It’s In The Blood

The Torah's abhorrence for consuming blood may have led to the Jewish people's abhorrence for shedding it.

Commentary on Parashat Re'eh, Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17

In every society of which we have knowledge, Jews have differed in certain consequential ways from their neighbors. For example, throughout history a higher percentage of Jews have been literate, an outgrowth of biblical and talmudic laws mandating education.

What about the universally lower levels of violent crime committed by Jews? Is this likewise attributable to Jewish laws?

So it would appear. In addition to being affected by biblical and Talmudic laws prohibiting violence and teaching that human life is of infinite value, much of the visceral Jewish abhorrence toward bloodshed might be an outgrowth of a ritual discussed in this portion: “But make sure that you do not partake of the blood [of an animal whose meat is being eaten]. For the blood is the life, and you must not consume the life with the flesh.” (Deuteronomy 12:23) To the Jews, consumption of any blood, animal or human, has always been viewed as vile (although it was widely practiced by their Near Eastern neighbors) and is the oldest dietary prohibition in the Torah (Genesis 9:4).

It would seem, therefore, that the uniquely Jewish practice of draining blood from meat (both at the time of slaughter and via salting) has had a profoundly moral impact on its practitioners. Is it a coincidence that so strong an abhorrence to consuming blood led to strong abhorrence to shedding it? Indeed, the laws mandating the draining of blood serve as a reminder of how an unusual, perhaps even awkward, ritual can sensitize and raise the moral level of an entire people.

Provided by CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a multi-denominational think tank and resource center.


Discover More

Keeping Kosher

An overview of what's involved in observing Jewish dietary laws.

Kashrut 101

Jewish dietary laws are observed in varying degrees among Jewish families and individuals.

Vegetarianism: An Alternative Kashrut

The author argues that our evolving religious sensibilities should bring us to recognize vegetarianism as a new mitzvah.

Modern Israel at a Glance

An overview of the Jewish state and its many accomplishments and challenges.

Jewish Perspectives on End-of-Life Care

Jewish approaches to medical decision-making for the terminally ill.

What Do Jews Believe About Jesus?

How Judaism regards the man Christians revere as the messiah.

Converting to Judaism: How to Get Started

How to find an introductory Judaism class.

Israel’s War of Independence

Establishing a new nation and defending it