note the first letter of the Hebrew word, then the word along with its English translation:  Yud-Yayin (wine), Dalet-Devash (honey), Shin-Shemen (oil), Cheit-Chalav (milk), Teit-Tal (dew), Dalet-Dam (blood), Mem-Mayim (water).  There are three words formed from the first letters of these seven liquids - Yad Shachat Dam - the hand slaughtered blood.  Now, while in fact, this is basically a mnemonic given to remember these seven liquids that cause cause spiritual impurity as it especially applied in Temple times, it this this very phrase that describes the act of slaughtering.

Another way of relating to this mnemonic is remembering what is the very first section of the second volume of the Shulchan Aruch.  You see, the name of this second section is Yoreh Deah, and the word Yad consisting of the letters Yud and Dalet make up the first letters of this name, and the first section of this part of the Shulchan Aruch is Hilchot Shechita as demonstrated by the remaining part of the above mnemonic Shachat Dam, slaughtering blood.  Now, a little later on in this part of the Shulchan Aruch, there are what is called Hilchot Dam, the Laws of Blood, referring to the blood in the animal or fowl that is forbidden to be consumed, and that is why kosher meat is salted to get rid of this blood.

Now, taking the first word if the mnemonic - Yad (hand), the letters of this word  - Yud and Dalet - begin the names Yehuda and David respectively, as well as this word Yad having the same Gematria as David's name - 14.  Moreover, the word Yad itself, as it also spells the Hebrew number 14 equals the Gematria of David's name, and indeed, the reason that Hashem gave to David for not appointing him as the one to build the Beit HaMikdash is because his hands spilled blood in war, as shown in this mnemonic Yad=David Shachat Dam, but instead, it would be his son King Solomon who would build it, as evidenced in the Gematria of the whole mnemonic Yad=14, Shachat=317, Dam-44 is 375, the same Gematria of King Solomon's name Shlomo!  And then in turn, the word Dam, in which the letters of this word are Dalet and Mem, begin the names David and Moshiach, for in the near future, Moshiach too will be fighting - both a spiritual and physical war, until the nations finally get it and will realize that they won't ever be able to conquer us Jews or Israel after all.

As for Yehuda (Judah), this name has been associated with individuals in terms of fighting Jewish wars or blood.  First, we know that Judah the Maccabbee both led the battles against the Syrian Greeks and then entered the Temple to light the Menorah once more after a cessation of time from Temple service.  Now, among the decrees that these enemies imposed on the Jewish people, one of them was forbidding us to perform Brit Mila (circumcision), and as we know, the result of performing this brings out blood, and is called Dam HaBrit, blood of the covenant, and signifies the Jewish people willing to sacrifice itself in the performance of the Mitzvot.

And then later on in history, there is a story of the birth of the rabbi of Prague known as the Maharal of Prague and famous for his creation of the Golem, his name being Yehuda.  The story is told of his mother who was pregnant with him at the Seder who all of a sudden screamed out of labor pains.  But aside from the fact that this destined great rabbi was born on Passover, his birth prevented one of many blood libels planned by the Christians to have the Jews punished with imprisonment or being murdered, which was done by killing a Christian boy, and then claiming that the Jews did this to use his blood for Matzot, despite being totally illogical when we are forbidden to even consume blood of a human being (or of other creatures).  Anyways, in this story, there was a non-Jew who murdered a Christian boy, placed him in a sack, and then planned by placing it at the home of a Jew to plant his blood libel.  Now, at the moment that the mother of the future rabbi screamed, this non-Jew got frightened to the point that he started running with the corpse, and continued doing so until he was stopped by a policeman who suspected something about him as a result of his running, and upon discovering what was in his sack, arrested this non-Jew and was then prosecuted for the murder; hence, being punished instead of what G-d forbid could have happened to the Jewish community in town if this non-Jew would have had his way.

O.K, getting back to the phrase, the word Shachat has the same Gematria as the name of the third book of the Torah called Vayikra (Leviticus) - 317, for it is in this book of the Chumash that the majority of the laws of sacrifices are written.  Now, in offering a sacrifice, there were four basic steps: Shechita (slaughtering), Kabala (receiving the blood in a vessel), Holacha (walking with the blood on the altar), Zerika (throwing the blood on the corners of the altar).  There is one major difference between Shechita and the following three parts of performing the offering.  Unlike the last three that were only permitted to be performed by a Cohen, the slaughtering was able to be done even by a non-Cohen.  But what we do see here is that the main object of these parts of performing the basic offering ritual is Dam (blood).  And the reason for this is that in general, especially when it came to the burnt/sin/guilt offerings, the shedding of the blood was to remind the sinner that  in fact, it was his blood that was supposed to be shed for doing the sin, but instead, Hashem in his great mercy for us allowed for us to see this happening to an animal or bird instead, bringing us to do true Teshuva (repentance).

And speaking of offering an animal instead of a human being as a sacrifice, this is what happened in the story of Isaac being offered on the altar by his father Abraham as per Hashem's orders.  Of course, human sacrifice is forbidden in Judaism, but Hashem told Abraham to offer him up - though in fact he never told him to slaughter him - as the last of 10 tests that Hashem gave to Abraham.  Well, we all know what happened at the end (except the Moslems who believe the Koran that says that this happened to Abraham's other son Ishmael), and the offering of the ram with its Shofarot is one of 10 reasons why we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana.  Now, if we are to remember how many laws there are in the laws of Shechita in the Shulchan Aruch - the word Sakin (knife), the object that Abraham attempted to use to slaughter Isaac, is the Gematria of 140, and Isaac was 37 years old at the time of this story; hence 140 plus 37 equals 177, the number of the laws of Kosher Slaughtering.

On a personal note, my maternal grandfather Irving's Hebrew name was Yitzchak (Ben Nachum HaLevi), just as the name of the Biblical Isaac who was brought up on the altar.  Not having had much of a Jewish education being that he came from Russia and worked in the United States starting at a young age, he noted that the only Hebrew word that he knew the meaning of was the word Sakin.  He may have never known that this object was especially related to the one who was the original one to be named Yitzchak, but in heart, he did feel some Jewishness, as evident at my Brit Mila at which some rabbi was going to be honored to be the Sandak; however, my grandfather insisted on being the Sandak, especially since his grandfather was the Sandak at his Brit Mila, upon which, the rabbi agreed that he should be my Sandak, especially since I was his first grandchild to be born.  Interestingly, the Biblical Isaac was the very first one to be circumcised on the eighth day from birth as per Hashem's command.

Now, getting back to the Shulchan Aruch on the laws of Kosher Slaughtering, the final chapter - Chapter 28 - is about the laws of Kisuy HaDam, the Mitzva of covering the blood of wild animals and birds.  You see, we are not only humane in terms of how we slaughter the animals, which is supposed to be a quick death to cause the least pain possible, being that it is forbidden to cause unnecessary pain to creatures called Tza'ar Ba'alei Chaim; but also in terms of its blood (except for the type of animals that were brought as offerings being that the blood of sacrifical offerings were used as part of the Temple service in terms of atonement, and hence, even the blood of non-sacrificial tamed animals aren't covered in terms of the Mitzva of covering blood), being that the blood is the lifeline or spirit of the creature (though it doesn't have a soul like we do that continues to live in a spiritual state).

While some may be bothered by the fact that slaughtering done the kosher way is banned in New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland, especially that their reason of their claims of kosher slaughtering is inhumane, when if anything, these anti-Semitic non-Jews are the ones who barbaristically kill their animals for food or other reasons; we have to remember that everything that happens in this world, and especially to Jews, is for a reason.  This is no different than the blood libels accusing us to using Christian blood for our Matzot or the accusations of us Jews poisoning their wells during the time of plagues in the Dark Ages when non-Jews hardly ever took a bath while we Jews are bidden to cleanse ourselves, especially our hands, taking a bath/shower for Shabbat, and the women needed to use the ritualarium after nearly two weeks following their period to be with their husbands.  It's true that anti-Semitism has always creeped its ugly head towards us throughout the ages, but Hashem allows this to happen to wake us up all the time.  For after all, what do we expect from non-Jews who wish to murder us and accuse us of being the slaughterers when we don't show just compassion towards our own?  Or, if we impose decrees against the Torah, such as decreasing the amount of funds needed to support the most important thing in the world, while shouldn't we expect anything less evil from our non-Jewish enemies?  Or...could it be also that this has something to do with politics in the whole kosher industry?  Stay tuned for a most shocking thing that I am about to reveal here - as for some, this will be the first time that they will be learning of this, though parts of the following won't be entirely news.


You would think that with the hundreds of kosher supervision companies, that eating kosher today would be far easier than it was a hundred years ago in Europe when aside from basic items to kosher animals brought to the local Shochet, as even my paternal grandmother did in the States in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; when now, one just goes to the local kosher supermarket to buy prepared kosher meat, along with numerous kosher goodies, especially for Passover.  After all, all one has to do is to see the kosher mark, knowing who gives this kosher mark, and then back home.

In certain ways, I will agree that eating kosher can be easier than it was a little while back.  But to think of it, with the numerous kosher organizations, there could be more politics than kosher actions at times; aside from the fact that there are certain organizations that claim that they are giving authentic kosher certifications, when first of all, some of them are run by Conservative rabbis who don't follow authentic Jewish law to begin with; and then there are even some Orthodox rabbis who give their certification - ONLY BASED ON SOME TELEPHONE CALLS TO OR FROM THE COMPANY REQUESTING THE KOSHER MARK!  This means that no checkups was ever even made on the company's plant or having kosher supervisors, called Mashgichim, on the premises.

Never mind the fact that there are companies that will use a certified kosher mark that has not been authorized which is illegal; but this is a minor problem in comparison to the numerous other problems in the kosher industry that happen within our own - pertaining to the slaughtering of the animal to removing the forbidden parts of the animal such as forbidden blood, fats, and the sinew of the thigh to the meat that is actually delivered to your kosher supermarket.

Decades ago, Rabbi Sholom Yehuda Gross, Shlita, Admor of Holmin who was Brooklyn based at one time and presently lives in Israel, decried the sorry state of kosher in the States, though these types of problems have happened in other countries, including Israel; but especially in the States.  He not only spoke from second hand information, but he knew first hand of how things were handled since he himself was a Shochet.

There are numerous stories that he has highlighting this issue, but there are a couple of stories that will help drive this point to the point that we will have a take a second look at eating kosher meat again.

To understand how things happen in the kosher industry, especially when it comes to kosher meat, if there is one only thing that you will remember from this part of my blogpost, the owners of these slaughtering plants have in mind one thing - money.  Some of them may be Jewish, or even Israeli.  Stay tuned on this one.

Now, right before I proceed about Rabbi Gross, I want to relate the story that is told of this rabbi in Europe who once came to a town with a Jewish community, from which one member when he was told by the rabbi that he is a Shochet, was quite happy knowing that the community needed a Shochet for the town.  Anyways, the rabbi and community member continued talking, when at one point, the rabbi asked the gentleman to lend him a little money until he would get settled and all.  However, the gentleman replied "We just met a few minutes ago.  How could I just trust you and give you some money?"  Upon this, the rabbi replied, "Then how can you trust me to be your Shochet?"  Bearing this story in mind, one will wonder after reading on how trustworthy -or rather sometimes untrustworthy - Shochatim could be, whether they hail from a Litvishe or Hasidishe background.

Once, Rabbi Gross, even as an experienced Shochet, came to one of these kosher meat plants where slaughtering was taking place.  He pretended as if he was learning the trade, and observed the knife of one of the Shochatim (slaughterers) that looked like it had a little dent in it, thus causing the slaughtered animal to become non-kosher, and so he asked the Shochet with the knife about it.  Meanwhile, the Shochet proceeded to continue, and once again, Rabbi Gross asked him about it, but in a more blunt way.  Upon this, the Shochet asked the rabbi why he didn't say anything earlier about the knife dent, when in fact he did, but the Shochet conveniently didn't listen to him that well.  As it turned out at the end, all the meat that this Shochet slaughtered was pronounced as "Kosher".

Another time, Rabbi Gross was not feeling well one day, and asked a Shochet colleague to substitute for him.  The next day, when the good rabbi came back to work, the owner of the plant told him that he didn't need him anymore; and upon asking him why, the owner told him that he needs a Shochet who will slaughter the most chickens in one hour; which means that one who is more quick to slaughter may not be as careful as far as the laws are concerned, such as examining the knife every time after slaughtering each one that is supposed to be done, as a dent can always occur during the slaughtering process that will render the animal non-kosher.

A Shochet from a while back told Rabbi Gross a story that he was once involved with.  One day, when this Shochet was working at this kosher plant, the owner announced that since the next day was going to be a most snowy day which would prevent the transport of animals, no one would report to work.  The next day, the Shochet who was staying at some hotel being that he was from out of town, decided to take a walk outside being that he was obese and so the cold didn't affect him that much, and stopped by the kosher plant, only to discover that the owner was employing non-Jewish slaughters killing animals which were supposedly weren't expected to be brought that day in the unusual snowy weather.  The owner, who was an Israeli, warned the Shochet that if he were to say anything, that he would kill him, this while having a gun on himself.  Imagine the Chutzpa that this irreligious Israeli had that he left his country Israel to come to the States only to cause Jews to sin eating non-kosher meat so he could make a few more bucks in his pocket!  Of course, had the Shochet been a true G-d fearing person, despite the death threat, and would have had the self-sacrifice, he would have informed the rabbis giving the kosher mark to this plant of what this Israeli sinner and murderer (as Rabbi Gross calls him) was doing.  You see, a true G-d fearing person has the faith and trust in Hashem to do the right thing, and that what happens as a result is ultimately Hashem's will, since anyways, the main place of living is in the eternal world for our good deeds, and that we are sent to this world with tests such as the one that the Shochet was sent with but failed miserably to prevent Jews from eating non-kosher for fear of a physical death in this temporary world.

Perhaps I may be judging people here, but I am laying out the facts, and people have to be made aware of what is really happening behind the scenes - both yesteryear and today.  There have been quite a few stories about places in the States where non-kosher has been sneaked - including in the greater Monsey area of New York, Chicago, and most recently, a supposed kosher catering company in Los Angeles.  These are only samples of what happens out there.  I know that in the Chicago case, there was a new Mashgiach in a place that was supposed to sell kosher meat, but noticed henky penky, sneaky activity where boxes of meat that weren't supposed to come in where sneaked in, and was threatened not to say anything.  However, the good Mashgiach in this story went straight to the rabbis, who hid him and his family knowing that this was mofia activity, and eventually, these owners or dealers were brought to court at which the judge forbade them from ever working in the kosher industry again.

Oh yes, in New York, fines are in fact given for kosher violations (don't know what happens today), as I remember some three decades ago seeing the weekly list of kosher violations in the Jewish Press.  Every week, like a dozen supposed kosher places causing Jews to eat non-kosher, were slapped with maybe $200 fines.  Even in the eighties, a $200 fine was NOTHING compared to the money that these criminals were saving in pretending to provide kosher while providing cheap non-kosher food instead that they charging their customers the same price for, and this is why they were playing this schtick to begin with, because to them, a $200 fine is just another business expense provided to their accountant which will help bring down their yearly taxes.

And to illustrate a major fiasco that Rabbi Gross had to deal with, it begins with a story of a group of his who settled in some town in Iowa, establishing their own little Jewish community, even having a Jewish day school for their children, and had a Yeshiva in which the Shochatim, Mashgichim and all studied the laws pertaining to Kosher to be very familiar with them.  In the process, they had dealt with a rabbi of one of the most famous and popular kosher organizations in the States, who was in fact apparently more concerned about his own pocket than the issues that this righteous group of Rabbi Gross had to deal with.  At first, they were even able to get along with the non-Jews working in the meat industry, but as time went on, these same non-Jews were screwing things up as a result of the money loving rabbi who had his own self interest in mind.  Despite repeated warnings from Rabbi Gross and his group, things did not improve, and so the group totally disbanded, which means that a whole Jewish community of their families and their Jewish school and Yeshiva totally stopped and disbanded, following which, Rabbi Gross moved to Israel, and is presently doing other good things for the Jewish people, such as promoting the learning of Zohar (not to learn to be Kabbalists, but simply to learn the holy Torah of the Zohar for its own sake to help bring the Redemption sooner)

My friends, this is only a SAMPLE of the problems that has happened and presently happens in the kosher industry.  More information on this topic can be found in Rabbi Blumenkrantz's annual Passover Kosher Guide books.  In fact, there was a major fiasco pertaining to great Tzadikim, rabbis, and heads of Yeshivot in Krakow, Poland a few hundred years ago who were eating non-kosher meat, which caused people to turn away from Judaism without realizing what happened.  You see, even if a Jew doesn't realize that he is eating non-kosher when he thinks that he is eating kosher, and some may not consider him to incur the sin of eating non-kosher if let's say, it was the rabbi's responsibility to see to it that the kosher establishment was supposed to do its job right, the spiritual contamination of the result of eating non-kosher is as what Kabbala states "contaminates the heart" and blocks our spiritual connection with Hashem.  After all, even Gehinnom (Purgatory or Hell), while it is also a punishment for sins, is also a cleaning process for contamination as a result of sins, and so, whoever's fault it is for one eating non-kosher, no one is a winner under these circumstances except the ones like Rabbi Gross who has informed us of what really goes on in the Kosher industry, bringing merit to Jews who will listen to him and refrain from eating meat unless one can swear on a Sefer Torah that the meat is kosher.

In my own experience, most hotel "observant" Jews, you know, the rich ones who are able to afford to stay in a kosher hotel in Miami, take kosher for granted in the hotel.  Back in my late teens (in '89-'90), I worked as a Mashgiach in the former Sans Souci hotel in Miami Beach.  One of the number things that I did (as the only Mashgiach, and at times, food activities by non-Jewish employees took place in more than in one place in the hotel) was to check the silverware in the dining room before each meal to make sure that they were only for milk or meat meals for the particular meal.  Anyways, there was this one older guest who seemed to be Orthodox who was already staying in the hotel for a while, and one morning, when he arrived early, he asked me what I was doing.   Now, if it was a non-observant Jew there stuffing his face, I would perfectly understand.  But here, you would think that someone who in his older years as one who is supposed to be eating kosher seeing a young guy like me dressed as an observant Jew would quickly come to realize my purpose in being there, for he should know better about not mixing even silverware belonging to milk and meat foods.  But apparently, since he was there only to enjoy the food and good time in the hotel, he took eating kosher for granted as though it is something that is supposed to automatically happen in what is called a kosher hotel, and I felt that I was treated more as a slave than being someone who is useful in ensuring that all the food and  related items were kosher; for after all, even those who are supposed to be observant Jews who are rich enough to stay in hotels and enjoy themselves quite often look down on others if they don't have the money that they have, being more demanding that the food taste perfectly right than to even find out who the Mashgiach is, only paying tips to the non-Jewish workers and NOTHING to the hard working Mashgiach who is the real cause of them being allowed to eat the food in the hotel to begin with.  And then, people start wondering how they could come to eat non-kosher when they were more considered about the exact taste of the fine meat that they came to the hotel to begin with for.  Oh yes, I even heard a story about a cruise ship that observant Jews were once on only to find out at one point that they were being served non-kosher food!  I think it's a little harder to deal with if you are in the middle of the ocean without immediate access to alternate kosher food!

Of course, let me not forget about what it states near the end of the Mishnaic tractate Kiddushin - "The best of of Shochatim are partners with Amalek".  I don't thing that there has been a time in Jewish history as today that this statement is ever so real.  But why as "partners with Amalek"?  You see, Amalek was the cold-hearted nation that dared attack the Jewish people shortly after we left Egypt when all the other nations were deathly afraid of us following the miracles that occurred to us.  True, this nation was descended of Esau who hated his brother Jacob, ancestor of the Jewish people.  But unlike other nations who may have felt a reason to hate us, such as the ones in Israel since we were on our way to live there and conquer the land, Amalek had no such fears of us coming to conquer his land.  Yes, Amalek wasted no time to working on attacking us, and was ready to slaughter us with no fear, no warning, just in pure cold blood murder; the same way that some thugs in the kosher industry look at kosher and will treat the animal that way that they want to treat it if it means adding more money to their pocket even if it means that everyone else will suffer spiritually and monetarily; or those who are thought of as G-d fearing Shochatim who feel the pressure to Shecht the quota amount of chickens as per the orders of the kosher plant owner which will compromise double checking the knife after every chicken slaughtered .

And since I am writing about Amalek in this 177th post, let me dissect this number in two parts - One (1) and Seventy-Seven (77).  You see, the Chofetz Chaim in his book Sefer HaMitzvot HaKatzer, the last book that this great rabbi wrote in his lifetime about the Mitzvot that are applicable today, in which there are 77 Mitzvot Asei (Positive/Active Commandments) and 194 Mitzvot Lo-Ta'aseh (Negative/Non-Active Commandments), the first of the Mitzvot Asei is believing in the existance of Hashem, and the 77th or the last of this set of Mitzvot Asei is wiping out the descendants of Amalek.  And while in fact, as the Chofetz Chaim points out, we won't know who Amalek is until Elijah the Prophet will come and let us know who Amalek is, there seems to be a common thread between the first Mitzva and the last Mitzva in this list.  You see, one who is interested in doing only the right thing is one who believes in the existence of Hashem, and he knows that Hashem is aware of his every thought, speech, and deed, and that ultimately, it is Hashem who runs the show, and not the crooked politicians in Israel, the chief general of the Israeli army who gives orders not to shoot at Arab children who throw rocks at the soldiers, or the owner of what is supposed to be a kosher slaughtering plant.  And so, when there is an existence of evil, one needs to not only not be bribed or sidetracked from what we are supposed to be doing, but to actively fight the evil that is the antithesis of Hashem however possible, despite threats on his well being.

Kosher slaughter?  Look, if you are reading this, this means that there is a reason, especially since you are presently on the internet.  I invite you to check out ways to see what you can do to ensure that you will eat ONLY kosher without taking chances about the next piece of meat that enters your mouth.  After all, you wouldn't want to ever be in a situation as many have been in Orthodox Jewish weddings and Bar Mitzva celebrations, where everyone - including the bride and groom, and the Bar-Mitzva boy - have many a times were eating supposed kosher meat as part of celebrating the beginning of married life or celebrating the beginning of observing Hashem's Mitzvot, only to find out sometime later along with everyone else, including their own rabbi, that all the meat that they all had been eating all along in the last few weeks, months, or years - including and especially on Shabbat and Jewish holidays - was definitely non-kosher.

Some say that it's only important about what comes out of one's mouth.  Yes, the greatest Mitzva of all is saying word of Torah, and the worse Averira (sin) of all is saying bad things about other Jews.  However, what is ALSO VITALLY important is what enters our mouths; for after all, unlike other sins that G-d forbid one commits, in eating non-kosher, the non-kosher food actually becomes PART OF OUR BODIES AND OUR BLOOD!  And so, if we take a close look at ourselves as ones who want to serve Hashem, it is ultimately OUR OWN RESPONSIBILITY, that is, we have to take FULL RESPONSIBILITY, to see to it that we eat only Kosher food, for ultimately, it is virtually only ourselves who are concerned about our own spirituality and eternal living.

15 Sivan, 5773

No comments: