ג׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (November 21, 2017)

Makkot 16a-b: You Shall Not Make Your Souls Detestable

This Talmud page is dedicated in memory of
Chaim Yisrael ben Sholom Yosef – Henry J. Greenbaum
Margy-Ruth and Perry Davis

Among the people listed in the Mishna as deserving the punishment of malkot (lashes) are people who eat animals that are not kosher, including animals that were killed improperly, those that were sick when they were slaughtered, as well as insects and other creepy-crawly creatures. The Gemara lists some of these creatures, noting that they may fall under more than one category and cause the person who eats them to be liable for several sets of lashes. For example, Abaye teaches that someone who eats an ant would be liable for five separate transgressions (two based on Vayikra 11:43, as well as additional transgressions that appear in that chapter in verses 4142 and 44), while someone who eats a hornet would be liable for six (the ones noted above, as well as one mentioned in  14:19).

The most basic prohibition appears in Sefer Vayikra (20:25) lo teshaktzu et nafshoteikhem (“you shall not make your souls detestable”). While the passage in the Torah clearly relates to eating shekatzim – insects and similar disgusting creatures – some of applied the prohibition to other settings, as well. For example, Rav Aḥai understands that we can learn from that passage that someone who does not go to the bathroom when he needs to violates this commandment; Rav Beivai bar Abaye learns that someone who drinks from a karna d’umna – an instrument used in the course of bloodletting – has violated it.

Rashi explains that the karna d’umna are the small beakers that were used in cupping, where the blood was extracted from the body by means of the creation of a vacuum. It is also possible that it refers to the siphon that was used to remove the blood during bloodletting. In any case, the instrument likely had on it remnants of congealed human blood.

Almost all of the commentaries explain that these are not actually Torah prohibitions, rather the Sages taught that certain behaviors paralleled the commandment to avoid disgusting activities, and that they are, therefore, forbidden on a rabbinic level.

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