11-5771 Mitzvah N-106

Torat Emet
11-5771 Mitzvah N-106
12/29/2010

Negative Mitzvah 106– This is a negative commandment: do not eat the kind of food eaten by a wayward and rebellious son

Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “You shall not eat over blood.” (Lev. 19:26). Which is understood to mean “you are not permitted to eat the kind of meal that leads to bloodshed.” that is, the food eaten by a wayward and rebellious son. This verse of Scripture is also an injunction not to eat any flesh of an animal before its life expires. And it is also an injunction not to take any food before we pray. This is in force everywhere, in every time, for both men and women.

The wayward and rebellious son is a son who will not listen to his parents and who is totally out of control. The Torah declares that the parents should bring their son before the court and declare that their son is out of control. If the court agrees, then the son is liable for the death penalty. The Sages of the Talmud are so appalled by this law that they go to great lengths to limit it. After all, what kind of parent would come before a court to testify against their son in a capital offense? A minor is not responsible for his actions and an adult would not be responsible to his parents. So the Sages limited this law to the few months between 12 and 13 years of age when a child may be between childhood and adulthood. Later Sages declared that this law was never actually used; that it was written as a warning to children to listen to their parents.

For our purposes, the definition of a wayward and rebellious son was that he would eat meat at an inappropriate time and his parents could not stop him. ( It could also involve drinking, but that is not the direction of this Mitzvah). In ancient times, meat was only eaten on special occasions and to eat meat at other times was a waste of meat since a whole animal would have to be killed and one person could not eat it all. There was no way to preserve the rest of the meat so it was a great waste and a real act of rebellion to eat meat when others were not eating (which they might do on a holiday or other celebratory meal). This Mitzvah, therefore, tells us not to eat like a wayward or rebellious son and eat meat indiscriminately allowing the leftovers to be wasted.

Because this is a rather limited use of this Mitzvah, and because it is only a hypothetical case (according to the Talmud it never happened in history), there are other meanings associated with this verse. Since the Torah tells us that “blood is the life” of an animal, we can also use this verse to prohibit not only the blood of a properly slaughtered animal, but also to prohibit the blood of an animal that has not yet died. This too is a rather limited situation; the animal is, after all dying and will be dead in a little while. Instead of listing this law here, we may be able to include this lesson in the law that prohibits eating a limb from a living animal. As the first two reasons seem to be very limited in their application, this may be the reason why there is a third lesson to be learned from this verse, the lesson that we should not eat before we have prayed.

I am not sure how the Sages make the connection from the rebellious son to the requirement to pray before we eat. I can see that they might learn it from the fact that there are blessings recited when slaughtering an animal and that might cover the time between the slaughter and eating. I can imagine that this could also refer back to the wayward and rebellious son who, they speculate, eats before he prays (if he didn’t, he would not be rebellious). I am just not sure how they made this connection. It is the rule, however, not to eat breakfast until after reciting the prayers of Shacharit.

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