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D'var Torah

7/4/18: ISRAELITE TOTEM AND TABOO: D'VAR TORAH: PARSHAH V'YIKRA - SHEMINI: LEVITICUS: CHAPTER 11, VERSES 1-12: THE ISRAELITE DIETARY LAWS AND OTHER HEBREW BIBLICAL NORMS

Michael Picardie.

As you heard in the Hebrew and in the English translation of today's Shabbat parshah, meat and fish are regarded as kasher, if the meat is from a creature that both chews the cud and has a divided hoof. So, this would include agricultural, domesticated animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats. Birds are in a separate category and later we are told to avoid predatory and scavenging birds which are unclean presumably because they eat freshly killed non-kasher or putrefying meat. Implicitly the domesticated fowl is kasher. Obviously, we are dealing with a society that is not a hunter-gatherer society, but a settled, farming agricultural society. There is the assumption that hunted game like deer, simply because they are not mentioned, even though they may chew the cud and have divided hooves, are not regarded as kasher, if only because they are not sacrificially killed by the method of the shochet, which I will describe a little later. Even though they are associated with hunter-gatherer Canaanites, and with other Semites (like Ishmael and Esau the excluded Other brothers), or with earlier Neolithic hunter-gatherers symbolically drowned in Noah's flood (really the "progress" of economies), wild game are not specifically excluded. Actually, because deer chew the cud and have split hooves although not mentioned in this passage, they may be kasher. It is hunting them that puts them on the border of kasher and treif or tamay - unclean. They are shot or trapped or speared, not sacrificially bled to death after having their throats cut........

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