The rules of contamination

In our weekly Torah portion, Tzav, after the long list of creatures forbidden and permitted for food, comes the verse in Leviticus 11:33, stating that even a tiny part of the forbidden creature, falling into an earthenware pot, renders impure everything inside it, together with the vessel. Why cannot we at least salvage the utensil?

Torah does not give us this option. The contaminated vessel should be not simply put away but broken and never to be used again. Torah commentators had a field day with that and the subsequent rules. They explained in great detail how much of the unclean subject should fall into the pot, how exactly it should fall, and what should have been inside the vessel. They gave hints on how to damage the utensil without actually breaking it (drill the hole).

Of course, these rules are not only about food. Even the slightest hint of hatred and lies coming inside humans contaminates them to the point when humanity disappears, leaving behind just the useless shell. We have seen this process many times already. We are witnessing it again in a situation of the Russian war against Ukraine. Nothing is more precious than human life, but life is not only physical. To stop the process of spiritual death, we should all remember that even the slightest trace of hatred causes humans to become inhuman.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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