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Any man of the children of Israel and of the proselyte who dwells among them who will trap a catch of a beast or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth (Vayikra 17:13).
In this week’s parsha we learn about the mitzvah of kisuy hadam. After performing ritual slaughter on a wild animal or bird the Torah requires us to cover the blood with earth. The Or HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the reason we only cover the blood of a wild animal and bird and not that of a domesticated animal is because the life force of these two creatures is found entirely in their blood. A domesticated animal however, has an additional life force not found in its blood. The Torah obligates us to cover the source of life of these two creatures as a form of burial so as to minimize their disgrace, similar to why we bury human beings. Furthermore, the Gemara derives that removing the disgrace of these creatures is a serious matter to the degree that we are not permitted to cover the blood disrespectfully by pushing earth over the blood with our feet. We must cover it with dignity and use our hands.
In the Gemara we learn that the mitzvah has two parts. First, one is required to apply loose earth on the ground before the slaughter and second, cover the blood with more loose earth after the slaughter. Thus, there will be earth below and above. This law is derived from the fact that the posuk says “you shall cover it in earth” and not with earth.
There is much discussion by the commentators as exactly how to view the first application of earth before the slaughter. The question involves understanding if this is actually part of the mitzvah or only a prerequisite for the mitzvah of covering the blood after the slaughter. Nevertheless, all agree that it is essential.
We may ask, what is the purpose of applying loose earth before the slaughter? As long as the blood is eventually covered, the disgrace will have been removed.
We may suggest the Torah is teaching us an important lesson in the area of sensitivity. If it were not for this law, we would think that the first time we should concern ourselves with the disgrace of the dead bird or wild animal is after we have satisfied our own desire and have slaughtered it in preparation for our consumption. We would then look with pity upon the blood of this creature and cover it so as to remove its disgrace. The Torah tells us that our concern for the disgrace of the bird and wild animal should begin not when it is dead but when it is alive, before the slaughter. We are required to be sensitive enough to realize when it is alive that after the slaughter it will suffer disgrace. We are instructed to begin the process of its burial while it is alive by applying loose earth on the ground before we slaughter it.
From this law we see the Torah’s great concern and sensitivity with regard to matters of disgrace. If even with regard to a bird and animal we must plan in advance to minimize its disgrace how much more so are we obligated to conduct ourselves with sensitivity and ensure that our fellow man not become disgraced in any way.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5764/2004