This Friday morning, I had a real-life competing values choice to make. I was making challah when I noticed a blood spot in one of the two eggs I was checking. Automatically, I made a move to throw the eggs away. And at the last split second, I stopped. What a waste that would be! We are not supposed to throw food away willy nilly! How likely was it that the blood spot actually arose from an egg that somehow had gotten fertilized, given that these were not free-range eggs (which is a separate problem, but not the subject of this post)?
I decided that the rational – the right – decision would be to put the eggs in the challah.
But I couldn’t do it. Either because I felt the pull of tradition or because I do not see myself as learned enough or authorized enough to make that choice. That and the fact that I am not feeling angry enough or rebellious enough nowadays to grab the authority for myself and do it anyway.
So, after standing there, staring at the eggs for about a minute, I threw them away. And then, unexpectedly, I felt great. Maybe not exalted, but almost. I had just committed an act of submission (to God? A greater purpose?) that went against the rational. Wow! I consciously did something ridiculous – and let’s face it, the idea that maybe this egg was laid by a chicken who, though raised in a tiny wire cage its whole life, had somehow gotten access to a marauding rooster such that the egg was fertilized, was, in fact, ridiculous. To throw this good food away on the basis of this extremely dubious premise was ridiculous. Not to mention the ridiculousness of the whole “I-won’t-eat-eggs-with-certain-bloodspots-in-them-because-God-said-so” thing in the first place.
So why the almost-exaltation? Precisely because of the ridiculous aspect of the situation. How quotidian to always be rational! How dull! It is not the rational that spices life. It is not reason that has kept the Jewish people alive over thousands of tortured years; it is our willingness to look at reason in the eye and make a different choice. To separate because of a drop of blood. To get out of the car and walk because the sun has set. To drive on roads under threat of stoning and shooting. To die rather than bow down.
Reasonable choices would have led to our disappearance a long time ago. My throwing those eggs away was a small act in the tremendous list of beautiful, crazy choices that Jews have made over the last 40 or so centuries – acts that have kept us and our message to the world alive.
What is the Halachah regarding blood-spots found in eggs? by Rabbi Brun-Kestler
In the past, most eggs came from fertile hens, whose increased hormone levels stimulated more egg production. Of course, fertilized eggs will also, in the right conditions, grow into chickens.
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About Yael Valier
Yael Valier is the creative director of Theater and Theology, a Jerusalem-based theater company. The company allows her to combine her experience in theater and her interest in the beauties and quirks of religion to produce meaningful entertainment during productions and in post-performance discussions with her audiences. Yael is a drama teacher at Midreshet Emuna V’Omanut, another forum in which to explore Torah through the arts. Yael translates from Hebrew to English texts that are meant to be heard – TV screenplays, rhyming children’s books, and publicity videos. She also translates from French to English, specializing in Jewish history and scholarship. Yael is a voice actor, and you can hear her voice multiple characters in several current programs for the Fox Network’s Baby TV channel. Yael and her patent attorney husband, Dan Goldstein, collaborate on various fun educational projects, such as this science and geography album that they co-produced: www.TremendousEarth.com.
Jane Cohen says
I too am well aware of the issue of bloodspots in eggs, and that in our day and age, bought at the Super, they are not fertilized. But unlike you, however, without any emotion or deep reckoning, I will toss out any egg with a bloodspot. And why? I was discussing this once with a person who raises egg-laying hens, and he said that if you find a blood spot in an egg it is more often than not, an indication that the hen has a medical condition – so maybe the Torah in its infinite wisdom – is asking that blood found in food is just not for our consumption. קדושים תהיו
and we simply are commanded to avoid it.
I am sure you know that animals being slaughtered release dangerous, poisonous adrenelin toxins in their blood, as a reaction to their extreme fright, pain and eminent death. We are commanded never to eat blood, even from a properly shected animal, and modern medicine has confirmed for us a good reason why. Did you know that in a kosher slaughter house, an animal is not allowed to be slaughtered in the presence of another animal? It inflicts unnecessary anquish.
Keep on baking those challot – it is one of the blessings that a woman brings into her home.
How blessed we are to live in a society where it is an insignificant loss to throw the egg in the bin, in the old days, the poverty was such that the Rabbi would be consulted because it would not be thrown unless treif…
Kelly Smith Milotay says
We have laying hens in the city. There is no rooster for miles around as city statutes prohibited keeping them. Yet, every 25 hours or so, our hens lay egg because this is the simple result of the process of ovulation. Just like human women who ovulate on average every 28-30 days, hens ovulate every 25 or so hours. Presto, a new egg. No fertilization hormones required. No rooster required.
I still see bloodspots in my urban farmed eggs, though. I pick the spots out and use the egg. Unlike what is mentioned in the article, eggs aren’t cheap here in Western Canada. They are about $3.50/dozen and when one is feeding a large family, one wastes no food. Even our own eggs, after we’ve paid for feed and the other necessities of chicken existence, are not cheap and I would never consider just tossing one out when the spot could be so easily removed. There are times when there is blood throughout the yolk and those I do dispose of but that is fairly rare (I see about 1-2 per month like that).