Understanding the Torah’s Take on Eating Meat and Sacrifice

Nov. 21 2014

The biblical commandments concerning ritual sacrifice mandate close contact between the one bringing the sacrifice and the animal being sacrificed; the ritual is usually followed by the ceremonial eating of the animal. In our society, however, such close contact between eater and eaten is very rare. Yet, to appreciate the Torah’s teachings, Barry Kornblau argues, we must understand this presupposition of intimacy:

A korban shlamim (a “perfected peace offering”) . . . represents the Torah’s ideal of meat consumption: public for all to see; during the day when all can see; holy place, holy priests; fostering an immediate eater/animal connection at the time of slaughter; great attention to the animal’s blood life-force; sharing the meal with God. . . . Reflecting the natural human familiarity with animals of a bygone era, . . . the Torah assumes our ability to look our meal in the eye, slaughter it fully aware of the gravity of taking an animal life, and then eat it. It prefers, indeed, that such slaughter take place in broad daylight, in public, with the owner’s hands on his meal as he utters praises of God, and in as sanctified a manner possible.

Although such a method is not, alas, presently required of us in the absence of the Temple, I nonetheless believe that . . . Jews who eat meat “amidst wealth and plenty” and enjoy high educational levels have a special obligation to look past the Styrofoam and plastic in which we buy meat and eggs.

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More about: Judaism, Leviticus, Sacrifice, Vegetarianism


Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

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