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Parashat Tzav: How do we deal with violent people?

Parashat Tzav describes how the offerings should be made and how the Kohanim should conduct themselves during those rituals. This theme is somewhat alien to us, as has been said several times.

However, Joseph Albo, a 15th-century Jewish thinker, puts forward an interesting theory in which he asks why the Creator allowed human beings to eat meat after the flood. Being that the first humans did not eat meat, what led the Kadosh BaruchHu to change their design and allow them to start eating.

Albo suggests that the violence that humans have inherently may have been elaborated in the violent act of killing animals for consumption. This was not common in the generations that preceded Noah. In fact, the first crime of humanity would be marked by Cain's interpretation that his vegetable sacrifice was not well accepted, and Abel's animal sacrifice was.

Consequently, Cain's will when killing his brother was to offer the most precious animal in creation, a man, and the most precious to him, his brother. The most popular crime of humanity would become an offering to a God who seemed difficult to please. When the consumption of animal meat and its use for sacrifices were later authorized, it was precisely to prevent violence from being directed at men to the detriment of animals and to make it clear that God did not ask for or accept human sacrifices. Of course, there was no patronage society to speak for the rest of creation. Those were other times.

In this parasha, we find the prohibition on the consumption of blood in the meat we eat. The reference takes us to the same place: preventing humans from generating violence in their being. It seems that we cannot handle certain impulses, and we look for external ways to regulate them for us. We look for support in images external to us to put ourselves, in this case, as inevitably violent, and we seek to lessen that violence by changing our eating habits.

In our 21st century, we have new ethical ways of understanding. We regulate our animal consumption and object to inhumane breeding practices towards them. However, the underlying problem remains: how do we regulate violence between humans? What is the response we find to the lack of understanding and sensitivity towards other people, creeds, or peoples that end in violence? And how do we deal with violent people who do not know how to respect or coexist with others? Should we reformulate diets to achieve fellowship?

The Torah, in its mention of the Korbanot (offerings) and its explanation, makes some things clear to us. The human being is violent in its constitution, and ethical laws have changed over time to regulate that violence in favor of killings or offerings, depending on each town. And this violence must be regulated or redirected so that there is no more violence between humans. It sounds utopian, like any purpose that requires gradual and constant work. But it must necessarily begin with the recognition that there is something that must be attended to in our being. We must observe and contain or redirect that violence towards more creative and noble tasks.

We must have the integrity to recognize our strengths and limitations, seeking to strengthen ourselves and them, even leaning on those who find it easier to achieve it, in our daily task of improving ourselves as people so that we can continue building a better world.

Shabbat Shalom and Pesach Kasher vesame'ach!! Let's have a happy and kosher Passover!

Rabbi Gustavo Geier


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