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I Will Write It In Their Hearts - Volume 1
Letters from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

The spiritual counterpart of ritual slaughter

Translated by: Rabbi Eli Touger

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  The significance of the names Avraham and EliyahuTable of contentsAn explanation of the Previous Rebbe's campaign that every member of Machne Israel should report four positive deeds that he performed that month  

No. 27

The text to follow is a continuation of a private letter to a Torah scholar whose identity has not been divulged.
[25 Tishrei, 5703]
...Although the above concerns itself with the observance of the mitzvos, I would like [to continue,] mentioning a subject in brief in order not to send a letter devoid of any quote from our Sages. Surely, for you, there is no need for lengthy explanation.

With regard to ritual slaughter:[1] All opinions agree that Scriptural law requires an animal to be ritually slaughtered [for its meat to be permitted]. With regard to fowl, there is a difference of opinion among the Sages, and the halachah is that ritual slaughter is required. With regard to fish, there is no need for ritual slaughter; gathering them is sufficient.[2]

[The spiritual significance of] these concepts is explained in several sources in Chassidus, and is also alluded to in Nigleh, the teachings of Torah law. Our Sages[3] state that the Hebrew word which communicates the commandment for ritual slaughter yjau means lanu, "and he drew [it] after him," i.e., [the slaughterer takes the life force of the animal and draws it after him,] transferring it to a totally different [spiritual] place.

[This concept is also reflected in another term for slaughter used by our Sages][4] vnab ,khyb, "taking the soul," i.e., [the animal's] life energy is taken from the [spiritual] place it was previously, [and transplanted to a higher spiritual plane. On this new level,] it can be transformed into flesh and blood for a human being and can provide him with energy for his Divine service, instead of leading to a [spiritual] decline, heaven forbid.

Animals were created from dust.1 They cannot lift themselves from the ground at all independently; they must be lifted up by others. Using this as an analogy to our Divine service, [the analog would be] the body and the animal soul,[5] to which can be applied the verses:[6] "A man is born like a wild ass," and "The inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth."[7] Our Sages[8] explain that the word uhrugbn, translated as "from his youth," can also be interpreted as "from the moment he stirs," [i.e., from the moment a fetus stirs and] goes out into the world, [it is confronted by the yetzer hara].

Therefore, according to all opinions, [an animal] requires ritual slaughter, i.e., the process [of transplanting its spiritual energy] described above. This task [- refining the body and the animal soul -] is the mission of the soul [and the purpose for] its descent into this world. For [the soul] itself requires no improvement; the sole [purpose of its descent] is to improve [and elevate] the body.[9]

Fowl were created from mud [on the waters],1 i.e., water and earth. They also have the potential to fly, but must return to the earth, because they become tired after flying.[10]

The parallel in our Divine service is the intellectual soul, which serves as an intermediary between the animal soul and the G-dly soul.[11] [The intellectual soul] can conceive of G-dliness. Nevertheless, its essence is mortal intellect [as prompted] by the G-dly soul which is enclothed within it. As such, there is a difference of opinion as to whether [the spiritual service associated with] ritual slaughter is necessary. The final ruling is that slaughter is required.

Fish are always found in their source of nurture; as soon as they depart, they die.[12] The spiritual parallel is the G-dly soul, [which at all times,] even when a person sins, remains faithful to Him. It remains [connected] to its source of life, the ultimate Life.

[This enables us to appreciate the severity of a sin. Since a person is connected to his G-dly source at all times, sinning] can be compared to a person who takes [the head of] the king [and submerges it in a latrine].[13]

[Because of this ongoing connection, with regard to fish,] there is no need for [the spiritual service associated with] ritual slaughter. There is, however, a need for fish to be gathered. For the enclothement in the body and [the involvement with] the task of refinement may lead to fragmentation of the [G-dly] soul's energies in its worldly tasks. Therefore, they must be gathered together and collected.

On a deeper level, it can be explained that the fowl refer to the levels of nefesh, ruach, and neshamah, and the fish to the levels chayah and yechidah, the soul's encompassing powers. This is not the place for elaboration [of this matter].

Grasshoppers do not require ritual slaughter.[14] Taamei HaMitzvos explains that the rationale for this mitzvah is that they [and fish] are both from the level of Yesod. In contrast, domesticated animals, wild beasts, and ritual slaughter all relate to the level of Malchus.

Perhaps this is [the mystic explanation why] they do not possess blood,[15] [an analogy for] material desires, at all. And they are characterized by selflessness - as reflected in the verse,[16] "And we were like grasshoppers in their eyes" - and oneness - as reflected in the verse,[17] "Locusts have no king, and yet they go forth in bands."

Negative dimensions may, however, also arise from selflessness, as reflected in the verse:[18] "Ephraim is joined to idols." And therefore, there are also non-kosher grasshoppers. But even then, because "peace is great...,"[19] [even though they are non-kosher,] the brine which is produced from them is permitted.[20]

May it be G-d's will that through the slaughter of the evil inclination in the present era,[21] we merit the fulfillment of the prophecy:[22] "In the Era of the Redemption, the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring out the evil inclination and slaughter it."

May He grant us life, maintain us, and cause Mashiach to gather our dispersed remnants together in the near future.



  1. (Back to text) [Reshimos, Installment 23.]

  2. (Back to text) Chulin 27b.

  3. (Back to text) Ibid., 30b.

  4. (Back to text) See Shabbos 75a.

  5. (Back to text) [The text which follows revolves around the concept that every Jew has three souls, i.e., three different sources of vitality: the animal soul which centers on physical desires, the intellectual soul, which derives its vitality from the mind, and the G-dly soul, which is an expression of the fundamental G-dly spark present in each of us. See the sources mentioned in note 1.]

  6. (Back to text) Iyov 11:12.

  7. (Back to text) Bereishis 8:21.

  8. (Back to text) Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachos 3:5.

  9. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 37.

  10. (Back to text) See Bereishis Rabbah 39:8, Tosafos, Shabbos 49a.

  11. (Back to text) See the second maamar entitled Im Bechukosai [Likkutei Torah, Vayikra, p. 47c]. This concept is explained at length in the maamarim of the holiday of Shavuos, 5702.

  12. (Back to text) Berachos 61b.

  13. (Back to text) Tanya, the conclusion of ch. 24.

  14. (Back to text) Rashi, Chulin 66a, Tosafos, Shabbos 90b.

  15. (Back to text) See Rambam, Commentary to the Mishnah (Terumos 10:9, Ediyos 7:4).

  16. (Back to text) Bamidbar 13:33.

  17. (Back to text) Mishlei 30:27. See the Metzudos David which interprets the latter portion of the verse to mean "they will not separate from each other."

  18. (Back to text) [Hoshea 4:17.]

  19. (Back to text) [See Sifri, Naso 6:26.]

  20. (Back to text) [Ediyos, loc. cit., Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 3:22.]

  21. (Back to text) See Sanhedrin 43b.

  22. (Back to text) Sukkah 52a.

  The significance of the names Avraham and EliyahuTable of contentsAn explanation of the Previous Rebbe's campaign that every member of Machne Israel should report four positive deeds that he performed that month  

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