September 8, 2021

Beitzah 7-8

Among the laws discussed in the two dapim we studied over Rosh Hashanah (Beitzah 7-8) is the mitzvah of כיסוי הדם (the requirement that blood of a slaughtered bird or wild animal spill onto earth and be covered by earth so that it is, in a manner of speaking, ‘buried’ within the earth – see Vayikra 17:13-14), and while various different reasons have been offered as a rationale for this law, it seems clear that by covering blood that we have spilled we are meant to be humbled by fact that – notwithstanding that it may have been permitted for us to do so – life is fragile and we have still spilt blood.
Clearly this a sobering thought as we ebb away from Rosh Hashanah and as we dedicate the coming ימי תשובה (days of repentance) to reflection, growth and the petitioning of forgiveness, but it is particularly resonant since one of the most heinous sins identified by our Sages is הלבנת פנים (literally, ‘the whitening of a face’ i.e. shaming someone), which is given this name because, by shaming someone, it is as if we have drawn and spilt their blood.
Yet in contrast to the blood that is spilt from an animal which can be treated with dignity and respect and, in some way, ‘buried’, we don’t have the independent capacity to bury the feelings of shame, pain and anguish of someone else who has been hurt by something we have said or done to them. Instead, what we must do – wherever it is appropriate to do so – is approach that person and, in the best way that we can, ask their forgiveness. By doing so, we should be humbled by our need to petition another, and through doing so, we should be reminded that life is fragile, and that through what we say and do, we too have the capacity to spill blood.
At the same time, the very act of approaching someone and seeking their forgiveness also remind us that just as words can hurt, they can be used to heal, and just as they can spill blood, they too can contribute to helping covering over and healing that blood which we have shed – knowingly or otherwise.
In this spirit, while I believe that personal grievances should be addressed personally, and personal apologies should be delivered personally, if I have unknowingly hurt, upset or embarrassed you, please know that I am truly sorry and I would be grateful if you would message me directly and let me know – so I can have the chance to ask your forgiveness directly.
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