Yossi Feintuch

Nothing but rare if eating meat

Though God had already told Noah to stay off any bloody meat even upon permitting him – not demanding, though – to kill animals for food, this weekly Torah portion (like the previous one and two others to come) reiterates the prohibition against eating any meat that is either rare or medium, namely, containing blood.

The person who would not ‘’shall be cut off from his people’’ – (I wonder how effective this warning has been throughout the generations and how it was exhibited in practice, if any…).  Refraining from eating bloody meat also yields a reward “so that it will go well with you and with your children after you forever” (D 12:28 – and I continue to wonder likewise). Yet, the import of the warning and the (rare!) promise of a reward for fulfilling this requirement attests to its added significance.

Be that as it may, the uber-proscription against consuming any trace of blood in the meat is an additional, if not a sterner effort of the Torah to lessen the rate of meat consumption in general (if so, it has failed!); blood being the foremost symbol of the creature’s soul given to it by the Creator. The close etymological similarity between the Hebrew word for blood –daam – and for a human being — ‘a-daam — may suggest that the shedding of the animal’s blood is morally problematic, though licit, for it is identical by sight to human blood.

Evidently, no slaughtering of animals was carried out during the four decades of the Israelites’ sojourn in the Sinai wilderness outside the communal offerings of two daily sacrifices.  Indeed, the Torah portion of Acharei (that will be read right after Passover) calls any meat eating outside the sacrificial protocol ”bloodshedding’’ (i.e., murder!), while pledging the same consequence to the person who does so as to blood consumers in this weekly portion.

Nachmanides, a classical Torah commentator, agrees that by saying ‘’no’’ to consuming the meat in its blood the Torah’s objective is to curb man’s cruelty. ‘’It is improper’’ says another Rabbinic work, Sefer Hakhinuch ‘’to eat the material component blended with the soul’s component.’’  Likewise, the contemporary Orthodox Rabbi Yitz Greenberg posits: “Blood is seen as the carrier of life. The prohibition is a reminder that the ideal remains not to take another life… Not consuming blood is humanity’s acknowledgment that it is violating the sanctity of life” when it does.

This prohibition, it’s easy to see, had immediate and constricting effects on Israelite moonlighting hunters – see here:

About the Author
Ordained a Rabbi by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1994; in 2019 this institution accorded me the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa. Following ordination I served congregations on the island of Curacao, in Columbia, MO. Currently serving a congregation in Bend, Or. I received academic degrees from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (B.A. in International Relations and History), New York University (M.A. in History), and Emory University (Ph.D. in U.S. History). I am the author of U.S. Policy on Jerusalem (Greenwood Press), and numerous articles on biblical themes in various print and digital publications. I have taught in several academic institutions, including Ben-Gurion University (Beersheba, Israel), and the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO). A native of Afula, Israel. A veteran of the IDF.
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