I am happy to present, below, a guest post by Rebbetzin Devorah Fastag, author of The Moon's Lost Light, which is a book I found to be very enlightening in better understanding why things are the way they are in these "last few minutes before Moshiach," as Rav Moshe Weinberger always says. We featured a guest post about the book here at Dixie Yid here and you can see some of her other guest posts here. All the best.
His Mercy is on All His Creatures
By D. Fastag
Recently I came across a story about a student in a ba'al tshuvah yeshivah who objected to korbonos, saying "I don't kill animals". The teacher answered that we don't kill animals unnecessarily – that would be tsa'ar ba'aley chaim – but since animals were created to serve human beings, it is perfectly acceptable to kill animals for our valid use. So ends the discussion.
But does it? True, this is from Hashem, but The All Merciful One is not like a human king who makes decrees without caring if it hurts others unjustly. Hashem is totally just, good, and kind. Why, then, would He want to cause suffering to feeling creatures?
To emphasize the question, one needs only to look into Ashrei, which is taken from Tehillim 145. There we say "Hashem is good to all and His mercy is on all His creatures". Yet how can we understand that it is merciful to animals to have them killed, and that this is called being good to them?
Ashrei also says: "Hashem is a tsaddik in all His ways and does chessed with all His deeds. Yet where is the fairness and righteousness towards the animal who is killed for our needs?
Some answer that the animal reaches a tikun, a rectification, through becoming the vehicle of a mitzvah. But the animal is dead. What good does it do the animal that it reached a tikun if it does not feel or know about this tikun?
The answer is that it does feel and know about this tikun. In order to understand this, we need to realize that the superficial level with which we view the world, is far, far, from accurate. It is like taking pieces of a story out of context, leaving out essential factors. This is true not only of the way we view physical reality, but even of the way we view Torah. Our understanding is incomplete because the secrets behind the mitzvos will be revealed to us only in the future. Rashi, explaining the second pasuk of Shir Hashirim says:
"… He gave them His Torah and spoke to them face to face, and that expression of love is still more precious to them than any pleasure. And He promised them that He would appear again over them to explain to them the secret of its reasons and the mysteries of its hidden content, and they beseech Him to keep His word. That is the meaning of 'He shall kiss me from the kisses of His mouth'"
This is also the meaning of Chazal's statement that Hashem says: "A new Torah will come forth from me" (Vayikrah 13:30). The new Torah is the hidden meanings of the same Torah we have now. Until we receive this, we are missing eye opening parts of Torah which would make us aware of its greatness, goodness, and depth.
But why did Hashem do this to us? Why didn't we receive the whole Torah at Har Sinai?
Forty days after the giving of the Torah, while the Jewish People were still encamped at Har Sinai, they made a golden calf. This happened on the 17th of Tamuz, which later became the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and it is the fast day that begins the three weeks leading to tishav ba'av. The sin of the golden calf forced Moshe to break the first luchos. Had those luchos remained we would have received the full Torah at that time. We would have learned it all effortlessly, with great love and passion, and never would have forgotten our learning.
But the sin of the golden calf changed all that. That sin became the first link in a chain leading to our present galus. And since then, at some level, the Torah itself was also in galus. From then until the coming of Moshiach we must fulfill the Torah out of pure emunah, without understanding the reasons behind it. Emunah, like the moon, is the light which guides us through the darkness of the night of galus.
Yet our period in history is like none before it. According to the Zohar we are now in the period called the erev Shabbas of the world, and just as on erev Shabbos one is supposed to taste of the Shabbos food, so in our times we can – and should – begin to taste of the secrets of the Torah, the spiritual food of the world's Shabbos. This is how the Ba'al Shem Tov explained his teaching the Jewish masses Torah secrets, and this was also the policy of the Vilna Gaon, the Ohr HaChaim, the Chofetz Chaim, and many others, who spoke openly of Torah secrets which had previously been known only to very few tsaddikim.
So now let us look into some of those great secrets.
The Sfas Emes on parshas Emor (5658) comments on a medrash which draws a corollary between bris milah, performed on a baby's eighth day, and the law that a baby animal may be sacrificed only on its eighth day. The Sfas Ems explains that just as milah is super natural, connected to things above and beyond this world, so sacrifices are something outside and above nature, something other worldly. He then goes on to say:
"… therefore regarding animals that were slaughtered outside [the mishkan] it is written 'it is considered murder [literally blood] as one who spills human blood. Because when it was sanctified as a korbon, it rose to the aspect of a human being, as explained above."
In other words, when an animal is sanctified as a korbon it rises to the aspect of a human being, so that if it was not afterwards sacrificed properly this is considered as having murdered it. That is why regarding this sin the Torah uses a term reserved for murder.
And so the Sfas Emes gives us a tiny peek into the great secrets of the Torah to be revealed in the future. And with it we get a gleam of understanding of Hashem's caring for His creatures. Far, far from being the decree of an uncaring king, Hashem, the ultimate of love and kindness, has, through korbanos, given the animal the ability to rise to the level of a human being.
Shchitah, too is for the animal's benefit. Far from what people imagine, the spirit of an animal does not expire with its death. Koheles tells us that the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth. And so earth is placed over the animal's blood which contains its spirit.
Where into the earth does the spirit go? What happens to it then? Why does the animal need a tikun? Perhaps we will have to wait until the ge'ula to find out. In the meantime, we are, in the words of Rashi, "beseeching Hashem to keep His word" and teach us the mysteries of His glorious Torah.
May it be very, very soon!