Parasha Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

The last thing I will do is cast aspersions onothers, but more than once I have been asked if a blood sacrifice is necessary for one to be forgiven for sins.  I have mentioned before and will surely mention again about sacrifices and our inability to perform them without the Temple. 

This week we have a double Parasha, Aharei Mot-Kedoshim.  In Aharei Mot, Leviticus 17:11 tells us “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have assigned it to you for making expiation for your lives upon the altar; it is the blood, as life, that affects expiation.”  Some say, “The blood is required for forgiveness.”    In its proper context, one sees that this verse is a part of the whole passage that is simply saying that it is not proper to drink the blood of any sacrifice---as pagans once did.

Kashrut (keeping Kosher) is what this is about.  It has been said the better translation may be “Don’t eat blood, because blood is used in atonement rituals---therefore don’t eat blood.”  It would be hard for me to improve on the commentary from the Etz Hayim where it says:

Blood represents life, living beings cannot exist without blood.  Thus the blood of the sacrifice offered on the altar is the “life” of the sacrifice.  God accepts it in place of human life and grants expiation or refrains from wrath.

The blood itself is not sacrificed.  This part of Aharei Mot is literally setting out the rules of kashrut; beware of anyone foisting this verse on you out of context.  It is not that simple.  Even Rashi brings out that it “depends on the blood”.  In the Metsudah edition of Rashi’s comments even it sees the need to expound where it said: “Rashi here interprets the phrase ‘in the blood’ as ‘dependent on the blood’, so that we not misunderstand the verse as merely referring to the blood as being physically in the body of the animal.”

There are a number of passages in our lore that amplify this point, and I will leave you with the most notable.  Jonah was told to go to Nineveh to get the people to repent for their sins.  He knew they would repent, but he did not like them so he ran away.   God brought him back in the belly of a fish, and this time Jonah obeyed.  He warned the Ninevites that God would destroy them if they did not seek atonement.  They fasted and stopped their evil ways and—God atoned them (Jonah 3:10).  To encapsulate, eating blood is forbidden, and blood sacrifices are not to be found anywhere in Jewish belief.  Biblical and modern day sh’hitah, kosher slaughtering, firmly hold that the blood of animals must be disposed of carefully.

Whether or not you choose to keep Kosher in our world today, it is important to understand that the origins of it begin in our Torah, where the reasoning was not just about what is healthier but what was and still should remain about the humane treatment of animals and how we choose to eat them, which is a topic for another day.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham

Rabbi Abraham is going to be away during the week next week, so his message will be on hiatus until the following Friday, May 3rd.