Kenneth Cohen

Covering the Blood

There is a law regarding ritual slaughter, that is not so well known. This is the Mitzva of כיסוי הדם, or, covering the blood after Shechita. It applies to fowl and non-domesticated animals, but not to those animals fit for sacrifice.

This law applies nowadays as well. It is done with chicken and ducks and other fowl. It would also be done if slaughtering venison such as deer.
The Sefer Hachinuch attempts giving a rationale to this unusual positive commandment. He wrote that the life force of living beings is the blood. Therefore, it would be appropriate to cover this blood, before eating the flesh of an animal.

The Chinuch added that there is a certain element of cruelty in the consumption of meat. The covering of the blood separates the killing of the animal and eating of its flesh. (I wonder if the Chinuch was a vegetarian!)

There is an opinion that this Mitzva is connected with Cain’s killing of his brother, Abel. There is a Midrash that says that the birds covered Abel’s blood with dirt. As a reward, we cover their blood, after slaughtering.

It was not applicable to the domesticated animals such as cows and sheep, because they were given special elevation, by being fit to being used as sacrifices.

The Talmud mentions that if one were to slaughter a chicken on Yom Tov, he must have loose dirt or a pile of ashes ready before the Chag, in order to perform the Mitzva of “Kisuy Hadam.”

This is certainly a difficult commandment to understand. But we receive a greater reward for that which we do not understand, over that which we do understand.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at