Kenneth Cohen

The Humble Animal

There are three types of kosher animals in Jewish Law. There are the domesticated animals known as בהמה, “Beheima,” that are also fit for the altar as sacrifices.

The second group is known as חיה, “Chaya,” that refers to animals in the wild such as deer and venison. They are kosher to eat, but may not be offered as sacrifices.

The third group is called עוף, “Off,” and refer to fowl. Generally, only the smaller birds such as turtle doves were offered as sacrifices.

The reasons why the בהמה could be offered as sacrifices, and not the חיה, is that the Beheima is much easier to catch. The Chaya is in the forest and in more distant lands. The Chaya acts with more arrogance, while the בהמה walks with its head down. And the Beheima is prey for wild beasts, and Hashem always has compassion for the one who is chased.

Even in Messianic times when the lion will lie down with lamb, and will become vegetarian, the rules of sacrifices will not change. This is proof that the desired sacrifices come with a “broken heart and broken spirit.” That which is humble, is the most desirable in the eyes of G-d.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at