100.07 Focus: Potential and the ‘Mitzvot’ (pps.75-78)
hard cover page 75
The first directive to man in the Torah is not what one might expect in a Divine text. It does not focus on interaction between God and man, nor on fraternal interaction between man and man. Rather, the first directive to man is peru urevu, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26). The first directive to Noah after the flood is the same (Genesis 9:12). Fulfillment of creator potential is a holy thrust of the cosmos, flowing directly from the core of the Divine essence.
We can now also begin to unravel the perplexing aspect of the two mitzvot, each noted twice, whose affirmative performance, according to Scripture, is rewarded with long life: (1) “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20: 12, Deuteronomy 26: 17), and (2) shiluach ha-kan, the requirement to send the mother bird away prior to taking her young (Deuteronomy 22:6-7).For the link between creator and potential is sanctified and protected. Honoring the link is obligatory.262 Destruction of the link in the mother’s presence is profane. Divine potential flowing through life potential was the original source of life; and thus, symmetrically, sanctification of potential is rewarded by long life.
Nachmanides, in his commentary on the mitzvah of shiluach ha-kan declares: “Scripture will not permit a destructive act that will bring about the destruction of a species, even though it has permitted the ritual slaughtering of that species for food.”263
We are directed not to boil a kid (goat) in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21)264 This thrice-stated directive becomes the basis of the demanding kashruth laws of separating milk and meat. We are also directed not to sacrifice or kill an ox or ewe and their respective young on the same day (Leviticus 22:28).
Perhaps the psychic ground of the vast body of law permeating from these directives is the Divine sanctification of the link
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262 See below in this section on the Torah’s tolerance of the consumption of animals.
263 Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, vol. 2, p. 448.
264 Inasmuch as the boiling of a kid goat in its mother’s milk was also apparently a pagan rite, the thrice-cited proscription of this practice is also taken in some quarters as a general injunction against paganism.
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