But flesh; with its soul its blood you shall not eat (9:4)
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
In several places the Torah warns against the ancient practice of eating the blood of animals, which was an integral part of demonolatry and other forms of idolatry (1). Today, when meat and poultry are already koshered before they arrive in our kitchens, most of us have virtually no contact with animal blood. There does exist, however, the possibility of transgressing the prohibition of eating blood even in this day and age. The following are cases in point.
BLOOD IN EGGS
A blood spot in an egg is not kosher and could possibly render the entire egg not kosher. In fact, blood in an egg is not forbidden because of the prohibition against blood; rather, it is forbidden because it indicates the beginning of the formation of an embryo inside the egg (2).
The majority of eggs, however, do not contain blood. Accordingly, one is not required to inspect an egg to see if there is blood in it, since we can assume that this egg is like the majority of eggs which are blood-free (3). Since, however, it is an age-old custom (4)–practiced throughout the entire Diaspora (5)–to inspect raw eggs before using them, we do inspect them (6). [It is permitted to eat hard-boiled eggs which were not checked before cooking and cannot be checked once they are cooked, since in this case we rely on the fact that the majority of eggs are blood-free (7).] B’dieved, if the eggs were not inspected, the food may be eaten (8).
Nowadays, there is an additional factor to consider. In the United States, Israel and other countries, the vast majority of eggs are “battery eggs” from which chicks are not hatched. Thus any blood found in them does not prohibit their use. All that is required is to throw away the blood spot and the rest of the egg is permitted. Several contemporary poskim hold, therefore, that today we may be lenient with a blood spots in eggs and permit eating the egg, the food with which it was mixed, and the utensils in which it was cooked (9).
Harav M. Feinstein takes a stricter approach (10). Although he, too, agrees that according to the basic halachah battery eggs are permitted, he still advises that it is proper to be stringent and throw away the entire egg, since there is a minority of eggs on the market which are not battery eggs (11). Harav Feinstein reasons that the centuries old custom of inspecting eggs and throwing out the bloody ones should not abandoned (12), particularly since eggs are relatively cheap and people do not consider throwing away a bloody egg an unjustifiable sacrifice (13). Based on this view, the following rules apply:
All eggs should be checked for a red or dark black spot. A brown spot is not a problem (14).
If a spot is found, the egg should preferably be thrown out. If a lot of blood is found [especially if it is found in different parts of the egg], it is strongly recommended that the entire egg be thrown out, since this is a marked indication that this may not be a battery egg (15).
If the egg was not checked and blood was found later when the egg was mixed together with other eggs or other food, the mixture does not have to be thrown out. The blood itself must be removed and discarded. Once the blood is mixed into the food and cannot be removed, the food is permissible to eat. The dishes do not become non-kosher nor do they have to undergo a koshering process, although it is proper to wait twenty four hours before using them again (16).
Although human blood is Biblically permitted (17), our Sages forbade it because it looks just like animal blood and it may seem to an onlooker that animal blood is being eaten (18). But the Rabbis only forbade human blood which is detached completely from the body, not blood which is still “within” the body. Therefore:
If one is eating a slice of bread and blood from his gums stains it, the blood–along with a sliver of bread (19)–should be removed from the bread (20). The bread may then be eaten. If the same happens when one is eating fruit, the fruit must be washed off well and then it may be eaten.
Bleeding gums may be sucked and the blood swallowed, since this blood is considered as if it has not become detached from the body (21).
A bleeding finger may be sucked with one’s mouth but it is questionable if the blood may be swallowed (22). Once the bleeding ceases, it is prohibited to stick the blood-stained finger in one’s mouth, since it appears as if one is sucking the blood (23).
Human blood which inadvertently got mixed with food (such as blood from a cut that dripped into food) may be consumed as long as no bloody redness is visible. This is true even if there is more blood than food in the mixture. If redness is visible, then the food may not be eaten, even if the volume of the food is sixty times greater than that of the blood (24). If blood gets mixed into food, additional food may be added into the mixture in order to make the blood invisible (25).
BLOOD ON SHABBOS
On Shabbos or Yom Tov, it is forbidden to suck or squeeze out blood from a wound (26).
On Shabbos or Yom Tov, it is forbidden to suck blood from one’s gums (27).
It is permitted to peel off a scab on Shabbos (28) if it will not result in blood oozing from the wound (29).
To stop a minor bleed [e.g., a nose bleed], it is preferable to use a paper napkin or tissue (30). If none is available, a cloth [preferably white or a light colored] may be used (31). To stop a major bleed, use whatever is at hand.
FOOTNOTES1 Explanation of Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 3:46. See also Ramban, Kedoshim 19:26.
2 Talmud, Chullin 64b.
3 Rama Y.D. 66:8.
5 Aruch ha-Shulchan 66:32; Kaf ha-Chayim 66:41.
6 Igros Moshe. It is clearly forbidden to close one’s eyes so as not to see if there is any blood in the egg–Ma’adanie ha-Shulchan 66:68.
7 Y.D. 66:8.
8 Aruch ha-Shulchan 66:32, who adds that if the blood is visible [as it is sometimes when egg yolk is smeared over challah] it should be removed.
9 Minchas Yitzchak 1:106; Yechaveh Da’as 3:57.
10 See also Responsa Kinyan Torah 2:7 who takes a more stringent approach, but for different reasons which do not apply on today farms.
11 Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:36.
12 Harav Feinstein points out that even “normal” eggs do not have to be checked according to the basic halachah, yet the long-standing custom contradicts that. We, too, should honor the custom.
13 It seems clear, though, that in a place where eggs are expensive, one may rely on the basic halachah and permit the egg, see Yechaveh Da’as, ibid. who makes this point.
14 Darkei Teshuvah 66:23 quoting several poskim.
15 Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:36.
16 Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:61. This stringency applies only if the bloody eggs were cooked or fried in a pot or pan; not if they merely came into cold contact.
17 Talmud, Kerisus 20b.
18 Rashi, Kesuvos 60a.
19 Based on Yad Yehudah Y.D. 96:5.
20 Y.D. 66:10.
21 Y.D. 66:10.
22 See Darkei Teshuvah 66:68 who quotes a dispute among the poskim as to whether this blood may be swallowed or not. Darkei Teshuvah does not decide the issue.
23 Kaf ha-Chayim 66:48 quoting Ben Ish Chai.
24 Yad Avraham, Y.D. 66:10; Darkei Teshuvah 66:71.
25 Darkei Teshuvah 66:72.
26 O.C. 328:48.
27 Mishnah Berurah 328:147. See Magen Avraham 53 that this may be Biblically prohibited.
28 O.C. 328:22.
29 Sha’ar ha-Tziyun 328:67.
30 See Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchasah 14:19.
31 Mishnah Berurah 328:146.
Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc. Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers’ College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.
The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L’zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available–please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross [email protected].
The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118–HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D’Asra