“See [re’eh], I set before you this day a blessing and a curse….” (Deuteronomy 11:26)
Last week, in Parasha Eikev, Moses promised the Israelites that they would prosper in the Promised Land if they fulfilled the commandments of the Torah. He also described the rewards of fulfilling those commandments and the exile associated with forsaking them.
This week, Parasha Re’eh begins with an appeal to choose a path in life that leads to blessing.
This Parasha reveals that God has endowed each of us with free will and the ability to make choices—for good or for evil, for blessing or for curse. These are the two courses presented to Israel, and each Israelite is free to choose.
The future of the nation rests upon their decision, and all Moses can do is show them the way.
A life of obedience to God and His commandments will lead to certain blessing, but turning away from God into idolatry will surely bring curses on the individuals and the nation.
God wants us to have the vision to see that the choices we make in life create consequences with which we are required to live.
A Bright Future
God placed a special calling upon the nation of Israel to be a holy nation and a royal priesthood (Exodus 19:6).
They were not to worship the Lord in the way of the pagans, but were to wipe out all traces of heathenism in the Promised Land, even destroying the images and names of all foreign gods (Deuteronomy 12:2–3).
One of the heathen practices forbidden for God’s people is the eating or drinking of blood.
“But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.” (Deuteronomy 12:23)
This prohibition, which is found in Deuteronomy 12:16, 23, and 24, prevents the despicable practice of eating something while it is alive, and even cannibalism. It underlines the sanctity of life and the importance of compassion to all creatures great and small.
Verse 25 also repeats this commandment: “Do not eat it [blood].”
And why not? “… so that it may go well with you and your children after you.” (Deuteronomy 12:25)
Notice here the consequence of obedience. When we do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, we and our children have a bright future. What a promise! That’s something to hold on to.
“Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 12:25)
The main purpose of the Jewish method of the slaughter and salting of meat is to drain away the blood, since Biblically kosher meat must have all the blood drained out of it before eating.
It’s a bitter irony that the one people whose faith forbids the eating of blood would suffer from the anti-Semitic allegations of “blood libel”—false claims by non-Jews that Jews perform ritual murder, using human blood for Jewish religious purposes.
One such lie invented to incite hatred toward Jewish people is that Jews use human blood to bake matzah (unleavened bread) for Passover!
From the Middle Ages until recent times, this fiction was used to provoke outrage among the masses, which led to the pogroms in which millions of Jews were massacred.
In 1935, Nazi leaders infamously used the satanic lie of blood libel in their campaign against the Jewish People to infect Germany with a hatred of its Jewish population.
Relevance for Believers
For those wondering if the commandment forbidding the eating of blood is relevant for Gentile Believers, it’s worth noting that such a prohibition was stipulated by the Jerusalem Council, which occurred around AD 50.
In the Book of Acts, James, the half brother of Yeshua (Jesus), made the following ruling:
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19–20)
This command is so important that it is repeated several times in Scripture. Why would Scripture devote so much attention to blood?
Amazingly, the Bible gives us a verifiable scientific fact as an answer to this question: “… the life of the body is in its blood.” (Leviticus 17:11)
Blood transports the oxygen that keeps the body alive.
It also helps rid the body of harmful waste products, heal the body through the disease-fighting cells that it carries, and repair the body from injury, among other functions.
But God also gives an additional, perhaps related reason: blood is the instrument of atonement.
In Leviticus 17:11, we read that “the life of a creature is in the blood and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
Furthermore, because of the blood that Yeshua (Jesus), the perfect Lamb of God, shed for sin, atonement was made once and for all for our sins (Hebrews 9:28).
“Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” (Romans 5:9, see also Romans 3:25; Ephesians 2:13)