"Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.'" - Leviticus 17:13-14
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1-20:27. Acharei Mot means death, and Kedoshim means holy. The Haftorah is from Amos 9:7-15.
In this week's Torah portion, we are commanded not to consume the blood of any creature. When animals are slaughtered for consumption, we must spill their blood and bury it. This is a strongly observed ritual that establishes the difference between the meat and poultry that can be consumed and that which observant Jews will not bring into their homes.
In Judaism's Oral Tradition, there is a story that provides some background to God's law. Whether the story is meant to be taken literally or not is subject to different opinions. However, the teaching that comes from the story is what we are meant to take to heart.
The story is as follows: After Cain killed Abel, he left his brother lying there, dead, on the ground surrounded by his blood. A little later we hear God say, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground" (Genesis 4:10). Abel's blood was within the ground. He had been buried, but how? The Jewish sages teach that the animals saw what had happened and they dug into the ground in order to bury Abel and his blood. In return for their kindness done to man, God commanded man to always bury the blood of animals.
The lesson that emerges from this story is that when we are kind to others, we are repaid. Not necessarily by the person to whom we were kind, but by God, who neither forgets nor ignores our good deeds and efforts.
I am reminded of the biblical story in 2 Kings 4 about the widow who was helped by Elisha. She had no money, was deep in debt, and cried to the prophet that the king was about to seize her two sons as payment. The sages teach that this was the widow of the prophet Obadiah. The reason why Obadiah went into debt is because he kept 100 of God's prophets alive when the evil king sought to slaughter them all. Not only did Obadiah provide food and shelter, he also provided the expensive oil so that the prophets could study God's word at night. Obadiah eventually ran out of money and had to borrow it. After he died, his wife fell into debt and his children were placed in danger, but through the prophet Elisha, God miraculously provided the widow with enough oil to pay off the debt and live a comfortable life.
Oil for oil. It was no coincidence!
I want to encourage us all to be extra kind today. Kindness is the single most transformative action that can change this world. Even if no one thanks us or recognizes us, God does. And He will repay us, kindness for kindness.