SHECHITAH – THE ROAD TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Yitzchak sent Esav to the field to bring back a deer and to shecht (slaughter) (Bereishis 27 9 Rashi). Afterwards he should prepare a tasty dish for him in order to receive the berachos. Yitzchak addresses Esav’s mission with שא נא כליך sharpen your knife,תליך your sack of arrows, and קשתך your bow. The mefarshim ask if Esav was asked to bring back a deer why would he require to take his bow and arrow with him as well?
There is another underlying story transpiring here more than what meets the eyes. Yitzchak wanted to ensure that Esav would do complete teshuvah in order to be a vessel to receive the berachos. Our Chazal say that the termועתה and now, the word which introduces the present mitzvah of Kibud Av of Esav, refers to teshuvah (Bereishis Rabba 21,6). Yitzchak was relating to Esav a duel mission with the shechita of the deer צבי which translates as רצון (desire). Esav had allowed his heart and yetzer harah to subjugate him to their evil desires and cravings. By slaughtering the deer he was also to have in mind the intention of slaughtering the animal soul within himself which will enable him to have holy desires thereby becoming a vessel that is worthy of berachos. By an overpowering animal soul one lacks the necessary emunah for leading a spiritual life. Yitzchak was instructing Esav that by shechting the צבי with the proper intentions of self rectification, he will attain complete אמונה in Hashem for they both share the same gematriah of 102.
The way for Esav to reach teshuvah through shechita is hinted in the word itself שחט. Let us turn to the Ramchal’s classic work Mesillas Yesharim Perek 5 where he expounds on the first and fundamental middah of zehirus – vigilance that brings about all the others virtues enumerated in his sefer. He writes that there are three elements that remove one from being vigilant in his actions. The first is טיפול וטירדא עולמית a person is so occupied and bothered with worldly matters, parnassah, mishpacha, etc. His mind becomes cluttered and he loses straight thinking because of this. He must find time for menuchas hanefesh to make a cheshbon hanefesh and refresh his purpose, goal, and meaning in life and rededicate their implementation. The main proponent that brings to zehirus is Torah and therefore one must ensure to set aside time for this toil.
The second cause of losing zehirus is שחוק which isליצנות . A cynic who knocks and deflates ideas and people from their chashivus (significance), slowly remove a person from straight thinking, yiras shamayim, and the acceptance of mussar and rebuke. Even sitting idle “chilling” brings to ליצנות (Michtav Meialiyahu 1,82, Esav is described as an eesh sadeh, Rashi, idle). Chazal say (Avos 3,17) that שחוק leads to immoral behavior. This is a severe forbidden act that we would never think of carrying out. Yet a conduct of שחוק can lead one to do this unthinkable act of adultery (Sotah 7 הרבה שחוק עושה).
The third cause of losing zehirus is חברה bad peer influence. One must gird himself with the self confidence of his holy mission and not become intimidated by the bad environment which attempts to remove him from kedusha. One must be brazen as a leapord (Avos 5,20) not to worry or be embarrassed about his appearance to the mockers.
All three elements that hinder one from attaining zehirus is actually hinted in the very word שחט which spells the acronym of שחוק חברה טירדא. Being totally controlled under the yetzer harah doesn’t happen over night. Rather it is a slow process bit by bit being lax in these three shortcomings until even the tzaddik is ready to be shechted completely.
For the yetzer hara tries with all his strength to cause the aspiring ovaid Hashem to lose the middah of zehirus which will ultimately end with the yetzer’s ability to slaughter him completely as the passuk says צופה רשע לצדיק ומבקש להמיתו (Tehillim 37,32). This can be derived from the gamarrah (Succah 52) that says that at the end of days Hashem will shecht the yetzer harah. This punishment comes to him midah keneged midah because the yetzer harah strives will all his might and talents to shecht the tzadik by making sins appear as mitzvos (Shabbos 75 Baal Shem Tov). Afterwards he proceeds to make the tzaddik feel so bad because of his failing that he tries to bring upon him low self esteem that leads to יאוש despair which is also gematriah שחט.
Yitzchak was relating to Esav that he must accept upon himself the letters of שחט as he performs this ritual observance on the deer. By doing so he will fulfill שא נא כליך the sharpening of his vessels to receive the berachos awaiting him. “Take with you your bow and arrows” תליך וקשתך. Dovid Hamelech says in Tehillim (127,4) כחצים ביד גבור that the one who learns Torah is compared to a mighty man who possess arrows to conquer the gates of his enemies. This parallels the idea of the gemarrah (Berachos 5) which derives from the passuk רגזו ואל תחטאו אמרו בלבבכם (Tehillim 4,5) that through Torah learning (על לבבכם) one has the ability to control his heart instead of being controlled. וצודה לי צידה and catch game for me. The word צידה is spelled with an extra letter ה. We can say that this hints to the Five Chumashim of Torah. Yitzchak was telling Esav the same advice of the Ramchal in perfecting the middah of zehirus and taking control of the animal desires hinted in צבי. Torah learning supersedes everything. For Torah is compared to light כי נר מצוה ותורה אור and זהירות also means light. The light of Torah brings one to zehirus by dispelling the darkness that the yetzer harah brings.
This week on the 25th of Mar Cheshvan Klal Yisrael marks a very tragic and painful episode in Klal Yisrael. Four kedoshim with special neshamos were butchered and slaughtered in Shul during davening and others left maimed in critical condition. It became obvious that the terrorist’s intentions were not just to kill but rather to slaughter. עשה למען טבוחים על יחודך. This atrocity rang in our ears the phrase we say right after Tachanun נחשבנו כצאן כטבח יובל להשמיד ולהרוג ולמכה ולחרפה . We are regarded as sheep to slaughter led to be killed and to be destroyed, for beating and for humiliating. If we have become lax in shechting the yetzer hara and improving the middah of zehirus which facilitates his demise, then the other side becomes empowered and will come to shecht us instead r”l. As we say in the Chad Gadya of the Haggadah ואתא מלאך המות ושחט לשוחט Each individual Yid of Klal Yisrael must act as the shochet of his evil inclinations and lusts. If we fail to do so then the Malach Hamavis who is also the yetzer harah will ch”v do his shechitah with our Kedoshim Hashem Yeracheim.
Let us not forget what we recite right after this ובכל זאת שמך לא שכחנו. That Klal Yisrael is well aware that this tragedy in not a coincidence or the Arab’s making but rather it comes on the heels of our desecration of Your Name. Hashem, we take upon ourselves to change and become better Yidden to mekadaish Shem Shamayim. נא אל תשכחינו Please do not forget us.