It's a lazy summer afternoon. Warm sunshine bathes the yard, and birds perch atop the trees whose limbs are caressed by a gentle breeze. Sounds of playing children and chatting adults waft up through the yard, and on the patio, an aroma of sizzling steak rises from the barbecue.

This is a typical scene that you have probably experienced more than once. We enjoy the camaraderie and relaxed atmosphere and anticipate a delicious picnic. Your body has certainly enjoyed the experience, but what of your soul? Did she enjoy it too?

We aren't hedonistic; we are responsible members of society, and we contribute to the best of our abilities, but every so often we like to relax and enjoy our little pleasures.Could digging into a barbecued steak be labeled divine service? We read and chat, relax and play, eat and drink. How does our soul feel at such times? Could digging into a barbecued steak be labeled divine service?

The Animal Serves

"When G‑d will broaden your boundary and you will say my soul desires to eat meat, eat as much meat as your soul desires."1

Have you ever heard of a soulful desire for meat? We are familiar with soulful desires for prayer and altruism; we are familiar with soulful yearnings for G‑d and devotion, but a soulful desire for meat? What does the soul need with a cow's meat?

"Everything G‑d created, He created for His glory."2 This means that every physical object could and should be used to serve and to glorify its creator. It is our purpose to seek creative ways to utilize everything in our path for G‑d's purposeAs humans, it is our purpose to seek creative ways to utilize everything in our path for G‑d's purpose.

Every physical object contains a spark of divinity that vivifies and animates it. The spark within the human body is relatively free to express itself. Every time we pray, study, or fulfill one of the commandments, we are cognizant of our divine spark.

The spark within an animal is not so fortunate. It is constrained within a body that cannot give expression to its divine purpose. It is an animal, incapable of cognitive thought, intelligent expression, or freedom of choice. The only way an animal's divine spark can fulfill its purpose and be used in G‑d's service is through the assistance of a human.

When we consume the animal's meat, digest it, and derive nourishment from it, the animal is elevated to the human realm, and its spark is transferred to us. It can now be utilized in G‑d's service.

We now have the option of using the energy we derived from this nourishment to perform a noble deed or to engage in devout prayer. In so doing, we afford the animal's divine spark an opportunity to contribute to G‑d's glory.From its inception, this calf awaited its opportunity From its inception, this calf awaited its opportunity. Now that it has finally arrived, we have both the responsibility and the sacred obligation to initiate it into the service of G‑d.

The next time you attend a backyard barbecue and see the meat sizzling on the grill, know that your soul is salivating as well. Your glands salivate because you anticipate the tender, barbecue-flavored meat. Your soul salivates because it can't wait to liberate the divine spark embedded within that meat.

The Wellspring

Liberating the spark benefits not only the animal, but also ourselves. In its state of imprisonment, embedded, as it were, within a coarse and bullheaded animal, the spark continually yearns for G‑d. This insistent and unceasing yearning builds up a wellspring of pent up energy and sacred desire. As we liberate the spark, we open its floodgates, release its pent up, incredibly sacred energy and channel it into ourselves.

When we approach the barbecue with the intention to free the divine spark and usher it into the service of the divine, we benefit from the energy of the spark. But when we approach the barbecue for the sole purpose of indulging our hedonistic desires, we deny ourselves this wellspring of spiritual energy.

Blood Equals Passion

This is why the Torah prohibits drinking the animal's blood. "Only be strong and do not consume the blood, for the blood is the soul [life force]."3

Blood represents passion and excitement; it carries the force of life. When our passion for meat is sacred and related to G‑d, eating meat becomes a holy act in the service of the divine. Eating meat becomes a holy act in the service of the divineWhen we drink in the animal's proverbial blood, meaning when our passion for the steak lies in the meat itself rather than its inherent sanctity, we are in transgression of G‑d's holy will.

When we consume the animal's meat for the purpose of liberating its divine spark, we control not only our own fate, but also that of the animal. When we allow the animal's meat to hold sway over our passions and excitement, we cede control to the animal.

Rather than incorporating the animal within ourselves and raising it to the human realm, we are ourselves lowered to the animal's level as we adopt coarse, animal-like characteristics. In this state, we are unable to liberate the spark. It remains forever in captivity.4

This is why the Torah concludes, "You shall not consume its [the animal's] soul along with the meat."5 The divine spark contained within the animal is its soul. If we succumb to the animal's proverbial blood, if we allow our passions to be overtaken by our interest in the meat rather than its soul, we will have consumed (read: destroyed) the animal's soul along with its meat.

Such consumption is hedonistic and wasteful. Such consumption cannot be labeled divine. We are capable of better. We know how to bring our soul along with us to the barbecue. When we do that, we come away strengthened, fortified by a new divine spark.6