Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Achrei Mot
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

Parashat Acharei Mot

In Your Blood, You Shall Live


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

14 Nisan 5765
One of our parasha’s central themes, which is very connected to Erev Pesach, is laws related to blood (see Vayikra 17). One may not pour the blood of sacrifices outside the Mikdash (Sanctuary). He may not consume an animal’s blood and must cover the blood of many species after slaughter. On Erev Pesach, our forefathers in Egypt and later in the Mikdash dealt with the blood of the Korban Pesach (Pascal lamb). Families had to make sure that all their males were circumcised, a mitzva that represents spilling one’s own blood in service of Hashem from infancy. In the merit of these two types of blood, our forefathers were liberated from Egypt (Yalkut Shimoni, Yechezkel 354).

In explaining why to not consume blood, the Torah says: "For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I gave it to you on the altar to receive atonement for your souls" (Vayikra 17:12). The Ramban explains that although man may use animals, the blood, which represents their lifeline, is reserved for the service of Hashem, not physical pleasure. We even cover the blood, an apparent parallel to the burial of a human body. The Torah (Bereishit 9:6) and rabbinic parlance describe taking of human life as spilling blood. What makes blood so central?

A major cause of quick death is the loss of blood or its inability to get to the heart or brain (heart attack, stroke). However, the connection between blood and life may run deeper, biologically and spiritually. Each part of the body has its purpose. However, its purpose is significant only if it is connected to the rest of the body. It is the blood that delivers the raw materials for organs to use, delivers the desired materials produced by the organs to other parts of the body, and removes dangerous by-products. In that way, blood most fully represents the life of the entire organism, whether it is animal or human.

The body can serve as a model for a nation. Individuals are like cells; groups, like organs. All can provide something needed by the nation to flourish. An "organ" that becomes isolated and starved for "blood" will be unable to get resources to function, unable to deliver valuable products to others in need, and will be overloaded with by-products. Only when a system is able to share and transfer from one part to another can it function efficiently. So too, a nation needs people who can create a "bloodline," allowing its various elements and talents to work symbiotically.

Rav Kook and Rav Zonnenfeld (rabbi of Yerushalayim’s Hungarian community, from which there was much opposition to R. Kook) crossed paths near the Kotel on Erev Pesach some 80 years ago. R. Zonnenfeld said to R. Kook: "May you stand in blood up to your ankles." Rav Kook answered: "Amen." The two explained to their shocked disciples that he had blessed R. Kook (a kohen) that he merit taking part in the service of the Korban Pesach, which is so described (Pesachim 65b). May our blood always be a sign of love and cooperation.

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