Monday, March 30, 2009


Excluding birds, the Torah specifies three animals which are to be used for sacrifices: cows, goats, and sheep. Rambam (Guide to the Perplexed 3:46) explains that these three animals were worshipped as gods in India, Sabea (?), and Egypt respectively. By requiring us to kill these animals, the Torah forces us to deny and distance ourself from several major forms of ancient idolatry.

Ramban (on Vayikra 1:9) objects that if the point is to kill foreign deities, there is no need for the whole complicated sacrificial process. It is much easier, and equally effective, to simply kill the animals and eat them!

Ramban brings this reductio ad absurdum argument in order to reject the Rambam's approach. But we need not see the result as absurd. Perhaps eating meat really does have intrinsic value as a rejection of idolatry. Every time you chew on a steak, you are proudly proclaiming that you are not a Hindu. It turns out that "bassarfest" is not only enjoyable, but a big mitzvah as well.

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