100.07 Focus: Potential and the ‘Mitzvot’ (pps.75-78)

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between creator and potential which in no way must be profaned. While the partaking of the goat’s meat, its kid’s, or its milk individually is certainly permitted, the use of one of a creator’s (life-sustaining) potentialities to complete the termination of another of its (life-giving) potentialities is thrice forbidden. While the killing of an ox or its offspring is certainly permitted individually, the killing of both on the same day, whether for mundane or holy purposes, is forbidden. The sanctity of the creator link is clearly established and protected. Jewish law expands the kid/milk directive into the voluminous laws requiring the separation of meat and milk products. The link of potential is thereby sanctified every day at every meal.


The mitzvah of bringing first fruits (bikkurim) as an offering to the Divine is cited three major times in the Pentateuch (Exodus 23:19, 26; Deuteronomy 26: 1-11; also see Numbers 18:13). Even at face value the mitzvah may be interpreted as a celebration/sanctification of holy potential265. As the Divine is the cause behind all new fruit, we are instructed to bring a holy offering of the first of the new fruit.The particulars of this directive are amplified by the last tractate of the Mishnah order of Zeraim. The Mishnah clarifies that if the vine from which the first fruits have been plucked has withered prior to the actual offering in Jerusalem, the offering is still brought, but no invocation266 is made- niktzatz ha-ilan, mevi vi-eino korei. The potential of the mother vine has an effect on the holiness of the first fruits.267 Inasmuch as mitzuat bikkurim is a celebration/ sanctification of holy potential, the “depotentializing” of the mother vine lowers the holiness of the fruit sufficiently to disquality it from the invocation of bikkurim.


Potential becomes a salient element elsewhere as well. The proscription of neveilah (Deuteronomy 14:21), i.e., the prohibition of eating of a carcass which has died, as opposed to having

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265 The usual explanation is hakaras ha-tov- acknowledgment of God’s good. Our interpretation would be a further refinement of this general explanation.

266 Arami oued avi . . .”

267 See also T. B. Berachot 40b.


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