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Parshas Emor 5773
Candle Lighting Time: 7:32 pm
April 25, 2013
Volume 9 Issue 22
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Dvar Torah

Animal Rights

By Rabbi Yosef Prupas 




                 Orthodox Jews often are asked strange questions about the Jewish faith from those less knowledgeable in Judaism. Often these questions come from a basic misconception about religion. For many, being intensely religious means self sacrifice. They may believe that the more they give up the more devout they are. The result is confusion of the basic tenets of other religions with Judaism and hence the strange questions. Most world religions follow Webster's definition of sacrifice, meaning "an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially: the killing of a victim on an altar." This leads some to infer that Judaism follows this approach as well.  From this week's parsha we learn otherwise.


The Torah this week introduces various laws pertaining to animal sacrifices. Among them is the prohibition to slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day and the obligation to wait until the calf is at least eight days old before one can use it as a sacrifice. What possible lesson is the Torah trying to convey with these commandments?


The Meshech Chochma explains that Hashem is revealing to us that the sacrifice process isn't based on the more one gives up and the more one suffers for sake of a god, the more that individual has demonstrated his devotion to that deity/religion. An extreme example of this is human sacrifice. Although there is a need to sacrifice an animal to G-d (for reasons that are beyond the scope of this Dvar Torah), it needs to be done in the most humane way possible. To grab a young calf from its mother immediately after birth is an act of cruelty. In the same vein, killing a mother and its baby on the same day gives the impression, as explained by the Ramban, that one is willing to annihilate an entire species.  This is why Hashem required that sacrifices be taken only from animals usually found in abundance.


The Meshech Chochma goes on to say that similar lessons are found throughout Torah. We are commanded to sanctify the kohein, give joy to the levi, and benefit the Yisroel with one's wealth. We are warned not to sell a Jew, and if he is sold - to treat him with respect. We are obligated to sustain a gertoshav (permanent non-Jewish resident who according to some opinions has accepted upon himself the Noahide laws) and not to embarrass the Canaanite slave. We are not allowed to inflict pain upon an animal, and if we need to eat it, to slaughter it in the most humane way possible, etc. In sum, the Torah is teaching us to show compassion, benevolence, and kindness, which are attributes of Hashem, and to follow in His ways.


The above lessons are so essential, for history is replete with examples of shocking rituals, depredation, and self infliction, in the name of religion. To counteract such notions the Torah concludes the aforementioned laws with the words "You shall not defile My holy Name, and you shall sanctify Me..." The Torah is telling us that we are obligated to demonstrate compassion and sensitivity, and only by doing so can we sanctify the name of Hashem. It would be a disgrace for Hashem if we followed the "sacred" practices of other religions. May we take these lessons to heart, and let them impact our behavior, and as a result have a positive effect on our unaffiliated and newly affiliated fellow Jews. 


Dvar Halacha


The Laws of Sefiras Ha'omer  part 2


By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi


One may count the entire night (Shulchan Aruch 489:1).  The mitzvah starts at night since it is the 1st opportunity to count [since the new day starts at night time].  The reason why the best time to count is at night [and according to some, one may only count at night], and not the next morning is since the Posuk says you should count "Sheva Shabbasos Temimos" (complete) (Rashi Vayikra 23:15).  The earlier one counts in the day makes it more of a complete day (See Mishneh Berurah 489:2 & 4).  However, before night [shkiya (sunset)], is not the time to count (Be'ur Halachah 489:3 s.v. me'bod yom).  If one does, it is as he did not count that day and must recount with a brachah later.  Similarly, if one accepts Shabbos early [after plag hamincha, known colloquially as "making early Shabbos"], it is still too early to count.


If one counted after shkiyah but before tzaitz hakochavim (nightfall), since it is safek lai'lah (possibly night) he fulfills his obligation (Mishneh Berurah 489:14).  If one did, it is preferable to recount without a brachah after taitz hakochavim. (Mishneh Berurah 489:15).  Someone who is scrupulous in observing this mitzvah should count aftertzaitz hakochavim, since only then is it for sure night (Shulchan Aruch 489:1).  One who is normally stringent to wait for the later tzaitz hakochavim of Rabbeinu Tam [for example, to end Shabbos], should preferably wait for that time to count (Koveitz Halachos [Piskei Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlit"a] 2:4).


If one forgot to count during the night, may count the next day until shkiyah, without a brachah. (Shulchan Aruch 489:7) The next night he may continue with counting with the brachah (Mishneh Berurah 489:34).


Beginning half an hour before tzaitz hakochavim if one did not yet count, it is prohibited to begin to eat a seudah [i.e. wash on bread or eat more than a k'beitzah of pas haba b'kisnin] or to be involved in any melachah (work) that may cause one to forget to count (Rama 489:4 & Mishneh Berurah 489:23-24).  Similarly, one may not go to sleep during then (Koveitz Halachos 3:1).  It is important to note, that these restrictions only apply beginning half an hour before tzaitz hakochavimbut not before shkiyah, even if one plans on counting earlier, since tzaitz hakochavim is the ideal time to begin counting (Koveitz Halachos 3:ftnt. 7).  If one appoints a shomer (guardian), he may partake in the above mentioned activities.  However, only a human being qualifies to be a shomer, but not an alarm clock (Koveitz Halachos 3:3).  A person who normally davens with a minyan after tzaitz hakochavim, is not required to refrain from the above, since he will count later in shul (Koveitz Halachos 3:4 & ftnt. 10).  If someone accepts Shabbos early, if one started eating the Shabbos seudah before half an hour before tzaitz hakochavim one can finish the meal and then count.  However, if it is within half an hour, one may not start the seudah until he counts (Koveitz Halachos 3:5).


One should ideally recite the brachah and count himself (Shulchan Aruch 489:1).  If one is unable to [either because he is physically unable or is not halachically supposed to], he should hear the brachah from someone else [with the intention to fulfill the mitzvah] and then count himself (Shaar Hatziyon 489:5).


As with all brachos being recited, it is preferable at the time of reciting the brachah, to know which day it is.  If one did not, he has nevertheless fulfilled his obligation (Mishneh Berurah 489:29).

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