Tzav – Purification of the soul

ונכרתה־הנפש־ההוא־מעמיה\” \”And that soul shall be cut off from his people\”.  This warning appears four times in the parasha. What does it mean?


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When the Torah talks about death it is almost never about termination of life as we know it. The first time we read about a warning of death as a result of an action is in Bereshit (Genesis) where G-d tells Adam and Eve \”Do not it (eat) from the tree of Knowledge…\” \”כִּי, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ–מוֹת תָּמוּת\” \”in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.\”

We know that Adam did not die and in fact he lived 930 years.  The death that the Torah is talking about is a spiritual \”cut off\”, a disconnection from the root of the soul. \”ונכרתה־הנפש־ההוא־מעמיה\” can be read as \”ונכרתה־הנפש־ההוא־מעמ–יה\”, which means \”and the soul shall be cut off from the nation of \’יה\’.\” We know that those two letters represent the first two letters of the Tetragrammaton and that they relate to the higher Sefirot of Chokmah and Binah.

Kabbalah teaches us that there are five levels to the soul (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chaya and Yechida). We will not expand on all the levels here but we need to know the life force given to us is called Nefesh and it is in the blood, as it said in Deuteronomy 12:23, \”רַק חֲזַק, לְבִלְתִּי אֲכֹל הַדָּם, כִּי הַדָּם, הוּא הַנָּפֶשׁ; וְלֹא-תֹאכַל הַנֶּפֶשׁ, עִם-הַבָּשָׂר\”  \”Only be steadfast in not eating the blood; for the blood is the soul (life); and you shall not eat the soul (life) with the flesh.\”

When blood stops circulating in the body life stops and the soul separates from the body.

The actions of a person affect the blood. The purpose of the sacrifices is to cleanse the blood by bringing the animal to the Kohen to be slaughtered and burned on the altar. The Kohen follows a specific process to remove the impurity from a person. The way the blood is handled is very important in the process. The Zohar explains that the evil inclination spirit (Yetzer Hara) burns in a person like fire and only the Kohen can remove the spirit of impurity from the person with fire because the Kohen is from the right.

The fire on the Altar should stay on at all the times in order to keep all the impure spirits away. \”אֵשׁ, תָּמִיד תּוּקַד עַל-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ–לֹא תִכְבֶּה\” \”Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out.\” Repeating this verse multiple times will help to overcome and stop the evil inclination from invading a person\’s thoughts.

 The Torah forbids us from eating the flesh with the blood because as explained above the animal soul is in the blood, and if eaten it gets connected to the person, contaminates his soul, and causes a disconnect from the pure root of the soul.

A process of cleansing is necessary to purify the soul again.

Before Yom Kippur we do the Kapparot to remove judgments from ourselves. This is the closest action to the sacrifices done in the Temple. When properly done a person should watch while the Shochet (\”שוחט\”) slaughters the bird and lets the blood drip to the ground, then the person should take soil and cover the blood with a special blessing. The soul of the bird takes the judgment away from us and we cover the blood in a symbolic burial process.  Giving the bird to the needy or eating it is adding an additional positive action to the process and helps elevate the animal soul to a higher level. It is known that the animals brought for sacrifices in the Holy Temple were waiting in line for their turn to be scarified. On a soul level they knew that being scarified will elevate their soul to a higher level.

 The Jewish people have the responsibility to be a Holy Nation \”וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ-לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים, וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ\” \”and you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.\” Following the Torah keeps us on the higher level of \”יה\”.

Rabbi Avraham Azulai (\”Chessed L\’Avraham\”) writes that eating or not eating Kosher will not make your life longer or shorter. The Jewish soul must keep kosher for the purity of the soul. The 613 mitzvoth is our guide to follow in order to keep us at a higher level, closer to the light of the creator and be able to be part of a Holy nation. Otherwise we get \”cut off\”.

Special Note: All the references to the Zohar is from The Zohar with Peirus Hasulam by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Ashlag, ZT\”L.