Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
Kabbalah Online
Kids Zone
Friday, 26 Tishrei 5776 / October 9, 2015

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Shechitah - Chapter 1

Video & Audio Classes
Show content in:

Shechitah - Chapter 1

Halacha 1

It is a positive commandment1 for one who desires to partake of the meat of a domesticated animal, wild beast, or fowl to slaughter [it] and then partake of it,2 as [Deuteronomy 12:21] states: "And you shall slaughter from your cattle and from your sheep." And with regard to a firstborn animal with a blemish,3 [ibid.:22] states: "As one would partake of a deer and a gazelle." From this, we learn that a wild beast is [governed by] the same [laws] as a domesticated animal with regard to ritual slaughter.

And with regard to a fowl, [Leviticus 17:13] states: "that will snare a beast or a fowl as prey... and shed its blood." This teaches that shedding the blood of a fowl is analogous to shedding the blood of a wild beast.4

Halacha 2

The laws governing ritual slaughter are the same in all instances.5Therefore one who slaughters a domesticated animal, beast, or fowl should first6 recite the blessing: "[Blessed...] who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning7 ritual slaughter." If he did not recite a blessing, either consciously or inadvertently, the meat is permitted.8

It is forbidden to partake of a slaughtered animal throughout the time it is in its death throes.9 When a person partakes of it before it dies, he transgresses a negative commandment. [This act] is included in the prohibition [Leviticus 19:26]: "Do not eat upon the blood." He does not, however, receive lashes.10

It is permitted to cut meat from it after it has been ritually slaughtered, but before it dies. That meat should be salted thoroughly, washed thoroughly,11 and left until the animal dies. Afterwards, it may be eaten.

Halacha 3

Fish and locusts need not be slaughtered. Instead, gathering them causes them to be permitted to be eaten. [This is indicated by Numbers 11:22]: "Can sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them that will suffice them? If all the fish of the sea would be gathered for them...." This indicates that gathering fish is like slaughtering cattle and sheep. And with regard to locusts, [Isaiah 33:4] states: "the gathering of the locusts," i.e., gathering alone [is sufficient]. Therefore if fish die naturally in the water, they are permitted.12 And it is permitted to eat them while they are alive.13

Halacha 4

The slaughter which the Torah mentions without elaboration must be explained so that we know: a) which place in the animal is [appropriate] for ritual slaughter?, b) what is the measure of the slaughtering process?, c) with what do we slaughter?, d) when do we slaughter?, e) in which place [on the animal's neck] do we slaughter? f) how do we slaughter, g) what factors disqualify the slaughter? h) who can slaughter?14

We were commanded concerning all of these factors in the Torah with the verse [Deuteronomy 12:21]: "And you shall slaughter from your cattle... as I commanded you." All of these factors were commanded to us orally as is true with regard to the remainder of the Oral Law which is called "the mitzvah," as we explained in the beginning of this text.15

Halacha 5

The place where an animal should be slaughtered is the neck. The entire neck is acceptable for slaughtering.

What is implied? With regard to the gullet,16 from the beginning of the place where when it is cut, it contracts until the place where hair grows17 and it begins appearing fissured like the stomach, this is the place of slaughter with regard to the gullet.

Halacha 6

If one slaughters above this place - in the area called the entrance to the gullet18 - or below this place - i.e., the beginning of the digestive system, the slaughter is unacceptable.19

The measure of the entrance to the gullet above which is unfit for slaughter in an animal or a beast is so one can grab it with two fingers.20 With regard to a fowl, it depends on its size. The lower limit extends until the crop.21

Halacha 7

Where is the place of slaughter with regard to the windpipe? From the slant of its cap22 downward until the beginning of the flank of the lung when the animal extends its neck to pasture,23 this is the place of slaughter with regard to the windpipe. The area opposite this place on the outside is called the neck.

Halacha 8

When the animal strained itself and extended its neck exceedingly or the slaughterer applied exertion to the signs and extended them upward, but slaughtered in the neck at the place of slaughter, there is an unresolved doubt24 whether [the animal] is a nevelah. For the place where the gullet and windpipe were cut is not the place where [the animal] is [usually] slaughtered.25

Halacha 9

The slaughterer must slaughter in the center of the neck. If he slaughters to the side, it is acceptable.26

What is the measure of slaughter? That one [cut] the two identifying marks, the windpipe and the gullet.27 Superior slaughter involves cutting both of them, whether for an animal or a fowl and a slaughterer should have this intent. [After the fact,] if one cut the majority of one of them for a fowl and the majority of both of them for an animal or a beast, the slaughter is acceptable.

Halacha 10

When one cut one sign entirely and half28 of the other sign when slaughtering an animal, his slaughter is unacceptable. If he cut the majority of both signs, even though in each instance he cuts only a hair's breadth more than half, it is acceptable. Since he cut even the slightest amount more than half,29 he has cut the majority.

Halacha 11

If he cut half30 of one and half of the other - even in a fowl - the slaughter is unacceptable. When a windpipe is half slit31 and one cut a little more on the place of the slit, making the cut a majority, the slaughter is acceptable. [This applies] whether one begins [on a portion of the windpipe] that is intact and reaches the slit or one inserts the knife into the slit and [increases its size until it] reaches the majority.

Halacha 12

Every slaughterer must check the signs after he slaughters.32 If he did not check and the animal's head was cut off before he could check,33 [the animal] is [considered] a nevelah.34 [This applies even] if the slaughterer was adroit and expert.

Halacha 13

During its lifetime, every animal is considered to be forbidden until it is definitely known that it was slaughtered in an acceptable manner.35

Halacha 14

With what can we slaughter? With any entity, with a metal knife, a flint, glass, the edge of a bulrush,36 or the like among the entities that cut. [This applies] provided its edge is sharp and does not have a barb. If, however, there was a spike at the edge of the entity with which one slaughters, even if the spike is very small,37 the slaughter is unacceptable.38

Halacha 15

If the spike was on only one side of the knife, one should not slaughter with it [at the outset]. [After the fact,] if one slaughtered with it using the side on which the blemish was not detectable, the slaughter is acceptable.

Halacha 16

What is implied? There was a knife that was checked by passing it [over one's finger] and no blemish was felt on it, but when one drew it back, one felt that it had a blemish. If one slaughtered with it by passing it forwards and did not draw it back, the slaughter is acceptable. If one drew it back, the slaughter is unacceptable.39

Halacha 17

When a knife ascends and descends [in a curve] like a snake40 but does not have a blemish, one may slaughter with it as an initial and preferred option. When the edge of a knife is smooth, but is not sharp, one may slaughter with it, since it does not have a blemish.41 Even though one passes it back and forth the entire day until the slaughter [is completed], the slaughter is acceptable.42

Halacha 18

When a sharp knife has been whetted, but its [blade] is not smooth, instead, touching it is like touching the tip of an ear of grain which becomes snarled on one's finger, [nevertheless,] since it does not have a blemish, one may slaughter with it.43

Halacha 19

When a person uproots a reed or a tooth or cuts off a flint or a nail, if they are sharp and do not have a blemish, one may slaughter with them.44 If one stuck them into the ground, one should not slaughter with them while they are stuck into the ground. [After the fact,] if one slaughtered [in such a situation],45 one's slaughter is acceptable.46

Halacha 20

When one slaughtered with these entities when they were connected from the beginning of their existence, before they were uprooted, the slaughter is unacceptable47 even if they do not have a blemish.

Halacha 21

If one took the jawbone of an animal that had sharp teeth and slaughtered with it, it is unacceptable, for they are like a sickle.48 When, however, only one tooth is fixed in a jaw, one may slaughter with it as an initial and preferred option, even though it is set in the jaw.49

Halacha 22

When one made a knife white-hot in fire and slaughtered with it, the slaughter is acceptable.50 If one side of a knife is [jagged-edge like] a sickle and the other side is desirable, [i.e., smooth,] one should not slaughter with the desirable side as an initial and preferred measure. [This is] a decree lest one slaughter with the other side. If one slaughtered [with it], since one slaughtered with the desirable side, the slaughter is acceptable.

Halacha 23

A slaughterer must check the knife at its tip and at both of its sides [before slaughtering]. How must he check it? He must pass it over and draw it back over the flesh of his finger and pass it over and draw it back51 over his fingernail on three edges, i.e., its tip and both of its sides so that it will not have a blemish at all. [Only] afterwards, should he slaughter with it.

Halacha 24

It must [also] be inspected in this manner after slaughter.52 For if a blemish is discovered on it afterwards, there is an unresolved doubt whether the animal is a nevelah.53 For perhaps [the knife] became blemished [when cutting] the skin and when he cut the signs, he cut them with a blemished knife.54

For this reason, when a person slaughters many animals or many fowl,55 he must inspect [the knife] between each [slaughter]. For if he did not check, and then checked [after slaughtering] the last one and discovered [the knife] to be blemished, there is an unresolved doubt whether all of them - even the first - are nevelot56 or not.57

Halacha 25

When one inspected a knife, slaughtered with it, but did not inspect it after slaughtering, and then used it to break a bone, a piece of wood, or the like, and afterwards, inspected it and discovered it to be unacceptable, his slaughter is acceptable. [The rationale is that] the prevailing assumption is that the knife became blemished on the hard entity which it was used to break.58 Similarly, if one was negligent and did not check his knife [after slaughtering] or the knife was lost before it could be checked, the slaughter is acceptable.59

Halacha 26

Whenever a slaughterer60 does not have the knife with which he slaughters inspected by a wise man61 and uses it to slaughter for himself, we inspect it. If it is discovered to be desirable [and passes] the examination, we, nevertheless, place him under a ban of ostracism [lest] he rely on himself on another occasion and then the knife will be blemished, but he will still slaughter with it. If [upon examination] the knife is discovered to be blemished, he is removed from his position and placed under a ban of ostracism. We pronounce all the meat that he slaughtered to be unacceptable.62

Halacha 27

How long must the knife with which one slaughters be? Even the slightest length, provided it is not [overly] thin to the extent that it pierces and does not slit63 like the head of a blade or the like.64

Halacha 28

When can one slaughter? Any time, whether during the day or during the night, provided that [at night] he has a torch65 with him so that he sees what he is doing.66 If a person slaughters in darkness, his slaughter is acceptable.67

Halacha 29

When a person inadvertently slaughters on Yom Kippur or the Sabbath,68 his slaughter is acceptable,69 even though were he to have been acting willfully he would be liable for his life70 or for lashes [for slaughtering] on Yom Kippur.71


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 146) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 451) include this among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. As mentioned at the beginning of the Mishneh Torah, the Ra'avad differs and does not consider this a mitzvah.


The Rambam's wording echo his statements in Hilchot Berachot 11:2: "There are other mitzvot that are not obligations, but resemble voluntary activities, for example, the mitzvah of mezuzah.... A person is not obligated to dwell in a house that requires a mezuzah in order to fulfill this mitzvah." Similarly, in the instance at hand, a person is not obligated to slaughter. If, however, he desires to eat meat, he must fulfill this mitzvah.


Note the Kessef Mishneh who elaborates, explaining that although Rashi does not interpret the verse in the same manner the Rambam does, there is support for the Rambam's interpretation.


I.e., in both instances, ritual slaughter is required. The Kessef Mishneh notes that Chulin 27b derives this equivalence from another source and explains why the Rambam cites this verse instead.


See the gloss of the Kessef Mishneh who explains that there are some differences between the laws governing the slaughter of each of these types of animals.


For the blessings for all mitzvot must be recited before their observance (Pesachim 7b).


We do not, however, say "to slaughter," for, as above, the mitzvah to slaughter is not obligatory. It is dependent on the person's desire (Hilchot Berachot 11:15).


For after the fact, the recitation of the blessings is not essential (Kessef Mishneh).


Partaking of the meat at this time does not, however, represent a transgression of the prohibitions against eating a limb or flesh from a living animal (see Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot, ch. 5). For once the animal has been slaughtered, these prohibitions no longer apply.


This prohibition is considered as a prohibition of a general nature (Hilchot Sanhedrin 18:2-3), i.e., prohibitions that include several diverse and unrelated acts, and lashes are not given for the violation of such prohibitions.


The Rambam's words provoke a question: Of course, this meat must be salted thoroughly as must all meat so that its blood will be removed (Hilchot Ma'achalot Assurot 6:10). Why would one think that this meat is different?

It would appear that the explanation is that other meat may be eaten if it is roasted or its blood sealed by being cast into vinegar (ibid.:12) and these options do not apply with regard to the meat in question.


One might think that man would have to gather them alive for them to be permitted. Hence the Rambam emphasizes that this is not so (Kessef Mishneh). The general principle is: Whenever the mitzvah of ritual slaughter does not apply, the prohibitions against eating flesh from a living animal and eating a dead animal do not apply.


The commentaries note that Shabbat 90b states that one who eats a live locust violates the prohibition: "Do not make your souls detestable." [See also Rama (Yoreh De'ah 13:1) who issues a similar warning with regard to partaking of live fish.) How the can the Rambam say that it is permitted?

Among the resolutions of this question are:

a) The passage in Shabbat refers only to a non-kosher locust, not a kosher one.

b) The Rambam, here, is saying that one may cut off part of a living locust and eat it, but not that one may eat an entire locust alive.

c) Here the Rambam is speaking with regard to the laws regarding ritual slaughter. He is not focusing on those involving other prohibitions.


In the following chapters, the Rambam proceeds to answer all of these questions.


I.e., in the Introduction that precedes Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah. There the Rambam explains that the Oral Law is called "the mitzvah," because it gives us instruction concerning the observance of the mitzvot. Without it, we would not know how to fulfill them.


As will be explained in Halachah 9, ritual slaughter involves cutting the gullet and the windpipe. In this halachah, the Rambam defines where the gullet may be cut.


In contrast to the surface of the gullet which is smooth.


I.e., the end of the throat, where it is attached to the jaw..


The animal is considered a nevelah and it is forbidden to partake of it. See Chapter 3, Halachah 18 (Kessef Mishneh, note Siftei Cohen 20:5).


This is the Rambam's interpretation of Chulin 44a. Rashi interprets that passage as referring to a space the size of four fingers. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 20:2) follows the Rambam's understanding, while the Rama cites that of Rashi.


The first of the fowl's stomachs. The crop is not considered part of the gller and it is forbidden to slaughter there.


The windpipe is made up of a series of rings. Above the top ring, there is a slanted covering that is called the cap.


When the animal extends its neck, the flanks of its lungs rise upward.


See Chulin 45a which discusses these questions but leaves them unresolved.


I.e., the place of slaughter on the neck should be aligned with the place of slaughter on the windpipe and the gullet in their natural position. In this instance, the external place of slaughter - the position on the neck - was correct, but the signs were not cut in the usual place.


This applies only after the fact. At the outset, one must slaughter in the center of the neck.


Since the acceptability of the slaughter is dependent on them, they are referred to as the simanim, "signs," i.e., indications that the slaughter is acceptable.


But not the majority.


See the Turei Zahav 21:2 who emphasizes that the difference in size need not be significant. As long as more than half is cut, the slaughter is acceptable.


But no more than half.


This is speaking about a situation where the animal is alive. The fact that an animal's windpipe is slit slightly does not cause it to be considered as a trefe. The Rama (Yoreh De'ah 21:5) adds that we must be careful that the gullet has not been punctured, for that would render the animal trefe. See the Turei Zahav 21:4 and the Siftei Cohen 21:5 who debate whether it is possible to rely on this leniency at present. See also Chapter 3, Halchot 6-7.


To make sure that the minimal measure for slaughter was slit.


Obviously, once the head is cut off, it is no longer possible to check.


Because of the doubt involved. See the following halachah.


This is the rationale for the stringency stated in the previous halachah (Kessef Mishneh).


The Kessef Mishneh notes that many marsh plants splinter easily and they are unacceptable for they will perforate the gullet.


Generally, it is accepted that a spike that can be detected by a fingernail disqualifies an animal. Nevertheless, the Rambam appears to be referring to an even smaller measure. His approach is followed by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 18:2) which speaks of a spike that is even the size of a hairsbreadth being sufficient to disqualify a knife.

Alternatively, it can be understood that the two are synanomous. This understanding is reflected by Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 1:14 which speaks about "a stone being blemished so that a fingernail would become caught in it like a knife used for ritual slaughter."


For the spike will perforate the gullet, rendering the animal trefe before the slaughter was completed (Maggid Mishneh).


The commentaries offer two explanations for this ruling. The Rambam's position is that when the spike is felt only on one side of the knife, one may slaughter with that side. Others add that the blemish must be positioned to the very far end of the knife, either near its point or near its handle. In such an instance, it is possible that the blemish never actually touched the signs and thus did not disqualify the ritual slaughter. See Shulchan Aruch [Yoreh De'ah and Rama (18:4)].


Who raises his head and tail, creating a curve for its body (Kessef Mishneh).


Since it does not have a blemish, it will not disqualify the signs.


Provided one does not interrupt the slaughter in the middle as stated in Chapter 3, Halachah 2.


The Rama (Yoreh De'ah18:6) writes that since it is difficult to understand what exactly is meant by such a knife, we do not permit this leniency.


As apparent from Halachah 14.


For example, by passing the animal's neck back and forth below the knife [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 6:4)].


As indicated by the following halachah, an entity may not be used for ritual slaughter if it is connected to its source. When an entity is stuck into the ground, it is not connected to its source and hence, after the fact, the slaughter is acceptable. Nevertheless, because of the similarity to the forbidden situation, initially, one should not use such an entity for slaughter.


Chulin 16a states that it is a Scriptural decree that the cutting edge used for slaughter must be a separate entity, something that one could take in his hand.


I.e., a blade with a jagged edge which is unacceptable as stated above.


Since the jaw as a whole is moveable, we are not concerned with the fact that the tooth is in a fixed position (Kessef Mishneh).


We do not say that rather than cut the signs, the knife burnt them. The latter would disqualify the slaughter.

It must be noted that the Tur (see also the gloss of the Radbaz) quotes the Rambam as ruling that the slaughter is unacceptable for the above reason. This approach is also followed by many other Rishonim. In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Caro states that the Rambam rules that the slaughter is acceptable. In his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 9:1), however, he quotes both views without stating which should be followed. All authorities agree that such a knife should not be used as an initial and preferred option.


Using the same motions as he would use to slaughter an animal.


The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam, maintaining that after ritual slaughter, no inspection is necessary unless the person desires to use the knife to slaughter another animal immeidately. In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Caro justifies the Rambam's ruling and he cites it in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 18:3).


This ruling also depends on the principle stated in Halachah 13, that during its lifetime, an animal is forbidden. Hence it is not permitted unless we are certain that it was slaughtered in a proper manner (Radbaz; Siftei Cohen 18:2).


And this would cause the slaughter to be unacceptable as mentioned above.


The Kessef Mishneh notes that since the skin of a fowl is soft, it is not very probable that this caused the blemish on the knife. Nevertheless, our Sages adopted this stringency.


See Chapter 3, Halachah 18, for the ramifications of this ruling.


I.e., it is possible that the knife could have become blemished when cutting the skin of the first animal. Hence, that animal - and all the subsequent ones - were slaughtered with an unacceptable knife.


Since he checked the knife at the outset and it was acceptable, we rely on probability. As long as we have a way of explaining how the knife was blemished, we do not say it was blemished on the animal's skin, for the likelihood of that happening is very low.


Here also, since the knife was inspected initially, there is no reason to suspect that the slaughter was unacceptable, we do not disqualify it [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 18:12)] .


This is referring to a slaughterer who slaughters on behalf of people at large, not only for his own private purposes.


The Radbaz notes that the Rambam's words appear to differ slightly from the simple meaning of Chullin 18a, his source. From Chullin, it appears that the necessity to show the knife to the wise man is a mere token of respect, while from the Rambam it appears that it is a necessary safeguard to check that the slaughter is kosher.

The difference between these approaches can lead to a variance in practice. If we say that this inspection is merely for the sake of respect, then the sages may forgo the respect due them and allow an expert to slaughter even though he does not present his knife. If, however, it is a necessary precaution to insure that the slaughter is performed correctly, an inspection is always necessary.

Both of these perspectives have continued to be given emphasis throughout the Rabbinic literature, although the halachah as prescribed by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 18:17) is that a sage may forgo the honor due him. The present custom in many slaughtering houses today is for the slaughterers to work in pairs and for one to check the knife of the other. At times, a visiting Rabbinic authority comes and he inspects the knives of all of the slaughterers.


I.e., we assume that not only on this occasion, but on others, he slaughtered using an unacceptable knife, thus disqualifying the meat.


As will be explained, ritual slaughter is accomplished by drawing the knife back and forth across the neck. If a knife is two small to enable this, it should not be used [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 8:1)].


See the Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 24:2) who quotes opinions that require a knife used to slaughter a animal to be twice the length of the animal's neck. The custom is also to use a knife of such measure for a fowl.


Two candles are considered a torch [Rama (Yoreh De'ah 11:1)].


Otherwise, it is possible that the animal will be slaughtered incorrectly without him realizing.


Nevertheless, it is forbidden to do so as an initial and preferred option [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 11:1)].


I.e., he was not aware that the day was either the Sabbath or Yom Kippur; alternatively, he did not know that it was forbidden to slaughter on these holy days.


The Turei Zahav 11:2 states that one must, nevertheless, wait until the conclusion of the Sabbath or Yom Kippur before partaking of the meat, as is the law when one cooks on the Sabbath.


For slaughtering on the Sabbath.


If he does so intentionally, he is considered as an apostate who desecrates the Sabbath and his slaughter is disqualified (the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, Chullin 1:1; see Chapter 4, Halachah 14). The Siftei Cohen 11:23 states that in certain instances the leniency would also apply if he slaughters intentionally.

Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here.
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
About the book
Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.
About the Publisher
Moznaim is the publisher of the Nehardaa Shas, a new, state-of-the-art edition of the Talmud and all major commentaries in 20 volumes. Click here to purchase or email the publisher at
Daily Quote
It's not the mouse who's the thief, but the mousehole
  –Talmud, Gittin 45a
This page in other languages