Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blood Libel before Pessach


It is a very sad part of Jewish history that especially during the Middle Ages, European Jewry was accused of using blood of Christian children for healing purposes. By drinking Christian blood, Jewish males would raise their sexual desires.

Sick but extremely popular ideas in those days. Responsible for spreading such rumours was the church and countless Jews were killed. The worst times were around the Passover (Pessach) holiday because Jews were also accused of using Christian blood for baking their Pessach Mazzot. Any time a Christian child disappeared, the Jewish population was instantly accused of having killed the child.

The first time the blood libel appeared was in England during the 12th century. Afterwards, the blood libel spread in other European countries such as Spain, Italy, Poland or Russia. The Nazis of the Third Reich loved to take over all those ridiculous ideas from the Middle Ages, as we can see in Julius Streicher's anti - Semitic propaganda paper "Der Stürmer".

Officially the blood libel seems to have disappeared due to modern society. However, when I was still living and working in Germany in 1999, I used to have a Polish colleague who once told me that Jews like to drink Christian blood during Pessach. I was shocked when I heard that but didn't succeed in convincing her that this is all a lie.

Parashat Vayikra mostly deals with the sacrifices (Korbanot) in the Temple. In Vayikra 3:17 we read that G - d commanded the Jews NOT to eat any blood not forbidden fats (Chelev). Those of you dealing with Kashrut (kosher) laws know how careful meat has to be kashered in order to get all the blood out. There is even special salt we for this purpose.

The Talmud Tractate Kiddushin 37b teaches us that G - d gave us this commandment only for the times when there is a Temple. In case there was no Temple, the result would be that the law doesn’t apply anymore. However, the same Gemara further teaches and proves to us that the commandment does apply in times where there is no Temple. No matter where we live, we Jews have to refrain from consuming blood and forbidden fats. Even in the Diaspora (Galut).


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