“Taking Cover”

October 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

“Taking Cover”

In the Torah portion Acharei[391] we have the commandment to cover with earth the blood of all birds and wild animals after they are slaughtered. This law, known as Kisui HaDam, does not however apply to domesticated animals.

The reason for Kisui HaDam is that having performed the commandment of ritual slaughter, the commandment should not be put to shame (bizui mitzvah) by leaving the blood uncovered, for commandments are not to be “shamed.”

Indeed, it is from Kisui HaDam that we derive the principle of bizui mitzvah as it applies to all other commandments. In the words of the Gemara:[392] “The ‘father of them all’ — the ‘father’ and source that all commandments are not to be ‘shamed’ —is [the commandment of covering the] blood.”

But why, then, does Kisui HaDamextend only to birds and wild animals and not to domesticated animals? After all, the same commandment of ritual slaughter is performed on domesticated animals.

The Ramban[393]answers this as follows: “The command is … to cover all blood of wild animals and birds, for their blood is not offered upon the altar. Even with regard to birds, only two types of birds are offered upon the altar; and they, too, are not slaughtered [in the regular manner].

“Most common domesticated animals, however, have their blood offered to G-d upon the altar as an act of atonement. It is thus not fitting for their blood to be covered. As for the secular slaughter of domesticated animals —this was not permitted in the desert; later on as well, the Torah speaks of the majority of instances.”

That is to say, the obligation of Kisui HaDam is dependent upon its ability to be offered upon the altar. This is also indicated by the verses[394] that introduce the commandment of Kisui HaDam: “The life-force of the flesh is in the blood; I gave it therefore to you to be placed upon the altar … Therefore I told the Children of Israel do not eat blood … he must cover [the blood] with earth. This indicates that the prohibition of eating blood and Kisui HaDamresult from “I gave it therefore to you to be placed upon the altar.”

We see from the Ramban’s words that the purpose of Kisui HaDam is to forewarn something untoward —the proper place of blood is only upon the altar; any blood that is not fit to be placed upon the altar must be covered by earth, thereby negating its import.

In terms of man’s spiritual service this may be understood in the following manner: Blood provides and is symbolic of life — “for blood is the soul.”[395] It thus is to be used for matters of holiness, inasmuch as all sacred matters are to be performed with revealedvitality and fervor.

When it comes to mundane matters, however, they are to be done without fervor.[396] “All one’s deeds are to be for the sake of Heaven”[397] not for the sake of corporeal pleasure, but to act as a vehicle in one’s service of G-d. The inner dimension of Kisui HaDam is thus that with regard to worldly things one must coverthe blood, that the vitality and fervor of corporeal matters is not to be felt.

This also explains why the blood is to be covered with earth, as earth is symbolic of self-abnegation — “and I am but earth and dust.”[398]When occupying oneself in permitted matters, one should arouse the feeling of humility and selflessness. This will enable the individual not to be drawn after physical pleasures, but to act purely for the “sake of Heaven.”

Accordingly, spiritually speaking, the fact that Kisui HaDamdoes not apply to the blood of a domesticated animal used for secular purposes, alludes to an even loftier level of spiritual service within the physical world:

Not only does the person occupy himself in physical matters “for the sake of Heaven,” he also does this in a manner where they are similar to “mundane matters that are performed with the same purity as holy [matters].”[399]In other words, the person’s worldly deeds are performed on the same plane as if they were instruments of holiness.

For the fact that domesticated animals as a whole have the same laws applied to them as those domesticated animals that are brought upon the altar, connotes that even the mundane animals are associated with the level of those animals used for a sacred purpose, whose blood need not be covered.

How does one attain this level?

When an individual is so permeated with dedication to divine service that he does not even have to be forewarned against succumbing to worldly temptations, then there exists nothing for him other than serving G-d. All his interactions with worldly matters are then but an adjunct to his spiritual service. Such an individual transforms his everyday matters into veritable aspects of holiness.

Understandably, such a person can even occupy himself with physical matters in a manner of fervor and vitality — he need not “cover the blood” —since his vitality is entirely directed to holiness and to nothing but holiness.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVII, pp. 48-53.


  • 391 (Back to text) Vayikra17:13.
  • 392 (Back to text) Shabbos22a.
  • 393 (Back to text) Vayikra 17:14. Compare also his commentary in Devarim 12:22; Chinuch, Mitzvah 187. See also Moreh Nevuchim,Vol. III, ch. 46.
  • 394 (Back to text) Vayikra ibid., verses 11-13.
  • 395 (Back to text) Devarim12:23.
  • 396 (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Shlach, p. 42d; Toras Chayim, Vayakhel, p. 620a ff., et al.
  • 397 (Back to text) Avos 2:12. See also Rambam, Hilchos De’os conclusion of ch. 3. Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, ch. 231.
  • 398 (Back to text) Bereishis18:27.
  • 399 (Back to text) Chagigah19b, and sources cited there.

The Chassidic Dimension – Volume 5
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.



Entry filed under: Covering the blood- kisui ha dam.

תיקון תאוות הבשר Kisui HaDam

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