Kli Yakar Numbers: Behaalotcha
Food’s Spiritual Levels
The Children of Israel complain (several times) during their desert journey. At one point they’ve had enough of the miraculous manna, and seek something more substantive and familiar like the meat or fish they had in Egypt. God accedes (not too happily) to their demand and rains down on them (literally) millions of birds (popularly translated as quail – but it’s not clear that’s really what it was).
Why the disparity between what they wanted (fish or meat) and what they got (poultry)?
The Kli Yakar (Number 11:22) explains that the Jewish request was inappropriate. Specifically the type of animals. According to the Kli Yakar, meat is for people at the lowest spiritual level, which was not the case with the Children of Israel who requested it. On the other hand, fish represents the highest spiritual level, and they weren’t there either. God gave them what they needed, not what they wanted, namely fowl, which is for people at the middle level. The Kli Yakar brings as evidence of the animal’s spiritual level the symbolism in the way the type of animal is killed for consumption.
In kosher slaughter, meat is obtained by cutting what are called the two ‘simanim’ (literally signs, but refers to the esophagus and trachea). This represents the evil person being removed from this world and the next world at death.
Fowl can be killed by cutting just one ‘siman’. This represents the average person who is merely removed from this world at death.
Fish only need to be ‘gathered’ from the water (and make sure they die). This represents the righteous that depart this world with just a divine kiss.
In table form it would look as follows:
Jews asked for: Meat – Evil – 2 ‘simanim’ – cut off from both worlds
Jews received: Fowl – Middle – 1 ‘siman’ – pulled from this world
Jews asked for: Fish – Righteous – ‘gathered’ – divine kiss
Though some of us may have a heavy meat diet, may we reach greater aquatic levels.
To Menachem, the butcher of Alon Shvut. He serves it all.