Of all the unfounded accusations leveled at the Jewish people by anti-Semites throughout the ages, the most ludicrous is that of the blood libel, that of Jews murdering non-Jewish children in order to drink their blood or bake matzot with the blood. Anyone with even a modest knowledge of Judaism would be familiar with the Torah’s prohibition against consuming blood. In fact, this prohibition is included in a caveat to the initial permission to eat meat that God gave to humankind in the days of Noah: “Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I have given you the green herb. Only flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, you shall not eat” (Genesis 9:3-4).
But to the Jewish people, this command is repeated over and over. In fact, the consequence of eating blood is the ultimate spiritual punishment, kareit--being cut off.
“And any man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that eats any manner of blood, I will set My face against that soul that eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood...[Anyone who hunts] any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he must pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust... whosoever eats it shall be cut off” (Leviticus 17:10-14).
As part of the practice followed in the koshering process, after meat and fowl are slaughtered by a professional kosher butcher (shochet), the blood is drained. Additionally, the meat is soaked and salted in order to draw out any remaining blood, which is why many people find kosher meat salty.
Because the commandments in the Torah specifically prohibit only the blood of beast or fowl, the Oral Law clarifies that human blood is also prohibited. They specify further that this refers to blood that has become separated from the body. But, if for instance, one’s gums are bleeding, one need not worry about swallowing that blood.
Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.