Refuting the Blood Libel
Written by Gil Student
There is an often repeated accusation against Jews that they kidnap and kill Christian children around Passover time to use their innocent Christian blood in the baking of matzah that will be eaten on Passover. This lie is so ludicrous that it would be hilarious if it had not had such tragic consequences. Despite its obvious untruth to anyone familiar with Judaism, thousands of Jews have been murdered due to anger aroused by this lie.
We have already shown that it is absolutely forbidden for a Jew to kill a gentile. What we will show here is that Jews are forbidden to eat ANY blood and take great pains to avoid eating it. We show great respect for an animal's blood by burying it and we carefully remove all blood from our meat by washing and salting it while raw. If anything, gentiles who do not salt their meat eat more blood than an observant Jew.
You shall not consume any blood, in any of your dwelling places, whether from fowl or from animals. Any person who consumes any blood - that soul will be cut off from its people.
Any man of the House of Israel and of the proselyte who dwells among them who will consume any blood - I shall concentrate My attention upon the soul consuming the blood, and I will cut it off from its people. For the soul of the flesh is in the blood and I have assigned it for you upon the Altar to provide atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that atones for the soul. Therefore I have said to the Children of Israel: "Any person among you may not consume blood; and the proselyte who dwells among may not consume blood." Any man of the Children of Israel and of the proselyte who dwells among them who will trap a beast or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of any creatures - its blood represents its life, so I say to the Children of Israel, "You shall not consume the blood of any creature; for the life of any creature is its blood, whoever consumes it will be cut off."
Deuteronomy 12:16, 23-25
But you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it onto the earth, like water... Only be strong not to eat the blood - for the blood, it is the life - and you shall not eat the life with the meat. You shall not eat it, you shall pour it onto the ground like water. You shall not eat it, in order that it be well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the eyes of G-d.
The biblical prohibition against eating blood is taken very seriously by Jews. It is repeated throughout the Talmudic and post-Talmudic literature and various methods of avoiding eating blood has played a prominent part of Jewish literature.
The Sefer HaChinuch offers an explanation of this prohibition.
Sefer HaChinuch, 148
It is possible to say regarding blood, in addition to the bad temperament that it contains, its consumption involves acquiring wicked traits - when a man consumes from an animal physically similar to him the very thing upon which his life depends and to which his soul is connected.
A reiteration of the prohibition against consuming blood can be found at every historical stage of Jewish law.
Tosefta Keritot 2:12
One who eats an olive's worth of blood from a wild animal, domesticated animal, or from kosher birds brings a sin-offering... The blood of those who walk on two feet, the blood of eggs, and the blood of insects is forbidden but one is not obligated to bring a sin-offering.
This Tosefta is reaffirmed in the Talmud itself in Keritot 21b-22a and is quoted in the medieval legal works by R. Yitzchak Alfasi (Chullin 39a) and R. Asher (Chullin 8:28).
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 6:1
One who eats an olive's worth of blood intentionally is cut off from his people. One who eats it accidentally brings a sin-offering.
This is also echoed in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 64:1. The Talmud tells us that for an animal's heart to be eaten it must first be split up crosswise and have all the blood removed from it (Talmud Chullin 109a). For a liver, which is full of blood, to be eaten it must be broiled so that the blood comes out during cooking (Talmud Chullin 110b-111a). Not only eating, but drinking blood is also forbidden (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 8:3).
When an animal is ritually slaughtered, i.e. slaughtered for consumption according to Jewish law, the animal's blood must be covered as a form of burial (Midrash Tanchuma Bereishit 10) as we saw above in Leviticus 17:13-14. The Talmud devotes an entire chapter, Chullin chapter 6, to the subject of covering the blood. It is still practiced to this day by Jewish Shochtim, ritual slaughterers, when they slaughter animals for consumption.
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shechitah 14:1
It is a positive commandment to cover the blood of a slaughtered kosher animal or kosher bird.
This is echoed in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 28:1 and there is a whole literature on the details of exactly how in each circumstance to respectfully cover the animal's blood.
Have you ever seen Kosher Salt before? I use it to spread on ice on winter days but it also has a holier purpose. Kosher Salt is used to spread on raw meat to absorb the blood. While today it is generally done in factories, until a generation ago every Jewish mother knew exactly how to rinse and salt meat.
The Talmud (Talmud Chullin 113a) describes the process of first washing the blood off of raw meat, then spreading salt on it to absorb the remaining blood, and then washing the meat again to rinse off the blood-soaked salt. It is only through this process that meat can become kosher. Any meat that is not rinsed-salted-rinsed properly within three days of its slaughter is not kosher and is prohibited to be eaten by Jews. This is duly recorded by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 6:10 and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 69:1. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch reserves 10 chapters to discuss the details of salting meat (chapters 69-78).
It is these precautions and the almost obsessive avoidance of eating blood by Jews that makes the blood libel charges against them so ludicrous. Christians, who don't salt their meat or broil their livers, accuse Jews of eating the blood from Christian children when that could not be farther from the truth. However, truth has never stood in the way of a resentful and angry mob searching for any excuse to kill Jews.
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Copyright 2000 Gil Student