Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day
Shechitah Shechitah - Chapter 3, Shechitah Shechitah - Chapter 4, Shechitah Shechitah - Chapter 5
Shechitah - Chapter 3
There are five factors that disqualify ritual slaughter and the fundamentals of the laws of shechitah are to guard against each of these factors: They are: shehiyah, dirasah, chaladah, hagramah, and ikur.
What is meant by shehiyah? A person began to slaughter and lifted up his hand before he completed the slaughter and waited. Whether he did so inadvertently, intentionally, or because of forces beyond his control, [the following rules apply] if he or another person completed the slaughter. If he waited the amount of time it would take to lift up the animal, cause it to lie down, and slaughter it, his slaughter is not acceptable. If he waited less than this amount of time, his slaughter is acceptable.
With regard to a small domesticated animal:, the measure of shehiyah is the amount of time it would take to lift up the animal, cause it to lie down, and slaughter it. With regard to a large domestic animal, the measure of shehiyah is the amount of time it would take to lift up the animal, cause it to lie down, and slaughter it. With regard to a fowl, the measure of shehiyah is the amount of time it would take to lift up a small animal, cause it to lie down, and slaughter it.
When a person cut [the signs] for a while, waited for a while, cut for a while, waited for a while until he concluded the slaughter without waiting the measure that disqualifies an animal at any one time, but over the times he waited over the entire period would equal the measure of shehiyah, there is an unresolved doubt whether [the animal is considered] a nevelah.
Similarly, if he waited the amount of time it takes to lift up the animal, cause it to lie down, and cut only a portion of the signs, but not to slaughter it entirely, there is an unresolved doubt whether [the animal is considered] a nevelah.
If he slaughtered the majority of one of the signs for a fowl or the majority of both signs for an animal, the slaughter is permitted even if he waited half the day and then returned and finished cutting the signs. For since the minimum measure for slaughter was met, it is as if he is cutting slaughtered meat.
If one cuts half or less of the windpipe and waits an extended period, he may return and complete the slaughter; [his previous acts] are of no consequence. If, however, he cut the majority of [an animal's] windpipe or perforated the gullet even slightly and then waited the [disqualifying] measure, [the slaughter] is unacceptable. [This applies] whether he returned and completed cutting where he began or slaughtered the animal entirely in a different place. [The rationale is] that when the majority of the windpipe is slit or the gullet of either an animal or a fowl is perforated even slightly, the animal is comparable to a nevelah and ritual slaughter is not effective for it, as will be explained.
It is thus explained for you that the concept of shehiyah does not exist with regard to the windpipe of a fowl at all. For if he slit the majority of the windpipe and waited, he has already completed the slaughter of [the fowl]. When he goes back and completes it, it is as if he is cutting meat. If he slit less than half the windpipe and waited, he may return and [complete the] slaughter whenever he desires, for it is not disqualified as a nevelah unless the majority of the windpipe has been cut.
[The following rules apply when] one slaughtered a fowl and waited, but does not know whether the gullet was perforated or not. He should return and cut the windpipe alone in another place, let [the fowl] be until it dies, and then check the gullet from the inside. If a drop of blood was not found on it, it is apparent that it was not perforated and it is acceptable.
What is meant by chaladah? For example, one inserted the knife between one sign and another. Whether one then slits the upper sign above or cuts the lower sign below in the manner of ritual slaughter, [the slaughter] is unacceptable.
If he inserted the knife beneath the [animal's] skin and slit both the signs in the ordinary fashion, hid the knife under tangled wool, or spread a cloth over the knife and the neck and slaughtered under the cloth, since the knife is not openly revealed, there is an unresolved doubt whether [the animal is considered] a nevelah. Similarly, if slaughtered less than half the signs with chaladah and completed the slaughter without chaladah, there is an unresolved doubt whether [the animal is considered] a nevelah.
What is meant by dirasah? For example, one struck the neck with a knife as one strikes with a sword, cutting the signs at one time, without passing [the knife] back and forth or one placed the knife on the neck and pressed, cutting downward like one cuts radishes or squash until he cuts the signs, [the slaughter] is unacceptable.
What is meant by hagramah? This refers to one who slaughters at a high point on the windpipe where it is not fit to slaughter. There are two [nodes, like kernels of] wheat at the top of the windpipe, at the large ring. [The following rules apply if] one slaughtered in the midst of these kernels. If he left even the slightest portion of them intact above [the place of slaughter], it is acceptable, for he slaughtered from the slanting cap [of the windpipe] or lower. This is within the place that is fit for ritual slaughter. If, however, he did not leave any portion of them intact, but instead cut above them, this is considered as [being slaughtered with] hagramah and it is unacceptable.
If one slit the majority of one sign [for a fowl] or the majority of both signs [for an animal] and then completed the slaughter through dirasah or hagramah, it is acceptable, for the minimum measure was slaughtered in the proper manner.
If at first, he slit a third [of the windpipe] through hagramah, and then cut two thirds in the appropriate manner, the slaughter is acceptable. If he cut a third in the appropriate manner, cut a third through hagramah, and then cut the last third in the appropriate manner, the slaughter is acceptable. If at first, he slit a third through hagramah, cut a third in the appropriate manner, and then cut a third through hagramah, the slaughter is unacceptable. If one cut [a portion of] an animal's throat with derisah or chaladah, it is unacceptable, whether it was the first or second third.
What is meant by ikur? That the gullet and/or the windpipe were displaced and slid [from their place] before the conclusion of the slaughter. If, however, one slit an entire sign or its majority in a fowl, and then the second sign slipped, the slaughter is acceptable.
If one of the signs was displaced and afterwards, one slit the other, the slaughter is unacceptable. If one slit one of the signs [of a fowl] and then discovered that the other one was displaced, but it is unknown whether it was displaced before slaughter or after slaughter, there is an unresolved question whether [the fowl] is a nevelah.
If the sign that was cut for ritual slaughter is discovered to have been displaced, [the fowl or animal] is acceptable, for certainly, it was displaced after the slaughter. For if it had been displaced before ritual slaughter, it would have hung loosely and it would not have been able to be slaughtered [effectively].
When does the above apply? When [the slaughterer] did not hold the signs in his hand when he slit them. If, however, he held the signs and slaughtered, it is possible that [the signs] could have been slit [effectively even] after they were displaced. Therefore, if a sign is discovered to be displaced and slaughtered, there is an unresolved question whether [the animal or the fowl] is a nevelah.
Whenever we have used the term "unacceptable," the animal is a nevelah and if a person partakes of an olive-sized portion of it, he is liable for lashes for partaking of a nevelah. For only an acceptable slaughter as commanded by Moses our teacher of blessed memory prevents an animal from being considered a nevelah as we explained. Whenever there is an unresolved doubt whether slaughter [is acceptable], there is an unresolved doubt whether the animal is a nevelah. A person who partakes of it is liable for stripes for rebellious conduct.
When the thigh of an animal and [the meat of] its hollow were removed and thus it appears lacking when it crouches, it is a nevelah. [It is] as if half of it was cut away and it was divided into two bodies. Thus slaughter is not effective with regard to it.
Similarly, if [the animal's] backbone was broken together with the majority of the meat, its back was ripped open like a fish, the majority of the windpipe was been severed, or the gullet was perforated in a place fit for slaughter, it is considered as a nevelah while alive and slaughter will not be effective with regard to it. The same laws apply to both an animal and a fowl with regard to all these matters.
The gullet has two membranes: the external membrane is red and the inner membrane is white. If only one of them is perforated, [the animal] is acceptable. If they are both perforated even to the slightest degree in a place fit for slaughter, it is a nevelah. [This applies] whether it was slaughtered in the place of the perforation or in another place, slaughter will not be effective with regard to it. If they were both perforated, [even when] one [hole] does not correspond to the other, the animal is a nevelah.
When the gullet is perforated and a scab forms which covers it, the scab is of no consequence and it is considered perforated as it was beforehand. If a thorn is detected standing in the gullet, there is an unresolved doubt whether the animal is a nevelah. We fear that perhaps a scab developed in the place of a perforation and it is not visible. If, however, a thorn is lying lengthwise in the gullet, we are not concerned about it, for most desert animals eat thorns continuously.
The gullet cannot be checked from the outside, only from the inside. What is implied? One should turn it inside out and check it. If a drop of blood is found upon it, it can be concluded that it was perforated.
When the majority of the cavity of the windpipe has been severed in the place fit for slaughtering, [the animal] is a nevelah. This also applies if it has a hole the size of an isar.
[The following rules apply if the windpipe of an animal] was perforated with small holes. If the perforations did not detract [from the flesh, they disqualify the animal if,] when they are added together, they constitute the majority [of the windpipe]. If they detract from the flesh, [they disqualify the animal if,] when they are added together, their sum is the size of an isar. Similarly, if a strand [of flesh] is removed from [the windpipe], it [disqualifies the animal if its area] is the size of an isar.
With regard to a fowl, [a more stringent rule applies]: Whenever the strip [of flesh that was removed] or the holes that detract from the flesh [are large enough so that they] could be folded so that when placed over the opening of the windpipe, it would cover the majority [of its cavity], it is a nevelah. If not, it is acceptable.
If the windpipe was perforated on both sides with a hole large enough for the thickness of isar to be inserted into it, it is a nevelah. If it is slit lengthwise, even if only the slightest portion of the place fit to slaughter [an animal] remains above and below, it is acceptable.
When a windpipe has been perforated and it is not known whether it was perforated before the slaughter or afterwards, we perforate it again in another place and compare the two holes. If they resemble each other, it is permitted.
We compare only [a hole in] a large ring to [a hole in] a large ring or [a hole in] a small [ring] to [a hole in] a small [ring], but not [a hole in] a small [ring] to a [a hole in] a large [ring]. For the entire windpipe is made up of a series of rings. Between each [large] ring is a small, soft ring.
Shechitah - Chapter 4
When a Jew who does not know the five factors that disqualify ritual slaughter and the like concerning the laws of shechitah that we explainedslaughters [an animal] in private, it is forbidden for him and others to partake [of the animal that] he slaughtered. It is close to being considered a nevelah because of the doubt involved. When a person eats an olive-sized portion of its meat, he is worthy of stripes for rebellious conduct.
Even if [such a person] slaughtered [animals] properly in our presence four or five times and this slaughter which he performed in private appears to be a proper and complete the slaughter, it is forbidden to partake of it. Since he does not know the factors that can disqualify ritual slaughter, it is possible that he will cause the slaughter to be disqualified unknowingly. For example, he may wait, apply pressure to the animal's neck and slit it, slaughter with a blemished knife, or the like inadvertently.
[Even] when a Jew knows the laws of ritual slaughter, he should not slaughter in private as an initial and preferred option until he slaughters in the presence of a wise man many times until he is familiar and ardent. If, however, at the outset, he slaughtered in private, his slaughter is acceptable.
When one knows the laws of ritual slaughter and slaughters in the presence of a wise man until he becomes familiar with ritual slaughter, he is called an expert. Any expert may slaughter in private as an initial and preferred option. Even women and servants may slaughter as an initial and preferred option.
When deaf-mute, an intellectually or emotionally imbalanced person, a child, or a drunkard whose mind became befuddled slaughters, their slaughter is unacceptable. Since they do not have [adequate] mental control, we fear that they blundered. Therefore if they slaughtered in the presence of a knowledgeable person and he saw that they slaughtered properly, their slaughter is acceptable.
When a person whose reputation has not been established among us slaughters in private, we question him. If it is discovered that he knows the fundamental principles of ritual slaughter, his slaughter is acceptable.
When we saw from a distance that a Jew slaughtered [an animal] and departed and we do not know whether or not he knows the laws of ritual slaughter or not, [the animal] is permitted. Similarly, if a person tells his agent: "Go out and slaughter an animal on my behalf," and he finds a slaughtered animal, but does not know whether his agent or another person slaughtered it, [the animal] is permitted. [The rationale for both these laws is] that the majority of people who slaughter are expert.
[The following rules apply when a person] loses a kid or a chicken. If he finds it slaughtered at home, it is permitted. [The rationale is that] the majority of people who slaughter are expert. If he finds it in the market place, it is forbidden; perhaps [it was slaughtered improperly and] became a nevelah and was therefore cast into the market place. Similarly, if he finds it on the waste dump at home, it is forbidden.
When an expert [slaughterer] loses his power of speech, but he is [still] capable of understanding, he can hear and he is of sound mind, he may slaughter as an initial and preferred option. Similarly, a person who does not hear, may slaughter.
A blind man should not slaughter as an initial and preferred option unless others supervise him. If he slaughters, his slaughter is acceptable.
When a gentile slaughters, even though he slaughters in the presence of a Jew, [using] a finely [honed] knife, and even if he was a minor, his slaughter is a nevelah. According to Scriptural Law, one is liable for lashes for partaking of it, as [implied by Exodus 34:15]: "[Lest] he shall call you and you shall partake of his slaughter." Since the Torah warns lest one partake of his slaughter, you can infer that his slaughter is forbidden. He cannot be compared to a Jew who does not know the laws of ritual slaughter.
[Our Sages] established a great safeguard concerning this matter, [decreeing] that even [an animal] slaughtered by a gentile who does not serve false deities is a nevelah.
If a gentile began to slaughter and slit the minority of the signs and a Jew completed the slaughter or a Jew began the slaughter and a gentile completed it, it is invalid. [The rationale is that] slaughter [is considered an integral act, a single continuity] from the beginning to the end. If, however, a gentile slit [a portion of] an organ that does not cause the animal to be considered a nevelah, e.g., he slit half the windpipe and a Jew completed the slaughter, it is acceptable.
A Jew who is an apostate because of his transgression of a particular transgression who is an expert slaughterer may slaughter as an initial and preferred option. A Jew of acceptable repute must check the knife and afterwards give it to this apostate to slaughter with, for it can be presumed that he will not trouble himself to check [the knife].
If, by contrast, he was an apostate because of worship of false deities, one who violates the Sabbath in public, or a heretic who denies the Torah and [the prophecy of] Moses our teacher, as we explained in Hilchot Teshuvah, he is considered as a gentile and [an animal] he slaughters is a nevelah.
[Even though] a person is disqualified as a witness because of his violation of a Scriptural prohibition, he may [still] slaughter in private if he was an expert. For he would not leave something which is permitted and partake of something that is forbidden. This is a presumption that applies with regard to all Jews, even those who are wicked.
These Tzadukkim, Beotosim, their disciples and all that err, following their path, who do not believe in the Oral Law - their slaughter is forbidden. If, however, they slaughtered [an animal] in our presence, it is permitted. For their slaughter is forbidden only because it is possible they blunder. Since they do not believe in the laws of ritual slaughter, we do not accept their word when they say, "We did not blunder."
When the Jews were journeying through the desert, they were not commanded to slaughter non-sacrificial animals. Instead, they would cut off their heads or slaughter them and eat as the other nations do. In the desert, they were commanded that everyone who desires to slaughter an animal [in the prescribed way] should slaughter only for the sake of a peace offering, as [Leviticus 17:3-5] states: "When a man from the house of Israel will slaughter an ox... and he will not bring it to the Tent of Meeting... [it will be considered as (spilled) blood]... so that the Children of Israel will bring their sacrifices... and slaughter these sacrifices as peace-offerings." If, however, a person desired to cut an animal's head off and partake [of the animal], in the desert, this was allowed.
This mitzvah is not observed forever, nor in the desert alone, at the time it was permitted to kill animals [and partake of them]. There they were commanded that when they would enter Eretz Yisrael, killing animals [for food] would be forbidden and ordinary animals could only be eaten after ritual slaughter. They would be allowed to slaughter in every place except the Temple Courtyard, as [Deuteronomy 12:20-21] states: "When God your Lord will expand your boundaries... and you shall slaughter from your cattle and your sheep which God your Lord gave you." This is the mitzvah to be observed for generations - to slaughter and then to eat.
Shechitah - Chapter 5
We have already explained in Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurotthat the term trefe employed by the Torah refers to an animal that is on the verge of death. The term trefe - which literally means "torn apart" - was employed only because the Torah speaks with regard to prevalent situations, e.g., a lion or the like attacked it and wounded it, but it had not died yet.
There are other maladies which if they affect an animal will cause it to be considered trefe. They were transmitted as a halachah to Moses at Sinai. [In particular,] eight [conditions that cause an animal to be considered as] trefe were transmitted to Moses at Sinai. They are derusah, nekuvah, chaseirah, netulah, pesukah, keru'ah, nefulah, and sheburah.
Although they were all transmitted as halachot to Moses at Sinai,since only derusah is explicitly mentioned in the Torah, [our Sages] ruled more stringently with regard to it. Any questionable situation that arises with regard to derisah [causes the animal] to be forbidden. There are, by contrast, questionable situations that may arise with regard to the seven other conditions [that render an animal] trefe in which [the animal] is permitted as will be explained.
Derusah refers to a situation where a lion or the like will attack an animal and assault it with its paw or a hawk, an eagle, or the like will assault a fowl. [The laws of] derisah apply with regard to a large domesticated animal or a large wild beast only when it is attacked by a lion. [The laws of derisah apply with regard to] a small domesticated animal or a small wild beast only when it is attacked by a wolf or a larger animal. [The laws of] derisah apply with regard to kids and lambs even when attacked by cats, foxes, martens, and the like. Needless to say, this applies with regard to fowl.
When a hawk attacks, the laws of derisah apply even with regard to a larger fowl. With regard to other birds of prey the laws of derisah apply only with regard to fowl their size and not with regard to fowl which are larger than they are.
[The laws of] derisah apply [when] a weasel attacks a fowl. [The laws of] derisah do not apply at all when a dog attacks, not when it attacks a fowl, an animal, or a beast. [The laws of] derisah apply [when] an hawk attacks kids or lambs should its claws penetrate to [the animal's] inner cavity.
[The laws of] derisah apply only [when] the attacking animal [strikes its victim] with its forelegs. If it strikes it with its hindlegs, we show no concern. [Similarly, the laws of] derisah apply only [when the attacking animal strikes its victim] with its claw. If it bites it, we show no concern unless it penetrates to its internal cavity. We then check if it perforated one of the organs [that cause an animal to be considered trefe if] even the tiniest perforation was made.
[The laws of] derisah apply only [when] the attacking animal has that intent. If, however, the beast of prey fell and its claws became lodged in the other animal, [the laws of] derisah do not apply. [Similarly, the laws of] derisah apply only [when the attacking animal] is alive. If, however, it attacked and was killed, but its claws remained lodged in the victim and were not removed until after [the attacker's] death, we are not concerned.
What are the laws applying to an animal that was attacked? Whenever we stated that "we show concern," the attacked animal should be slaughtered and its entire internal cavity - from its feet to its forehead - must be checked. If it is found to be flawless with regard to all the factors [that render an animal] trefe and there is no sign that it was attacked, it is permitted. If there is a sign that it was attacked, it is trefe and forbidden by Scriptural Law.
What is meant by "a sign that it was attacked"? That the flesh above the intestines turns red. If the flesh above the intestines decays to the extent it becomes like flesh which a doctor would scrape from a wound, we consider that flesh as if it were lacking and [rule that the animal is] trefe.
If [the predator] attacked the "signs" [which must be cut for ritual slaughter, the animal is] trefe if they turn red. The slightest wound [is significant]. If even the smallest portion of them becomes red because of an attack, [the animal is] trefe.
When there is a question whether [an animal] has been attacked or not, we do not permit it unless it is checked as one would [an animal] that had definitely been attacked.
What is implied? When a lion enters among oxen and a claw was found in the back of one of them, we suspect that the lion attacked it. We do not rationalize and say: "Maybe it scratched itself on a wall."
Similarly, if a fox or a marten enter among fowls, [the predator] is silent and they crowing, we fear that he attacked. If, however, the predator is roaring and they are crowing, [we assume that] they are crowing out of fear of him and his roaring. Similarly, if he cuts off the head of one of them, we assume his fury has subsided. Similarly, if both [the predator] and [the fowl] are silent, we do not suspect [anything]. For if he had harmed them, they would crow.
When there is a question of whether or not a predator entered [a place where animals are kept] or we saw [an animal] enter [such a place], but were unable to see if it is one of the predators or not, we do not harbor suspicions.
Similarly, if a fowl entered a woods or reeds and came out with its head or neck dripping blood, we do not suspect that it was attacked. Instead, we say: "Perhaps it was wounded among the trees."
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It is written (Psalms 119:98): "From my foes have You given me wisdom." From the negative tendencies a person detects in his natural traits, he can become wise and know how to handle the correction of these traits, and how to subordinate his powers in the service of G-d.
–Hayom Yom, Nissan 8