Respect for All Beings by Jared Mayer


In Parashat Acharei Mot, we discover the Torah’s two commandments regarding the topic of blood: “Lo Yochal Dam,” “You may not consume blood” (VaYikra 17:12), and “VeIsh...Asher Yatzud Tzeid Chayah...VeShafach Et Damo VeChisahu BeAfar,” “Any man who will trap a beast, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth” (17:13). What are the significances of and the reasons for these Mitzvot?

Perhaps, by analyzing certain fields of unconventional knowledge, we can understand the importance of such commandments. If one were to ask an outdoorsman or hunter about his experiences in the woods, he would relate that hunting is a most interesting experience. Not only does the activity require much patience and proper timing, but it also creates a bond between the hunter and the hunted. Quite peculiarly, there are sentiments of both respect and hatred between the two parties. After the hunted is vanquished, the hunter might describe the valiant attempt of the hunted to outwit the hunter, and how he, the hunter, managed to prevail. However, the hunter can never be overly joyful once he has vanquished his enemy. These same rules apply to modern democratically-ruled militaries. A soldier must understand that his adversary is not foolish and must therefore show respect to him even after defeating him. Society looks down upon barbarism, and therefore one must maintain some form of discipline on the battlefield, even in times of crisis.

Not only do these principles apply to the hunter and to the soldier, but they apply to our Torah as well. Just as a hunter understands the conflict that occurs between him and an animal, we understand the value of the animals that we eat. We understand that every being deserves respect, even after death, and that triumphing over an adversary by consuming his blood is barbaric. As Jews, we respect adversaries, and even animals, to show that all beings deserve proper treatment. By heeding the challenging Mitzvot presented this week, we demonstrate that the Jewish nation has many values, is respectful of others, and is kind to all beings.

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