28-5770 Mitzvah N-89

Torat Emet 28-5770 Mitzvah N-89

Negative Mitzvah 89– This is a negative commandment: do not eat any blood at all.

Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “You shall not eat blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal” (Lev. 7:26). Untamed animals are included under the term “b’hemah” (animal). If someone ate an olive’s amount of blood deliberately, he would deserve “karet” (Divine severance of existence); if it was unwitting, he would have to bring a sin offering. Human blood is forbidden by the law of the Sages, but only if it left the person. The blood of kosher fish and locusts is permissible.

This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis, God commands human beings to eat what grows in the field and on trees. It seems to be implying that humanity was created to be vegetarian. And yet, almost from the beginning, humanity has shown a very violent side, with killings, homicide and war that seems to date back into ancient history. It is only after the the great Flood, that God gives Noah permission to eat meat, as long as the blood of the animal is spilled on the ground. Blood is the life of an animal and we are told, from the very beginning that we are not allowed to eat blood. The exceptions noted above for fish and locusts, I think reflect the status of these creatures that “swarm” rather than normal animals that may flock together but are not considered “swarming”. (Certain locusts are considered kosher for eating as long as they have specific attributes. We are no longer clear about which locusts fall into the kosher category so we don’t consider locusts kosher anymore. I am sure that many of you will be happy to learn this).

Leviticus details what we are to do with the blood of sacrifices. Again, it is spilled at the base of the alter. We are not to use it in any way since it is the essence of life. Later, when it is permitted to eat meat that is not sacrificed on the alter, the same rules of slaughter and draining the blood still apply.

The essence of Kosher Slaughter (Shechita) is to kill the animal painlessly and quickly in a manner that will make draining the blood easier. The double cut across the throat (and the quick beheading of fowl) allows most of the blood to drain out quickly. But “most of the blood” is not enough. We are not allowed to ingest any blood whatsoever. Therefore, kosher meat and fowl must be soaked and salted prior to being cooked in order to draw out the last of the blood in the meat. Meat that is to be broiled does not have to be soaked and salted since broiling will remove the blood as long as it is cooked enough (if you like your meat rare, it is best to soak and salt it first). Two organs, the heart and the liver are considered to be so blood soaked that soaking and salting will not be sufficient for removing the blood. These two organs can be “kashered” only by broiling these organs.

There is an important detail here that also must be mentioned. The prohibition against eating blood includes only blood that is ingested. Jews are allowed to have blood transfusions of human blood drawn from another human being without any question whatsoever. Not only is it permitted, it is required if needed for health reasons. One is not allowed to endanger one’s life or health. There are some people of other faiths that read this passage in Leviticus and do not permit blood transfusions. This is NOT the Jewish view of this law.

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