Kosher Slaughter Frees the Spirit
Likutei Halachos on Parshas Riay
Translated by Dov Grant
Devarim 12:23 "You shall not eat the soul with the meat"
This is an explanation of the prohibition of eiver min ha’chai (eating the flesh of an animal or bird while it still exhibits signs of life).
Shechitah (the Jewish method of animal slaughter) takes place at the neck for a dual purpose. Firstly, it is to subdue the animal instinct. Secondly, it is to raise the nefesh/life-soul from the level of chai (basic living entity) to that of me’daber (speaking being, i.e. man). The reason for this is as follows.
The windpipe, esophagus and blood vessels that constitute the neck, lie close to the vocal chords. It is specifically through them that the tikkun/rectification of shechitah is achieved, since nefashos/souls leave the body at that place, corresponding to the verse (Shir HaShirim 5:6): “My soul left be’dabro/at His speaking”. Blood converges there at the time of the shechitah because the neshamos exit there, as expressed by the verse “for the blood is the nefesh”. It is there that the departure and ascent of the nefashos occurs.
Since the nefesh is principally at the neck, the life force is located there. Correspondingly, the klippos (incorporation of evil forces) maintain their greatest power there, for the trio of windpipe-esophagus-blood vessels is related to “the three ministers of [the evil] Pharaoh” (Likutei Torah parshah Vayeishev). The klippos remain there to suckle from the speech faculty-nefesh that always departs at that point, corresponding to “my soul left be’dabro”.
The “oppressed neshamos” are the ones that are most associated with the animal. These are the neshamos that fell from the level of me’daber to that of chai. The power of speech was removed from them with their attachment to the non-speaking animal. Therefore, the “three ministers of Pharaoh”, the three klippos mentioned above, reside in force within the animal, since the speech faculty of the neshamos is suppressed there. There the animal spirit, corresponding to the klippos, is most powerful. The klippos subdue the nefesh in its aspect of speech until it falls completely from the level of me’daber to that of chai. That’s why the shechitah is at the neck: To cut the windpipe, esophagus and blood vessels and overcome the “three ministers of Pharaoh”. Hence all the blood, which is the nefashos, swells and exits at the neck. The nefashos leave the animal body and ascend from chai to me’daber through the blessing and the shechitah knife.
Consequently, if the slaughter was not performed at the neck – even if a limb was severed with the knife – the force of the animal instinct is not subdued and the nefesh does not leave that way. The nefesh only leaves through the path of the “three” mentioned above, related to the verse (above) “my soul left…”. The klippos are only subdued there in the neck, in the place where they have their grip, the place containing the main life source of the nefesh.
Therefore, someone that eats eiver min ha’chai, G-d forbid, actually consumes the nefesh with the meat, since the nefesh and life force essentially remains. For while every limb draws life force to itself, yet the life force and nefashos cannot leave through the limbs. They can only leave through the neck, the place that they desire to leave in order to receive their tikkun and ascent from chai to me’daber. Cutting a limb from the animal in a different place causes the opposite to occur. The limb draws to itself life force, while the life force, the nefesh, remains trapped within the limb.
This is why the Torah makes the prohibition “do not eat the nefesh with the meat”. Meat is only fit to eat after the nefesh has left it; it is forbidden to destroy and consume the nefesh. Someone that eats eiver min ha’chai, G-d forbid, is actually a murderer, since he is really killing the nefesh.
Yoreh De’ah Hilchos Eiver Min HaChai 1:1