Parshas Achare Mos.
The laws of prohibiton of Neveila and Treifa.
1. As we already discussed in the weekly reading Shmini, not all species of animals are permitted for consumption. In this weekly reading we will talk about two other prohibitions that apply to even the kosher species of animals and birds: the prohibition to eat those of them that were not slaughtered properly and those that have damaged inside organs.
2. The Torah commands us to slaughter animals only in a certain prescribed manner. If an animal or a bird was not slaughtered properly, it is called "neveila" and is forbidden for consumption. It is interesting to mention that the anatomy of ruminating animals is such, that the ritual slaughter for them is practically painless. On the other hand, the non-kosher animals are structured differently and if one were to slaughter them in the same manner as the kosher ones, they would be suffering a lot. This clearly indicates that the Creator prepared the kosher animals for ritual slaughter.
3. After slaughtering the birds or the wild animals, the Torah prescribes to cover their blood. No similar commandment is stated regarding the domestic animals. One of the reasons for this is the fact that the owner normally puts in a lot of effort to raise the domestic animals. Therefore it is fair that he may slaughter them later. On the other hand birds and wild animals normally get caught and slaughtered. This is also permitted since the whole world was made for people. However, we are told to cover the blood. Next, the inside organs of the animal are checked. If certain types of damage are found, the animal or bird is "treifa" and cannot be eaten. One is allowed to derive benefit from both neveila and treifa. For this reason, those animals and birds that cannot be eaten are usually sold to a non-Jew.
4. In our day indeed, we rarely face actual production of meat - most people buy ready meat in the stores. However, it is up to us to only shop in those stores that have reliable "hashgacha" – Rabbinic supervision. Certainly, if our Rabbi tells us that a certain store is not reliable, we should not buy any products there.
The laws of loving and respecting others and not placing a stumbling block before the blind.
1. A variety of general and concrete commandments protect our relations with the other people. The Torah teaches us not to hate others in the heart and to love others as ourselves. We should wish others the best, and it is forbidden to want for them what we don’t want for ourselves. We should try to always find merit in other people. If someone did wrong to us, we should try to find an excuse for him. We should not cause others to cry or to get upset. It is forbidden to tell a person who returned to Torah observance: “Remember your sins of the past”, or to a convert: “The mouth that ate pork is now talking about Torah”. It is forbidden to want revenge or to keep grudge against others. If another Jew wants to commit a sin, the Torah tells us to rebuke him. The Torah forbids us to curse even deaf and to put a stumbling block before blind.
2. Our sages explain that the stumbling block is not only a physical stone, but also any bad advice or any action that causes damage to others. Any action or word which helps others in transgressing commandments is included in this prohibition. For this reason, it is forbidden to sell or lend articles that can help others in committing transgressions (lend a car to a person who will drive it on Shabbos, sell immodest clothes to a woman and so on). Helping a non-Jew in breaking one of seven laws Noachite laws is also forbidden. Certainly, regarding this law there are many details and exceptions. Therefore in each concrete case one should consult a Rabbi.
3. The Torah commands us to respect old and wise. This means that it is necessary to rise before and elderly person who is older than seventy, but according to some opinions based on Kabbalah, one should rise even before those who are sixty. Even if the elderly person is not a sage of Torah, as long as he is not a sinner, it is a mitzvah to get up before him when he is less than seven feet away. It is even more impolite to talk to him while sitting when he is standing. It is also a mitzvah to rise before a sage of a Torah even if he is not old. If the sage is our own Rabbi from whom we learned the majority of our knowledge or if he is one of the wisest sages of the generation, it is necessary to get up even when he is at a distance.
The laws of prohibition of tearing hair as a sign of mourning, shaving hair of sideburns and beard, and the prohibition against tattoo marks.
1. The Torah forbids us to imitate idolaters; it is prohibited to dress according to non-Jewish fashions or to get a haircut that is in style among non-Jews. This prohibition extends also to leaving a forelock. However, if we put on any clothes not because we want to imitate non-Jews but because it is convenient, this is allowed as long as these cloves are modest. Torah forbids us from tearing hear or cutting the skin, as sign mourning for a dead relative. Making tattoos is also forbidden by the Torah.
2. It is forbidden for Jewish men to shave off the sideburns and the beard. According to most opinions it is forbidden to completely shave off the hair of temples up to the end of an ear (that is up to a level of the end of the top jaw). Nevertheless, many rely on the opinion of some Rabbis that it is enough to leave the sideburns up to approximately eyelevel. It is prohibited to shave the beard by a razor, but according to many opinions it is permitted to cut it with scissors or to remove it completely with the help of a cream (that is the cream or a powder that dries up on the face, and then it can be scratched off together with the hair that came out.) With the advent of electric shavers, the Rabbis had to decide based on the Talmud, whether this shaver is similar to a razor or not. The majority of Rabbis ruled that using electric shavers is not allowed (for even if they do not remove the hair completely, the remaining hair is not visible for a human eye, and the skin looks completely smooth like after shaving with a razor). Nevertheless, some Rabbis permitted the use of certain electric shavers, but even according to their opinion one should choose those shavers that leave as much of hair as possible. Note also, that according to Arizal, the hair of the beard should not be cut even by scissors, and his opinion is followed by many.