Hadrash Ve-Haiyun

by the Reisha Rav, HaGoan Rav Aaron Levine TZ"L

Elucidated and Adapted by Efraim Levine


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But in all the desire of nafshecha you may slaughter and eat meat, according to the blessing that Hashem your God, will have given you in your cities, the impure one and the pure one may eat it like the deer and the hart.
(Devarim 12:15)

The posukim here and later (12:20-22) permit us to eat non-sacrificial meat. It also teaches that there is no requirement for the consumer to be ritually pure when partaking of the meat. Just as there is no law of ritual purity with regard to deer or harts since they are never offered as sacrifices, likewise with regard to all non-sacrificial meat.

Rav Yitzchak Shmelkas Tz”l the grandfather of the Reisha Rav offers a homiletic interpretation of this posuk. First, let us lay out some background.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (3:3) teaches that if three people dine together and do not discuss words of Torah it is as if they have eaten from a sacrifice of idols. The Mishna thus teaches that when one eats his intent must be for the sake of heaven. If one eats solely for his own enjoyment it is as if he is offering a sacrifice to an idol, where his own stomach is the deity. Now, there are two valid forms of eating for the sake of heaven. The first is where one eats in celebration of a spiritual achievement, e.g., siyum a bris. The second is where one eats with intent to physically strengthen oneself to serve Hashem better. It is noteworthy that in the former example the eating relates to the past whereas in the latter example the eating relates to his resolve for the future.

The second point of introduction is the word nafshecha. The simple translation of this word is “yourself.” The posuk thus states that with all “your” desire you may slaughter and eat. However, this word is also related to the word neshamah i.e., soul. A homiletic translation would render “only with spiritual desires may you slaughter and eat meat,” or simply stated, you may eat meat only if your intent is for the sake of heaven.

Next point. Let us suggest that the words tahor and tamei represent different types of individuals. The pure represents a righteous individual who has many spiritual accomplishments. The word tamei represents the sinner who lacks a glorious righteous past of spiritual accomplishments but still has hope on a redeeming future.

One final point of introduction. Let’s focus on the words deer and hart. The commentators (Zohar Shemos 14) note that it is the character of a deer to look backwards while it runs ahead. The hart is just the opposite, it only looks forward. Let us suggest that looking back is symbolic of reflecting on the past, whereas looking ahead is symbolic of planning for the future.

Taking the posuk in its entirety we may explain as follows. If one wishes to eat non-sacrificial meat, the only permitted method is when one eats for the sake of heaven. The posuk continues to relate the two possible methods. For a righteous individual, i.e., the pure one, who has spiritual accomplishments in his past, may eat it like the deer. Just as the deer looks behind itself so may the righteous individual eat, to enhance his enjoyment of his past spiritual accomplishments. On the other hand, the not righteous individual, i.e., the impure one, who does not posses past spiritual accomplishments may eat the meat like the hart. Just as the hart looks forward, likewise this individual should repent and eat the meat for the sake of heaven in order to have the strength to perform mitzvoth in the future.