Aiver Min Ha'chai

I was about fifteen when I became concerned with my habit of biting my lips and the skin around my fingernails. But was this concern with the physical and psychological harm of this rather disgusting habit of biting off and swallowing bits of my own skin? Oh no. Here’s what I asked my father:

“Tatty, if I bite my lips and swallow the skin, is it considered the aveirah (sin) of eating aiver min ha’chai (אבר מן החי / literally ‘limbs from the living’)?”

He gave me a half-quizzical face, like “what the heck kind of question did my daughter just ask me?”

But he just said, “No, because skin is not a limb. If anything, it would be basar min ha’chai (בשר מן החי / flesh from the living).”

And that was the end of it. I never did find out how transgressive my habit was, in addition to being gross.

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