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Life Before The Printed Word
“A Revi’is of Blood”
(Yevamos 114a-b)

 

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The Torah forbids the drinking of blood, as the verse states, “All blood shall you not eat, in all of your dwelling places, whether [the blood] of fowl, or [the blood] of beasts” (Tzav, Vayikra 7:26). Drinking blood that spurts out when the animal is slaughtered or its blood is let is punishable by kares, premature death. Drinking other blood is punishable by malkos, lashes. However, like all other Torah prohibitions, although it is forbidden to consume even the tiniest amount, one is only punished with lashes or kares for eating a certain amount. How much is this minimum amount?

 

K’zayis or Revi’is

Normally, the amount of forbidden foods that renders one liable for punishment is a k’zayis, the volume of an olive. The amount of forbidden drink that renders one liable is a revi’is, one quarter of a lug. In our Gemara, we find that upon drinking a revi’is of blood, one is liable for punishment. This is understandable, since blood is ostensibly a liquid. However, in numerous places the Gemara contradicts this, stating that upon drinking a k’zayis one is liable (Chullin 87b; Kerisos 14a, 22a. See Rashi on Eruvin 4a, Pesachim 44a, Sukka 6a; Rambam, Ma’achalos Asuros 6:1).

 

The Heart and Its Blood

Generally, the Rashash offers succinct, one-line comments to the Gemara. Here, he veers from his general style and writes at great length to resolve the contradiction. He suggests that perhaps our Gemara refers to drinking blood directly. Therefore, the minimum amount is a revi’is. Elsewhere, the Gemara refers to eating the heart with the blood in it. Therefore, the minimum amount is k’zayis.

 

Rishonim

It is interesting to note that none of the Rishonim take note of this conspicuous contradiction. In fact, in summarizing our sugya, the Meiri writes that upon eating a k’zayis of blood, one is liable for punishment. He seems to follow the ruling set forth in the other sugyos, entirely ignoring our sugya.

 

Manuscripts As Evidence

This mystery is neatly resolved when we discover that in all the manuscripts of the Talmud, with no exception, the word “k’zayis” appears in our sugya in place of revi’is. It seems that there was simply a misprint in the Shas, from when it was first printed until today. Therefore, the Rishonim, who made use of handwritten versions of the Shas, took no notice of the contradiction, since it did not yet exist (see Beis Va’ad 1: pp. 58-59).

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.