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H5. Eating Blood, Fat, or Meats Strangled or Polluted by Idols    [Make a Comment]

We are not to eat blood, fat, or meats strangled or polluted by idols.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Eating Blood

Genesis 9:3-4
Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I gave you green plants before, so now I give you everything - only flesh with its life, which is its blood, you are not to eat.

Leviticus 3:17
It is to be a permanent regulation through all your generations wherever you live that you will eat neither fat nor blood.

Leviticus 7:26-27 (Maimonides RN184; Meir MN89; Chinuch C148)
You are not to eat any kind of blood, whether from birds or animals, in any of your homes. Whoever eats any blood will be cut off from his people.

Leviticus 17:10-14
When someone from the community of Isra'el or one of the foreigners living with you eats any kind of blood, I will set myself against that person who eats blood and cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for yourselves; for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life. This is why I told the people of Isra'el, 'None of you is to eat blood, nor is any foreigner living with you to eat blood.' When someone from the community of Isra'el or one of the foreigners living with you hunts and catches game, whether animal or bird that may be eaten, he is to pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For the life of every creature - its blood is its life. Therefore I said to the people of Isra'el, 'You are not to eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it will be cut off.'

Deuteronomy 12:20-25
When ADONAI your God expands your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, 'I want to eat meat,' simply because you want to eat meat, then you may eat meat, as much as you want. If the place which ADONAI your God chooses to place his name is too far away from you; then you are to slaughter animals from your cattle or sheep, which ADONAI has given you; and eat on your own property, as much as you want. Eat it as you would gazelle or deer; the unclean and clean alike may eat it. Just take care not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you are not to eat the life with the meat. Don't eat it, but pour it out on the ground like water. Do not eat it, so that things will go well with you and with your children after you, as you do what ADONAI sees as right.

Acts 15:19-20
Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God. Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood.

Acts 15:27-29
So we have sent Y'hudah and Sila, and they will confirm in person what we are writing. For it seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication.

Eating Fat

Leviticus 3:16-17
The cohen will make them go up in smoke on the altar; it is food, an offering made by fire to be a fragrant aroma; all the fat belongs to ADONAI. It is to be a permanent regulation through all your generations wherever you live that you will eat neither fat nor blood.

Leviticus 7:22-25 (Maimonides RN185; Meir MN88; Chinuch C147)
ADONAI said to Moshe, "Say to the people of Isra'el, 'You are not to eat the fat of bulls, sheep or goats. The fat of animals that die of themselves or are killed by wild animals may be used for any other purpose, but under no circumstances are you to eat it. For whoever eats the fat of animals of the kind used in presenting an offering made by fire to ADONAI will be cut off from his people.'"

Eating Meats Strangled or Polluted by Idols

Acts 15:19-21
Therefore, my opinion is that we should not put obstacles in the way of the Goyim who are turning to God. Instead, we should write them a letter telling them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication, from what is strangled and from blood. For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat."

The third chapter of Leviticus discusses the procedure for peace offerings made by fire to the Lord and, in speaking of the blood and fat of the offerings, Leviticus 3:16-17 states: "The cohen will make them go up in smoke on the altar; it is food, an offering made by fire to be a fragrant aroma; all the fat belongs to ADONAI. It is to be a permanent regulation through all your generations wherever you live that you will eat neither fat nor blood." So the rationale for not eating the fat of an animal and one of two rationales for our not eating its blood is that these parts of the animal belong to God. That is why we offer up the fat and blood to God as food in the Peace Offering, and why we do not eat them ourselves; they belong to God.

The second (and more profound) rationale for our not eating blood is that, according to Leviticus 17:11, "the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for yourselves; for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life." The blood of an animal is therefore holy, and were we to be free to eat it, it would seem as though we were gods, and could declare men's sins atoned for.

The holiness of blood and God's commandment that we must not eat it is ancient; it is one of the seven "Noahic Laws" (Genesis 9:3-4) which, many years later, was affirmed as binding on Gentile believers of Yeshua (Acts 15:19-20, 27-29).

The Orthodox Jewish approach to not eating from blood is (1) slaughter animals in such a way that their blood will drain from their major vessels; (2) abstain from eating meat from an animal's hind quarter unless requisite veins (containing blood) are first removed; (3) "kasher" meat before cooking it1. And of course, nothing is eaten that contains blood introduced as an additive. The Jewish approach to not eating fat is simpler; kosher butchers are trained to remove certain fat from an animal before its meat can be sold as kosher. Clearly, nothing can remove all traces of blood and all fat from meat, but these measures are considered halachically sufficient to comply with Scripture.

I am of the opinion that Scripture prohibits all Jews and all Gentiles from eating raw, cooked, or processed blood, or blood combined or mixed with other foods2. I express no opinion regarding the degree to which residual blood must be removed from meat3.

Regarding Scripture's prohibition on eating fat, I am of the opinion that Leviticus 3 prohibits Jews and K'rovei Yisrael from eating any masses of fat that covers an animal's inner organs, and any food in which animal fat is the main ingredient4. Similar to my stance on blood, I express no opinion regarding the degree to which incidentally occurring fat must be removed from meat; I do not believe that Scripture prohibits Jews and K'rovei Yisrael from eating marbleized meat (i.e. meat containing embedded particles of fat). Gentiles generally are not prohibited from eating fat, but many abstain for reasons related to health.

Although not biblically required, choosing to only purchase rabbinically-certified meat is an easy and automatic way to comply with this Mitzvah as well as with several others having to do with kashrut.

The biblical prohibition against eating meats strangled and polluted by idols is often thought of in the context of it applying to Gentiles, but it is clearly applicable to Jews as well. That is what is meant by "For from the earliest times, Moshe has had in every city those who proclaim him, with his words being read in the synagogues every Shabbat". A matter that deserves some discussion, however, is the meaning of the expression "polluted by idols". Some translations render this "offered to idols", or "sacrificed to idols", bringing to mind the ritual slaughter of an animal as part of pagan worship, and then bringing the meat home to eat. This kind of idol worship is rare in the developed world, but still may occur among pagan and satanic cults. We do sometimes encounter restaurants and food markets where there is evidence that the owners engage in idol worship (oriental restaurants especially), and we also encounter "halal" restaurants and markets where the meats are blessed by Muslims in the name of Allah. In my opinion, the former is not a violation of Scripture so long as the food being offered for sale has not been involved in idolatrous rituals. The latter is more problematic and, in my opinion, eating such food may violate Scripture unless there is nothing else to eat.


1. "Kashering" is also called "koshering"; both mean "making kosher". The process involves coating the meat with coarse salt to draw out traces of blood, and then soaking it to remove the extracted blood and the salt.

2. I am certain that none of the Scriptures that prohibit the eating of blood are meant by God to prohibit receiving blood transfusions for medical purposes.

3. Scripture does not mention a kashering process, but only letting the blood drain, so kashering appears to be part of a "fence" placed around the Torah - an extra step.

4. "Animal fat" does not include the fat in milk. Consequently, butter, cheese, cream, and similar foods are permitted.


Commentators:
Meir and HaChinuch interpret Scripture's prohibition on eating fat as only certain "forbidden" fat (chelev). HaChinuch states that there are three kinds: (1) fat attached to the entrails, (2) fat attached to the kidneys, and (3) fat on the loins; he then goes on to make anatomical distinctions in considerable detail. Maimonides makes no distinction as to kinds of fat that are chelev, and kinds that are permitted. HaChinuch explains the prohibition on eating fat by asserting its unhealthy nature. Maimonides and Meir make no attempt at explanation.

In regard to eating blood, Meir states that the blood of animals and fowl (permitted birds) may not be eaten, but the blood of fish and locusts may be eaten. Both he and Maimonides write surprisingly little about blood, considering its theological profundity. HaChinuch states that blood is inherently evil, and should men eat it, they would receive from it a modicum of cruelty. Both Meir and HaChinuch state that the biblical prohibition does not apply to human blood but that the Sages forbade eating it (HaChinuch says it is because it looks similar to animal blood).

NCLA: Blood: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm;    Fat: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMo GFo

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