During the discussion in today’s daf (Pesachim 74) about the ways in which the Korban Pesach should be cooked, we find a discussion about how to deal with blood.
Significantly, the Torah forbids us from consuming blood (se Vayikra 7:26-27, 17:10-12, Devarim 12:23), and we generally soak and salt meat prior to cooking in order to draw out its blood and to prevent it from travelling to other organs in the animal (nb. those of a particular age will likely remember seeing their parents or grandparents salting chickens at home, though most young people will likely have never seen this be done as this is now done by slaughterhouses or by the butcher).
Interestingly, if meat is roasted over a spit – as was the Korban Pesach – then there are those who rule that salting is unnecessary (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 76:1) since the heat of the fire draws out the blood, and the blood – with the force of gravity – drips away from the animal. Still, as the Gemara then proceeds to explain, surely there are organs in an animal such as the heart where blood can easily gather which are more susceptible to absorbing blood. Given this, how are we to treat the heart? The answer given by the Gemara to this question is that שאני לב דשיע – “the heart is different, because it is smooth”, meaning that it does not absorb blood.
Before proceeding, it should be evident that the laws of salting go far beyond this particular sugya. For example, is the heart able to resist absorbing all flavours or just blood? And does this rule apply to all forms or cooking or just roasting? Which is why to understand both the halachic applications and limitations of this statement one should – at the very least – carefully study the Tur & Shulchan Aruch on Yoreh Deah Ch. 72.
Still, I would like to explore this statement from an aggadic (non-legal) perspective, and this is because I believe that we all need to be reminded that “the heart is different, because it is smooth” – meaning that while the heart is soft and smooth, it is also capable of protecting itself from absorbing things that it would rather not absorb. It is both gentle and strong; delicate and resilient.
Yet, just as various halachic authorities debate whether or not this principle applies to all flavours or just to blood, or whether or not this applies to all forms or cooking or just roasting, there are times when – notwithstanding the natural ability of our heart to protect itself – we put it under unnatural pressures which may occasionally exceed its natural ability to protect itself.
Thus, what we learn from all this is that our hearts are incredible organs which represent the best of human qualities – namely softness and firmness; flexibility and rigidity; gentleness and strength. But notwithstanding the abilities of the heart, we should always remember that even the most resilient of our organs have their limits, and that we should protect our hearts – both physically and spiritually.