Embarrassing others causes blood libels

teshuva and humiliation

Hurting others leads to blood libels

In the run-up to Pesach 5779, we hope to share some translated excerpts of Rabbi Eliezer Berland’s comments on the Haggadah. 

Rabbi Israel Salanter said that all the blood libels used to occur because we would hurt others.

And why did this used to occur on Pesach? Because on Pesach, people would hire widows and orphans, and they would say to them, “faster! You aren’t working properly!” They would scream at them.

Rav Salanter said that on Pesach, people were spilling so much blood[1], because people were shouting at their workers that there shouldn’t be a speck of chametz. But what about all the blood that was being drained from the other person’s face? Isn’t that also a sin?

A person who causes another person’s face to turn white [from shame] doesn’t have a share in the world to come.

Causing someone to flush with embarrassment or to blanch from shame is considered to be ‘spilling their blood’.

They did a good job, they didn’t do a good job – the ikker (essence) is just that there shouldn’t be any chametz d’Oraita, according to the Torah’s description, or any chametz d’Rabbanan, according to the Rabbis.

The rest is only a hashash, a suspicion of chametz.

So, you want to do adorn the mitzvah by keeping its finer points –  you’re going to do this by spilling someone else’s blood?!

This is why Rabbi Israel Salanter explained that all the blood libels dafka happen on Pesach.

Even today, they still want to create blood libels. The only difference is that the courts don’t accept these accusations, today. But Nikolayev (in the Ukraine) was still accepting them, in the time of the Beilis Trial*. Even today, you still meet non-Jews who are scared to eat matza, because they ‘know’ that every matza contains a drop of blood.

Five years ago in London, they put out a notice warning people to watch out for their children, but they made a big ruckus about this, so they had to take the notices down.

[1] Figuratively – embarrassing another person is considered akin to spilling that person’s blood, because the blood drains from the face of someone who is shamed by another person.

  • In 1911, a Jew named Mendel Beilis was falsely accused of the ritual murder of a Christian child named Andrei Yustchinsky in Kiev, the Ukraine. After two years in prison, Beilis was ultimately found not guilty – and it was discovered that the child had been murdered by the gangster friends of his own mother.
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