Latest update: March 6th, 2014
Blood On His Hands!
‘It Is Praiseworthy For The Sons Of
Aaron That They Walk In Blood…’
The Gemara relates that on erev Pesach it was customary to plug up the drain in the Azarah. As a result, the blood of all the paschal sacrifices would accumulate and reach the ankles of the kohanim. The Gemara explains that (according to the Sages) this was done because it was admirable for the kohanim serving in the Beis Hamikdash to walk in blood, for it signified how beloved the avodah was to them.
The Mishnah (Zevachim 15b) teaches that kohanim must stand directly on the floor of the Azarah while performing the avodah, without any chatzitzah (separation) between their feet and the Azarah. The Gemara thus questions why the blood did not constitute a chatzitzah between the kohanim’s feet and the floor of the Azarah. The Gemara answers that only dried out and hardened blood constitutes a chatzitzah, not wet blood.
When a ritually impure person immerses in a mikveh, he may not have foreign matter attached to his body (for this would constitute a chatzitzah). The Gemara (Eruvin 4b) notes, however, that if the attached matter is of no concern to the individual, it is not considered a chatzitzah.
The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 198:17) rules regarding the laws of tevilah in a mikveh that dry blood is not considered a chatzitzah for someone whose profession brings him into constant contact with blood, such as a butcher, because he doesn’t object to blood on his body. (Note: The Sages, however, instituted that all foreign objects should be removed before tevilah – even something like blood on a butcher’s hand [Rema, supra 198:1].)
The Shevus Yaakov (vol. 1:69) finds difficulty with the Rema’s ruling because our Gemara indicates that dry blood on a kohen is considered a chatzitzah even though a kohen, just as a butcher, is constantly involved with the slaughter of animals.
Uniqueness Of Kohanim
In answer to this question, the Beis Yitzchak (Yoreh De’ah vol. II, 171:10) points out that even a yisrael is permitted to slaughter a korban. Moreover, he cites the Zohar (Parshas Naso 124a) stating that, in general, kohanim refrained from performing shechita (in order not to soil their bigdei kehuna. Kohanim, therefore, are not in the same category as butchers who are constantly slaughtering animals.
What About a Mohel?
The Halachos Ketanos (siman 20) rules that dry blood on the hands of a mohel is not considered a chatzitzah and he permits a mohel to wash his hands for bread (netilas yadayim) even when some dry blood is left on his hand. He argues that just as the Gemara considers it admirable for kohanim to tread in the blood of sacrifices, it is also admirable for a mohel to have blood on his hands because it illustrates his passion for the mitzvah of bris milah. Consequently, the Halachos Ketanos reasons that a mohel does not object to blood on his hands and it therefore does not constitute a chatzitzah.
The Shevus Yaakov (ad loc. end of siman 69) disagrees with the Halachos Ketanos and points out an inherent flaw in his proof. Our Gemara indicates that although it is admirable for kohanim to walk in blood, the blood is considered a chatzitzah after it dries. This proves, contrary to the Halachos Ketanos, that despite the fact that blood on a mohel is an admirable mark, it is still considered a chatzitzah when it dries.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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