Kosher Creatures and Kabbala

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

Jewish mysticism explains the spiritual origin of species

The latter half of this week's Torah portion contains the basic laws of kashrut, detailing which animals may and may not be eaten. Kosher animals include domesticated animals (cattle, sheep, and goats), seven species of wild beasts, four types of locusts, and various species of fowl and fish.

Man derives in general from Zeir Anpin, while the beasts and cattle derive from Nukva [of Zeir Anpin] and fish, locusts, and fowl derive from yesod of Zeir Anpin. For this reason, the numerical value of the word for "fish" [in Hebrew, "dag"] is 7, for yesod is the seventh sefira. Furthermore, yesod "gives to the poor" [in Hebrew, "gomel dalim"], and the initials of this phrase in Hebrew are the same letters used to spell the word for "fish".

Yesod is actually the sixth sefira of the midot, but since yesod couples with malchut, the seventh sefira, it may be considered in this context the seventh sefira as well. Malchut is considered "the poor" since it possesses no intrinsic content of its own. Since the content of the preceding sefirot is funneled through yesod to malchut, yesod may be spoken of as "giving to the poor."

chanoch adds: Another understanding of why the Ari states that Yesod is the seventh Sefira is that the first three Sefirot – Keter – Chochmah – Binah are dcalled the Gimmel Rishonot and are considered as acting in unity – acting in concert – acting as 1 Sefira. Thus Gimmel Rishanot is Binah – Chesed – Gevurah – Tiferet – Netzach – Hod – Yesod yields a count of 7.

Specifically, [fish] derive from the states of chesed given to yesod for its own purposes; this is why they live in the water.

Water is a metaphor for chesed, since water always flows downward and is the source of life…

Certain aspects of chesed are merely channeled through yesod, while others yesod become part of yesod itself (since yesod is principally a sefira of transmission, it reflects the giving aspect of chesed). In the imagery of Kabbala, water is a metaphor for chesed (and therefore a manifestation of chesed), since water always flows downward and is the source of life.

Locusts derive from the states of gevura [within yesod] as they return upward. This is the mystical meaning of the verse: "Extend your hand over…the locusts and they will ascend…" (Ex. 10:12), for they manifest the principle of ascent.

In order to transmit properly, yesod must evince gevura as well as chesed, since unmitigated and unrestricted giving is never effective. This element of withdrawal or restraint within yesod is embodied in the locusts.

chanoch adds: Since Yesod shares downward to Malchut as its essence Gevura demonstrates restraint by returning upwards.

The numerical value of the Hebrew word for "fowl" [in Hebrew, "oaf"] is equal to that of the word "Joseph" ["Yosef"]. Joseph personified the sefira of yesod. Therefore, birds fly, for they, too, manifest the principle of ascent, as the states of gevura return and fly upward.

The seven shepherds of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David, in this order) correspond to and personify the seven emotional sefirot from chesed to malchut. Joseph personifies yesod chiefly because he (1) sustained and provided for the entire kingdom (malchut) of Egypt during the years of famine, and (2) preserved his sexual integrity (sexuality being associated with yesod, the sefira of coupling) even while immersed in the depraved culture of Egypt.

Since fish and locusts derive from the sefira of yesod, which is referred to as being "alive", they do not require ritual slaughter [as do beasts and cattle], but rather only "gathering up".

Man, being created in "the image of G‑d," reflects both in his body and soul the structure the sefirot assume when they form a partzuf. The correspondence between the limbs of the body and the sefirot is as follows:

keter – skull

chochma - right lobe of brain

binah - left lobe of brain

daat - rear (occipital) lobe of brain

chanoch adds: According to science the occipital lobe is involved with vision

chesed - right arm

gevura - left arm

tiferet – nose in head - chest above the diaphram in body

netzach - right leg – below diaphram to right knee which includes right kidney, right testicle/ovary

hod - left leg – below daphram to left knee which includes left kidney, left testicle/ovary

yesod - reproductive organs

malchut – mouth in the head and feet in the body

In order for yesod to transfer the content of the preceding sefirot, it must properly be focused on its goal…

Yesod thus corresponds to the reproductive organ, and yesod of Zeir Anpin specifically to the male reproductive organ. Again, this is because yesod is the sefira of transference between one partzuf and the next. In order for yesod to transfer the content of the preceding sefirot, it must properly focused on its goal. We see this in day to day life: a person cannot communicate effectively with another person if he is distracted and his mind is elsewhere. Physically, the male reproductive organ cannot transfer the semen within it, nor can the female reproductive organ receive the semen from the male, unless they are properly focused on each other. This focus is termed in Kabbala "being alive", just as in Jewish Law the erect male reproductive organ is called "alive" (and in its flaccid form, it is called "dead"). Similarly, effective communication is characterized by animation and excitement, as opposed to a "deadpan" style that does not excite the listener. Yesod, then, at least when acting effectively, is called the "live" sefira.

Thus, the animals (fish and locusts) that derive from this sefira are considered to possess intrinsic life-force, and therefore do not have to undergo any ritual process to prepare them for Jewish consumption. (Note that the Arizal does not yet explain why fowl, even though deriving from the same sefira, do require ritual slaughter.)

This is not the case with beasts and cattle; they derive from the Nukva [of Zeir Anpin] and therefore require ritual slaughter.

Beasts and cattle are considered a lower level of life than fowl and locusts. In order for their life force to be properly assimilated, it must undergo the additional rectification process of ritual slaughter. Through this process the life force inherent in the animal flesh is rendered capable of being absorbed into spirituality through being eaten by the Jew.

chanoch adds: Remember in our classes “You are who you Hate”, which is about eating, we learn that what we eat becomes part and parcel of a higher level of consciousness through the digestive process.

The Arizal now turns the discussion to the subject of the birds.

Now, it is the angels that issue from the yesod of Zeir Anpin of Atzilut. These [angels] are the [spiritual] birds that derive from this level. As it is said of [the angel] Gabriel, "and the bird will fly in heaven" (Gen. 1:20). In contrast, physical birds derive from yesod of Zeir Anpin of [the three lower worlds,] Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya.

Whereas the physical fish and locusts derive from yesod of Zeir Anpin of Atzilut, fowl derive only from the projection of this level onto the lower spiritual worlds. The difference between Atzilut and the three subsequent worlds is that the pervading consciousness in the world of Atzilut is that of total submersion in the Divine Presence. "Denizens" of this world do not conceive of themselves as independent beings, but rather as aspects of divinity. In the lower worlds, the pervading consciousness is that of selfhood; the "denizens" of these worlds are aware of themselves as independent entities, albeit subject to divine rule. This is indicated by the fact that fish must remain in the water to live, that is, their existence is dependent on being almost always submerged within the ocean, just as the "denizens" of the world of Atzilut live totally immersed in divine consciousness.

This is the mystical meaning of [our sages' statement that the fowl] were created from the mire [i.e. a mixture of water and earth] (Chulin 27b) Zeir Anpin of Beriya, which is male, exists in the female world, for all the lower worlds are the legions of the Nukva of Zeir Anpin [of Atzilut].

While water is a mystical referent to the sefira of chesed, earth refers to the sefira of malchut…

Every world is created out of the Nukva (i.e. female partner) of Zeir Anpin of the world preceding it, just a physical child is born of its parents. And just as the parents (and particularly the mother) must rear and educate the new child, Nukva of Zeir Anpin of any particular world is entrusted with the task of disseminating the light, or consciousness, of its world into the worlds below it. Inasmuch as all three lower worlds (Beriya, Yetzira,and Asiya) share the common denominator of being worlds of independent consciousness, they may be grouped together and be considered to have emerged as a group from the "womb" of Nukva of Zeir Anpin of Atzilut. Since the three lower worlds then assume the role of the recipient vis-a-vis Atzilut - in that they are intended to absorb as much as possible of the consciousness pertaining in the world of Atzilut - they are considered feminine and it masculine relative to each other.

While water is a mystical referent to the sefira of chesed, earth refers to the sefira of malchut, the lowest of the ten sefirot and the allegorical "floor" of the world it belongs to.

It thus follows [that the lower worlds] are the extracted states of chesed after they have been "processed" by Nukva of [Zeir Anpin of] Atzilut. This is the mystical meaning of the verse "And the birds will multiply on earth" (Gen. 1:22), implying that they are created from the earth. [But since it is also stated: "Let the water swarm with…birds" (Ibid. 1:20), it means that the birds were created as well] from the water on the earth, i.e. the states of chesed within yesod of Zeir Anpin. Therefore they have scales on their feet like fish, on the one hand, yet they fly like locusts, on the other.

Fowl… possess fishlike and locust-like characteristics…

Fowl were thus created from both the chesed and gevura elements and therefore possess fishlike and locust-like characteristics. Since they derive not directly from the world of Atzilut, but rather from Atzilut as it has been "processed", diminished and diluted into the lower worlds, they require ritual slaughtering in order to be eaten.

Now, man is a mammal [i.e. he produces and suckles milk]. This is because Zeir Anpin and Nukva [of Atzilut] suckle from Imma.

Man derives directly from Zeir Anpin of Atzilut and its female partner, Nukva. These two partzufim, which together comprise the emotions of the world of Atzilut and its capacity for self-expression, emerge from the "womb" of Imma, the partzuf of bina, just as an emotion or means of expression is derived from an intellectual idea that gives rise to it. Here again, once Imma has produced the emotional reaction (Zeir Anpin) and its expression (Nukva), it "nurtures" them, ensuring that they indeed properly emotionalize and express the idea and concept they derive from. The physical manifestation of this principle in man is the nourishment the infant derives from its mother's milk.

Beasts and cattle are also mammals, for they, too, derive from Nukva. In contrast, fish, locusts, and birds produce no milk and they do not suckle, for they derive from the yesod of Imma, and Imma therefore does not suckle them, for [as is said in the Zohar,] Imma extends only so far as hod.

Although beasts and cattle are not created "in the image" of G‑d, and therefore do not reflect completely the phenomenology of Atzilut, the fact that they originate in Nukva (and Nukva suckles from Imma) is enough to make them milk-producing and milk-suckling animals, i.e. mammals. Fish, locusts, and birds, in contrast, are not "processed" by Nukva the same way beasts and cattle are, as we explained. Therefore, they do not possess this quality. They are derived directly from the sefira of yesod, whether it be yesod of Zeir Anpin, as stated above, or yesod of Imma, as stated here.

Bina is said to extend only as far as hod…

The intellect (related to the sefira of bina) "extends only as far as hod". This means that even after a person has progressed from the intellectual development of an idea into the emotional response-phase (chesed, gevura, tiferet), he can still "recharge the batteries" of this emotional response from the residual memory of the original idea. The same is true once he has passed from the emotional response-phase into the initial stage of the active transmission phase (netzach, hod) and is involved in overcoming obstacles to the transmission of his new idea (netzach) and making it relevant to its target audience (hod). Once he has passed from this phase, however, into the stage of transmission in which he must focus entirely on the goal, that is, become totally resonant with the target audience (yesod), he must give up any memory he still has of the original inspiration that accompanied his experience of the original idea. Were he to retain this memory, it would derail and distract his attention from its now crucial object, the recipient. As we said, before, this focus in necessary in order for yesod to be "alive". Therefore, bina is said to extend only as far as hod, but not as far as yesod.

In this sense, yesod may be considered an "orphan", since it does not suckle from the milk of Imma. This is alluded to in the fact that in the verse describing Joseph, he is said to be "of good appearance and good form" [in Hebrew, "yefeh toar vifeh mareh"] (Genesis 39:6). The initials of this phrase spell the Hebrew word for "orphan" ["yatom"].

Joseph is the personification of the sefira of yesod, as mentioned above.

Therefore fowl requires ritual slaughter, since it has an element of earth in it, as our sages said, that it was created from the mire.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Good Enough to Eat

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

Kabbalah explains that a food must be rectifiable in order to be considered kosher.

The latter half of this week's Torah portion contains the basic laws of kashrut, detailing which animals may and may not be eaten. Kosher animals include domesticated animals (cattle, sheep, and goats), seven species of wild beasts, four types of locusts, plus various species of fowl and fish.

chanoch adds: There are more domesticated animals than cattle – sheep – goats. There are Buffalo and others as well.

Know that all domesticated animals, wild beasts, fowl, fish, and locusts derive from malchut, which is Nukva [of Zeir Anpin].

chanoch adds: Which world is being specified without specifying. The information is in the first class on this page.

In fact, the crown of the five states of gevura is given to the Nukva, and the origin of all these species comes from this.

But you already know that there are two crowns: one of the [five] states of chesed and the other of the [five] states of gevura. These are manifest as the two divine names, the name Mah [= 45] and the name Ban [= 52].

The five states of chesed are manifest as the name Mah and the fives states of gevura as the name Ban.

The numerical value of the word for "domesticated animal" ["beheima"] is 52, indicating that these derive from the crown of [the five states of] gevura, present in malchut.

This covers the origin of domesticated animals. What about the wild animals?

Regarding wild beasts, our sages stated that, "Wild beasts are included in term 'beheima' [when it is used in a general sense]." (Chulin 70b)

The mystical significance of this is as follows: The numerical value of the above-mentioned [spelling-out of G‑d's] name, produced by [spelling out the name Havayah with] the letter hei, as we said, is 52, the same as that of the word "beheima". If we spell out this spelling-out, i.e. spell out the letters a second time, we use 23 letters, as follows:

Yud-vav-dalet, vav-alef-vav, dalet-lamed-tav, hei-hei hei-hei, vav-alef-vav vav-alef-vav, hei-hei hei-hei.

Or, viewed schematically:

Name - first spelling-out - second spelling-out

yud – yud – yud vav dalet

yud - vav – vav alef vav

yud – dalet – dalet lamed tav

hei – hei -hei hei

hei – hei – hei hei

vav – vav – vav alef vav

vav – vav – vav alef vav

hei – hei – hei hei

hei – hei – hei hei

[23 is] the numerical value of the word for "wild beast" [in Hebrew, "chaya"].

"Chaya" is spelled: chet-yud-hei = 8 + 10 + 5 = 23.

Thus, "chaya" alludes to the spelling-out of the spelling-out of the name Ban, and thus "chaya" [i.e. the term for wild animals] is "included" within "beheima" [domesticated animals].

chanoch adds: The word chayah as spelled above, can be translated as 8 Yah. This is my opinion. If this is correct 8 Yah can be interpreted as “Binah begins the Upper World”.

We will now explain this in greater detail.

When the states of gevura combine with their sweetening agent…the two corresponding names Havayah also join together….

I have already explained that after the states of chesed descend from the yesod of Imma [into Zeir Anpin], only three of them [continue and] fall into the yesod of Zeir Anpin. These three are the states of chesed of netzach, hod, and tiferet, which are exposed, as is known. These are the ones that descend into yesod [of Zeir Anpin].

The five states of chesed and the five states of gevura are the two sides of the origins of the five sefirot from chesed to hod as they exist within daat, or higher, within bina. Therefore, we may speak of the five states of chesed as the chesed-gevura-tiferet-netzach-hod states of chesed, and the five states of gevura as the chesed-gevura-tiferet-netzach-hod states of gevura.

The upper, basic states of chesed, the chesed and gevura states, remain covered by yesod of Imma, as we have explained previously. Only the derivative states of tiferet-netzach-hod are "dim" enough to descend further, into yesod of Zeir Anpin, where they can be prepared to be transmitted further.

After this, the states of gevura also descend as far as yesod [of Zeir Anpin], and as they descend there they are sweetened. The higher three states of gevura of the five are sweetened by the three exposed states of chesed. This is what happens as [the states of chesed and gevura] descend.

This leaves the lower two states of gevura unsweetened.

It follows that the [upper] three states of gevura have combined with the three [exposed] states of chesed. And, as you know, every state of gevura or state of chesed is manifest as a name Havayah. Thus, when the states of gevura combine with their sweetening agent, this being a state of chesed, the two corresponding names Havayah also join together.

The numerical value of each of these names Havayah is 52. Thus, [the combination of] the three sweetened states of gevura with the three states of chesed [that sweeten them] yields three times 52.

We would have expected this to yield six times 52. The reason this is not so is that the three states of chesed leave the three states of gevura and ascend out of yesod of Zeir Anpin. Thus, the three states of gevura are left by themselves. However…

Translator's Explanation and Comment: We are translating the passage as it appears in Sefer HaLikutim. The following paragraph is worded somewhat clearer in the parallel passage in Shaar HaPesukim, so we are using it here.

Even though these states of chesed return and ascend out of yesod [of Zeir Anpin] as reflected light, nonetheless, it is also known that a holy entity leaves an impression or residue wherever it goes.

chanoch adds: This idea of the Reshimo – Impression is covered extensively in Rabbi Ashlag's “Ten Luminous Emanatiins – Esser Sefirot” - section 4 I believe.

When the states of chesed return and ascend, they sweeten the two states of gevura that had remained unsweetened….

[In our case,] since the states of gevura have been sweetened by the states of chesed, the residue of the states of chesed remains inside the states of gevura, even though afterwards the states of chesed ascended back up.

And therefore, their residue keeps the states of gevura in a sweetened state. However, since they themselves are no longer there, they are not counted as names Havayah, and only the three states of gevura (manifest as names Havayah) are counted, making for 3 x 52 = 156.

It follows that the three sweetened states of gevura are termed the three "sons".

Each is a 52-Name, and the abbreviation for 52 [beit-nun] spells "son".

[As we said,] this process leaves the two lower states of gevura, which originate from netzach and hod, unsweetened. these two also combine together, since they are both in the same state, that is, unsweetened. This is especially probable since they originate in netzach and hod, which are termed "the children".

Netzach and hod are so close that sometimes they are considered two halves of the same sefira. Also, whereas chesed-gevura-tiferet are identified with the three patriarchs, or "fathers", netzach-hod are identified as their "offspring", or "sons".

In any case, they combine and form a fourth name Ban [52], for these two states of gevura are manifest as two names Ban.

Thus, we have four sons, and corresponding to them we say in the Passover Haggadah: "The Torah speaks of four sons…."

Now, when the states of chesed return and ascend, they sweeten the two states of gevura that had remained unsweetened. They sweeten them now as they ascend.

Thus, the first three states of gevura, originating in chesed-gevura-tiferet, become sweetened first, when [the states of chesed and gevura] descend, while the lower two states of gevura, originating in netzach-hod, are only sweetened as [the states of chesed] ascend.

Animals are heavier in their movements than all other creatures….

We will now explain these details, with G‑d's help. We note that animals are heavier in their movements than all other creatures. This is because they derive from those two [lower] states of gevura that were not sweetened [at first]. [As we said,] the numerical value [of these two states of gevura] is 52, which is also the numerical value of "beheima". For they comprise two names Havayah together, the lowest of all of them, and therefore they are heavy and do not fly.

Domesticated animals ["beheima"] derive from the first spelling-out of the name Ban, and wild animals ["chaya"] derive from the second spelling-out of the name Ban as explained above.

The fact that these animals are derived from the lower, least spiritual of the five states of gevura is reflected in the fact than in their physical incarnation they are also the lowest, heaviest, most corporeal of creatures.

But the domesticated animals are heavier and slower than wild animals, for the wild animals derive only from the spelling-out of the spelling-out [of the 52-Name], as mentioned.

If such animals possess signs of purity, it indicates that…derive from the two lower states of gevura that have been sweetened….

Now, there are pure and impure [i.e. kosher and non-kosher] species of both domesticated and wild animals. Their purification is affected by their sweetening [that occurs] on the ascent, as mentioned, for unsweetened states of gevura are in a state of absolute severe judgment, and the forces of evil are able to attach themselves to them. This is why [animals derived from these unsweetened states of gevura] are forbidden. But if such [animals] possess signs of purity, it indicates that they are already rectified and derive from the two lower states of gevura that have been sweetened.

[The signs of purity] are chewing the cud and having split hooves. The numerical value of the word for "cud" [in Hebrew, "geira"] is four times 52, referring to the five states of gevura, as stated, which are manifest as the four sons, alluded to in the numerical value of the word for "cud".

"Geira" is spelled: gimel-reish-hei = 3 + 200 + 5 = 208.

4 x 52 = 208.

Chewing [the Hebrew implies "elevating"] the cud indicates that this fourth name Ban [52] ascended, that is, [it alludes to how] the two lower states of gevura were sweetened on the ascent [of the states of chesed], and can then combine with the three other "sons", for they are now sweetened just like they are. When they all combine, they produce the numerical value of "cud".

[A kosher animal] must also have split hooves. The letters that spell the word for "hoof" [in Hebrew, "parsa"] can be divided into two: the numerical value of the first two letters [pei-reish] is 280, and that of the second two letters [samech-hei] is 65.

The significance of this is that the numerical value of the five states of chesed is 280, the five final letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the numerical value of the name Ado-nai is 65.

The five states of gevura are also signified by the five letters of the Hebrew alphabet that have final forms: mem-nun-tzadik-pei-kaf. The combined numerical value of these letters is 40 + 50 + 90 + 80 + 20 = 280.

"Ado-nai" is spelled: alef-dalet-nun-yud = 1 + 4 + 50 + 10 = 65.

The word for "parsa" thus indicates how all five states of gevura combine together [in their sweetened state] and are given from the yesod of Zeir Anpin to his Nukva, and that they are untouched by the forces of evil, remaining unscathed, and are given to Malchut together, with no defect.

In order for an animal to be kosher, it must embody…the successful and safe transference of these five states into Nukva….

The name Ado-nai signifies Malchut, or Nukva, and therefore the word "parsa" indicates how the 5 states of gevura [indicated by the numerical value 280 of pei-reish] are transmitted to Nukva [indicated by the numerical value 65 of samech-hei].

In other words, in order for an animal to be kosher, it must embody (1) the five sweetened states of gevura - indicated by chewing the cud, and (2) the successful and safe transference of these five states into Nukva, the feminine consciousness of expression - indicated by splitting the hoof.

Lack of either sign indicates that at some point, divine beneficence has been siphoned off by the forces of evil, judgment, anger, self-orientation, etc.

The following paragraph is the same idea as it appears in the parallel passage in Shaar HaPesukim:

When [the five states of gevura] have all been sweetened in the yesod of Zeir Anpin, they issue forth from behind this yesod, and are transmitted to the daat of Nukva, which is positioned right there. When they combine together after they have become sweetened, and they issue forth [from Zeir Anpin] and are transmitted to the daat of Nukva, the forces of evil can gain no control over them. Rather, they are all transferred there together as one complete unit. In this way, they all remain kosher and pure. Were this not to happen, they would not be pure, even though they had been sweetened, because the forces of evil would gain control over them. Therefore, in order to indicate this, [the Torah] requires a second sign of purity [i.e. kashrut], which is possessing split hooves.

It follows that even if [animals] chew their cud, they are not kosher unless it be known that nothing [of them] escaped to the forces of evil. This [latter state] is indicated by their having split hooves.

We have thus explained the two signs of kashrut of animals.

The following paragraph concludes this section in Shaar HaPesukim:

Regarding wild animals, they are also derived from the lower two states of gevura as mentioned, and therefore they also require the two signs [of kashrut]. But they only derive from the spelling-out of the spelling-out, and therefore there are other, additional signs that differentiate between them and domesticated animals, as mentioned in the Talmud. (Chulin 59ab) I did not receive the mystical interpretation of their explanation [from my master].

chanoch adds: I need to make two comments at this moment. 1. I do not understand how the 4 levels of Ban are 280 since 5 x 52 = 260 not 280. 2, There is another explanation of the 2 signs of Kashrut for animals. Chewing cuds indicate a connection to the central column and the essence of “binding by striking” while split hooves indicates a connection to two energies – right column and left column energy.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Sefer HaLikutim and Shaar HaPesukim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

The Real Jewish Blood Rites

From the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria; translated and edited by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

Proper intentions for slaughtering are the cosmic struggle between good and evil.

[Rabbi Chaim Vital relates:] The following are the meditations my master [the Arizal] of sainted memory taught to Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen, of blessed memory.

The Jewish people were given the commandment to slaughter animals according to specific rules before eating their meat: "You must slaughter any of your herd or flock, which G‑d has given you, as I have commanded you. Only then may you eat [of them] in your gates as much as you desire." (Deut. 12:21)

Spiritualization of the physical flesh depends a great deal on the purity of thought and intentions…

In contrast to an everyday butcher, the ritual slaughterer [called a "shochet" in Hebrew] in Judaism is a position of great honor. In order to be a shochet, a person should ideally be of exemplary character, a Torah scholar, pious, and G‑d-fearing - in addition to being well-versed in the laws of ritual slaughter and expert in their performance. This is because, as we will see, the act of ritual slaughter - the first stage towards the eventual consumption of the flesh by the Jew - is an intensely spiritual act, and the spiritualization of the physical flesh depends a great deal on the purity of thought and intentions of the shochet.

As you know, regarding the mystical intentions one should have while eating, all creatures of this world need to be rectified and refined. This is in order that they reach the spiritual level of the primal matter of which they were made when the world was created.

The primordial sin, that of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, caused a spiritual fall in the ability of material creation to sustain spiritual consciousness. Our task in life is to refine the physical world so that it can once again be receptive to this level of divine awareness.

This [level of refinement] is similar to [that exemplified by] the donkey of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair.

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was a Talmudic sage. His donkey refused to eat untithed barley. (Chulin 7a)

chanoch adds: It is important to remember that prior to the Flood mankind did not have permission to eat animals. This permission was given to assist the elevation of human souls since many souls of the flood generation reincarnated as animals. This includes some souls that are called Tzadikim in the last 400 years.

Additional comment: In modern times, there appearss to be a growth to various aspects of vegetarian eating. This is an indication that the person who chooses to not eat meat has no future tikune with the souls presently reincarnated into animals.

Additional comment: The most negative people wer incarnated into the generation of the flood. This obviates any teaching that vegetarians are more spiritual or of a higher frequency than other humans.

It happens many times that human souls are reincarnated into animals…

In addition, it happens many times that human souls are reincarnated into animals. If the animal is slaughtered with the proper intentions, its helps extricate the reincarnated soul from the punishment it is undergoing. It can then re-enter a human body the next time it enters this world, as it was meant to originally.

There are thus two basic objectives of ritual slaughter: to elevate the spiritual nature of the material animal flesh, and, in sporadic instances, to help the reincarnated soul finish its process of rectification.

The mystical purpose of ritual slaughter, then, is to sweeten all the judgments.

Both the descent [i.e. de-spiritualization] of material reality and the rectification process of the reincarnated soul are manifestations of G‑d's attribute of judgment (which was invoked in the first place by the sin or wrongdoing of man). Counteracting this attribute by spiritualizing reality is called "sweetening" the judgment.

[Note: Certain Talmudic sages are also known to have known various animal languages.]

One Thursday, we were sitting before my master, and a goat came up to us and placed its two front paws on the table. My master began to converse with it in its language. He then told me to go buy this goat, and have it slaughtered for Shabbat. He then told Rabbi Moshe Sofino to slaughter it according to the [above detailed] meditations. […] When I later asked my teacher what this soul did that it had to be punished by being reincarnated into this goat, he said that this soul was a great scholar from Talmudic times who had engaged in marital relations with his wife by candlelight. May G‑d preserve us, Amen.

Marital relations are supposed to be conducted in the dark, for reasons of modesty and intimacy. The Hebrew word for "goat" ["eiz"] also reads as "brash" [in Hebrew, "az"].

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaMitzvot and Taamei HaMitzvot.