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Shechitah - Chapter 4

Shechitah - Chapter 4

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When a Jew who does not know the five factors that disqualify ritual slaughter and the like concerning the laws of shechitah that we explained1slaughters [an animal] in private,2 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.3 When a person eats an olive-sized portion of its meat, he is worthy of stripes for rebellious conduct.


ישראל שאינו יודע חמשה דברים שמפסידין את השחיטה וכיוצא בהן מהלכות שחיטה שביארנו ושחט בינו לבין עצמו אסור לאכול משחיטתו, לא הוא ולא אחרים, והרי זו קרובה לספק נבלה והאוכל ממנה כזית מכין אותו מכת מרדות.


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 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.4 For example, he may wait, apply pressure to the animal's neck and slit it, slaughter with a blemished knife, or the like inadvertently.


ואפילו שחט בפנינו ארבע וחמש פעמים שחיטה כשרה והרי שחיטה זו ששחט בינו לבין עצמו שחיטה נכונה וגמורה אסור לאכול ממנה, הואיל ואינו יודע דברים המפסידים אפשר שיפסיד השחיטה והוא אינו יודע כגון שישהה או ידרוס או ישחוט בסכין פגומה וכיוצא באלו בלא כונתו.


[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.5 If, however, at the outset, he slaughtered in private, his slaughter is acceptable.6


ישראל שיודע הלכות שחיטה הרי זה לא ישחוט בינו לבין עצמו לכתחלה עד שישחוט בפני חכם פעמים רבות עד שיהיה רגיל וזריז, ואם שחט תחלה בינו לבין עצמו שחיטתו כשרה.


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 women7 and servants8 may slaughter as an initial and preferred option.


היודע הלכות שחיטה ושחט בפני חכם עד שנעשה רגיל הוא הנקרא מומחה וכל המומחין שוחטין לכתחלה בינן לבין עצמן ואפילו נשים ועבדים אם היו מומחין הרי אלו שוחטין לכתחלה.


When deaf-mute,9 an intellectually or emotionally imbalanced person, a child,10 or a drunkard whose mind became befuddled11 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.


חרש שוטה וקטן ושכור שנתבלבלה דעתו ששחטו שחיטתן פסולה מפני שאין בהן דעת שמא יקלקלו, לפיכך אם שחטו בפני היודע וראה אותן ששחטו כהוגן שחיטתן כשרה.


When a person whose reputation12 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,13 his slaughter is acceptable.14


מי שאינו יודע אצלנו ששחט בינו לבין עצמו שואלין אותו, אם נמצא יודע עיקרי הלכות שחיטה שחיטתו כשרה.


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.15 [The rationale for both these laws is] that the majority of people who slaughter are expert.16


הרי שראינו ישראלי מרחוק ששחט והלך לו ולא ידענו אם יודע אם אינו יודע הרי זו מותרת, וכן האומר לשלוחו צא ושחוט לי ומצא הבהמה שחוטה ואין ידוע אם שלוחו שחטה או אחר הרי זו מותרת, שרוב המצויין אצל שחיטה מומחין הן.


[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.17 Similarly, if he finds it on the waste dump at home, it is forbidden.18


אבד לו גדי או תרנגול ומצאו שחוט בבית מותר, שרוב המצויין אצל שחיטה מומחים הן, מצאו בשוק אסור שמא נתנבל ולפיכך הושלך, וכן אם מצאו באשפה שבבית אסור.


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.19 Similarly, a person who does not hear,20 may slaughter.


מומחה שנשתתק והרי הוא מבין ושומע ודעתו נכונה הרי זה שוחט לכתחלה, וכן מי שאינו שומע הרי זה שוחט.


A blind man should not slaughter as an initial and preferred option unless others supervise him.21 If he slaughters, his slaughter is acceptable.22


הסומא לא ישחוט לכתחלה אלא אם כן אחרים רואים אותו ואם שחט שחיטתו כשרה.


When a gentile slaughters, even though he slaughters in the presence of a Jew, [using] a finely [honed] knife,23 and even if he was a minor,24 his slaughter is a nevelah. According to Scriptural Law, one is liable for lashes for partaking of it,25 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.


עכו"ם ששחט אע"פ ששחט בפני ישראל בסכין יפה ואפילו היה קטן שחיטתו נבלה ולוקה על אכילתה מן התורה, שנאמר וקרא לך ואכלת מזבחו, מאחר שהזהיר שמא יאכל מזבחו אתה למד שזבחו אסור ואינו דומה לישראל שאינו יודע הלכות שחיטה.


[Our Sages] established a great safeguard concerning this matter, [decreeing] that even [an animal] slaughtered by a gentile who does not serve false deities26 is a nevelah.27


וגדר גדול גדרו בדבר שאפילו עכו"ם שאינו עובד ע"ז שחיטתו נבלה.


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,28 it is invalid.29 [The rationale is that] slaughter [is considered an integral act, a single continuity] from the beginning to the end.30 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.31


התחיל העכו"ם לשחוט מיעוט סימנין וגמר ישראל או התחיל ישראל וגמר העכו"ם פסולה, ישנה לשחיטתו מתחלה ועד סוף, אבל אם שחט העכו"ם דבר שאינו עושה אותו נבלה כגון ששחט חצי הגרגרת בלבד וגמר ישראל הרי זו כשרה.


A Jew who is an apostate because of his transgression of a particular transgression32 who is an expert slaughterer may slaughter as an initial and preferred option.33 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].34

If, by contrast, he was an apostate because of worship of false deities, one who violates the Sabbath in public,35 or a heretic who denies the Torah and [the prophecy of] Moses our teacher, as we explained in Hilchot Teshuvah,36 he is considered as a gentile and [an animal] he slaughters is a nevelah.


ישראל מומר לעבירה מן העבירות שהיה מומחה הרי זה שוחט לכתחלה וצריך ישראל כשר לבדוק את הסכין ואח"כ יתננה למומר זה לשחוט בה מפני שחזקתו שאינו טורח לבדוק, ואם היה מומר לעבודה זרה או מחלל שבת בפרהסיא או אפיקורוס והוא הכופר בתורה ובמשה רבינו כמו שביארנו בהלכות תשובה הרי הוא כעכו"ם ושחיטתו נבלה.


[Even though] a person is disqualified as a witness because of his violation of a Scriptural prohibition,37 he may [still] slaughter in private if he was an expert.38 For he would not leave something which is permitted and partake of something that is forbidden.39 This is a presumption that applies with regard to all Jews, even those who are wicked.


מי שהוא פסול לעדות בעבירה מן העבירות של תורה הרי זה שוחט בינו לבין עצמו אם היה מומחה, שאינו מניח דבר מותר ואוכל דבר איסור שזו חזקה היא על כל ישראל ואפילו הרשעים מהן.


These Tzadukkim, Beotosim, 40 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."41


אלו הצדוקין והבייתוסין ותלמידיהן וכל הטועים אחריהן שאינן מאמינים בתורה שבעל פה שחיטתן אסורה, ואם שחטו בפנינו הרי זו מותרת, שאין איסור שחיטתן אלא שמא יקלקלו והם אינן מאמינין בתורת השחיטה לפיכך אינן נאמנין לומר לא קלקלנו.


When the Jews were journeying through the desert, they were not commanded to slaughter non-sacrificial animals.42 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.


כשהיו ישראל במדבר לא נצטוו בשחיטת החולין אלא היו נוחרין או שוחטין ואוכלין כשאר האומות, ונצטוו במדבר שכל הרוצה לשחוט לא ישחוט אלא שלמים שנאמר איש איש מבית ישראל אשר ישחט שור וגו' ואל פתח אהל מועד וגו' למען אשר יביאו וגו' וזבחו זבחי שלמים לה' וגו', אבל הרוצה לנחור ולאכול במדבר היה נוחר.


This mitzvah43 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,44 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.


ומצוה זו אינה נוהגת לדורות אלא במדבר בלבד בעת היתר הנחירה, ונצטוו שם שכשיכנסו לארץ תאסר הנחירה ולא יאכלו חולין אלא בשחיטה, וישחטו בכל מקום לעולם חוץ לעזרה שנאמר כי ירחיב ה' אלהיך את גבולך וגו' וזבחת מבקרך ומצאנך אשר נתן ה' אלהיך וגו', וזו היא המצוה הנוהגת לדורות לשחוט ואחר כך יאכל..


The five factors mentioned in the previous chapter and how to prepare a knife [Kessef Mishneh; Rama (Yoreh De'ah 1:2)].


If, however, a wise man supervises his actions, the slaughter is acceptable, as indicated by Halachah 5. The Maggid Mishneh quotes the Rashba as ruling that such a person may slaughter in the presence of a wise man even as an initial and preferred option. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 1:3) accepts this ruling, but the Rama does not.


There is no factor that we see that would cause us to disqualify the slaughter. Nevertheless, since it is highly probable that he slaughtered the animal in a way that disqualified it and rendered it a nevelah, the animal is prohibited and placed in this category.


Moreover, even if afterwards, he is taught the laws of ritual slaughter and states that he observed them when he slaughtered the animal, the ruling is not revised. Since he did not know the laws at that time, we fear that he did not observe them (Kessef Mishneh).


This training process is still observed in the present age. Even though a person is familiar with the laws of ritual slaughter, he must first undergo apprenticeship under the guidance of a master and receive authorization to slaughter [Rama (Yoreh De'ah 1:1).


I.e., after the fact, since he knows the laws, we do not disqualify the slaughter.


The Rama (Yoreh De'ah 1:1) states that woman should not be allowed to slaughter as an initial and preferred option.


This refers to Canaanite servants whose Halachic status is the same as women. The Tur (Yoreh De'ah 1) rules that in general servants may not serve as ritual slaughterers. See Siftei Cohen 1:2.


See Halachah 9 which grants a person with only one of these handicaps to slaughter.


The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 1:5) states that this refers to a child who does not know how to maneuver his hands for ritual slaughter. If he knows how to maneuver his hands he may be given an animal to slaughter at the outset. The Rama emphasizes that even so, the child may only slaughter in the presence of others. He may not slaughter alone. Furthermore, the Rama states that it is not customary for a person to receive authorization to slaughter until he is eighteen. The Siftei Cohen 1:25, however, rules more stringently.


The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 1:8) states that one who becomes as drunk as Lot (see Genesis, ch. 19) may not slaughter. One who has not reached this stage of inebriation may slaughter at the outset. The Rama rules more stringently, stating that a person should never slaughter when drunk, for it is likely that he will disqualify the slaughter.


With regard to his proficiency in the laws of ritual slaughter.


Those mentioned in the previous chapter and how to check a knife; there is no need for him to be knowledgeable with regard to all the particulars of the laws of ritual slaughter.


The Kessef Mishneh explains that when there is no alternative (see the following halachah), we rely on the principle that most of those who slaughter are knowledgeable regarding its laws. Nevertheless, in this instance, since we have the opportunity to clarify the matter, we do so.


With regard to questions of business law, we rely on the presumption that an agent will perform the mission with which he was charged. We do not, however, accept this principle with regard to questions involving the Torah's prohibitions (Hilchot Terumot 4:6). Nevertheless, even if we know for certain that the agent did not slaughter the animal, we consider it as permitted because of the reason stated by the Rambam.


And when there is no alternative we can rely on this presumption.

From the statements of the Rama (Yoreh De'ah 1:1), it appears that there is a slight difference between the present age and the Talmudic period. In the Talmudic era, most people were proficient in both the laws and practice of ritual slaughter. In the present age, this applies only to those who are occupied professionally in this field. Nevertheless, the laws remain the same, for we assume that only a person who is knowledgeable will actually slaughter animals.


We are not speaking about a waste dump in the market place. In such an instance, all opinions would agree that the animal is forbidden. Instead, we are speaking about a situation where it was found in the marketplace at large. Chullin 12b records a dispute between two Sages concerning this matter and the Rambam chooses the more stringent ruling.


For the circumstances indicate that it was discarded.

As mentioned, there is a difference of opinion in the Talmud regarding this issue. Most Rishonim follow the more lenient view and rule that if the slaughtered animal is found in an ordinary place in the marketplace or in a waste dump at home, it is permitted. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 1:4) also follows this view.


Another person should recite the blessing for him [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 1:7)].


As long as he has the ability to speak, he is not considered to be intellectually underdeveloped.

Rabbenu Asher explains that such a person should not slaughter as an initial and preferred option, because there is a difficulty with his recitation of the blessing. For a person must recite a blessing in a manner that enables him to hear it and that is impossible for such an individual. Indeed, the Jerusalem Talmud (Terumot 1:6) rules that a person who is dumb should not separate terumah at the outset for that reason [Maggid Mishneh; Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 1:6)].


For we fear that he will err and not detect his error. The Siftei Cohen 1:35 quotes opinions that rule that a blind person should not slaughter even when others are watching him.


In this instance as well, the Siftei Cohen 1:36 mentions views that maintain that a person who was never able to see should not slaughter. Even after the fact, one should not partake of his slaughter.


And is well-versed in the laws of ritual slaughter [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Chullin 1:1)].


One might think that the slaughter of a minor has an advantage, because a minor's worship of idols is not significant.


Thus a gentile's slaughter is not recognized by Scriptural Law. See, however, the following halachah.

In his Commentary to the Mishnah (ibid.), the Rambam explains that the reason the animal is forbidden is that, in general, when a gentile slaughters, his intent is that the animal is an offering to his false deity, it is, however, permissible to benefit from the animal. We do not consider it as a sacrifice to idols (Chullin 13b; see Chapter 2, Halachah 2), because we assume the gentile is not really sincere in his worship, he is merely mimicking his ancestors.

Rabbeinu Asher differs and explains that the Scriptural command for ritual slaughter states: "And you shall slaughter," implying that the slaughtering must be a Jew. Hence, a gentile is inherently disqualified; his thoughts are of no consequence. See the Siftei Cohen 2:2 and the Turei Zahav 2:1 who discuss this issue.


E.g., a resident alien who accepts the Seven Universal Laws Commanded to Noah and his descendants (see Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 14:7).


According to the Rambam, if he does not serve false deities and knows the laws of ritual slaughter, his slaughter is acceptable according to Scriptural Law.

One might ask: If so, why is an animal slaughtered by a child a nevelah? A child is not liable for the service of false deities. The Lechem Mishneh answers that ultimately, the child will grow up and worship false deities.


See the Siftei Cohen 2:27 maintains that if the Jew slit the majority of the gullet and windpipe, the slaughter is acceptable even if the gentile completed it.


Thus if a gentile slit the majority of the windpipe or any portion of the gullet, the slaughter is disqualified [Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 2:10)].


See Hilchot Pesulei HaMukdashim 1:18 for another application of this principle.


For, as stated in Chapter 1, Halachah 11, even if the windpipe is half slit because of other factors, it can be slaughtered acceptably.


As the Rambam states in Hilchot Teshuvah 3:9, there is a concept of an apostate with regard to one transgression, i.e., "a person who has made a fixed practice of willfully violating a certain transgression [to the extent that] he is accustomed to transgressing and his deeds are public knowledge... provided he does so with the intent of angering God."


Although he repeatedly violates that particular transgression, we do not assume that he will not slaughter correctly.

In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Caro cites Chullin 4a which states that as long as if given a choice whether to eat kosher meat or non-kosher meat, the person would choose the kosher meat - even if he would partake of the non-kosher meat if kosher meat was not available - it is permitted to partake of an animal he slaughtered. The Kessef Mishneh continues, explaining that as long as one does not transgress with the intent of angering God, one may partake of an animal he slaughtered. In his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 2:5), he rules that an apostate who transgresses with the intent of angering God resembles a gentile and his slaughter is inherently unacceptable.

Kin'at Eliyahu notes that there is some difficulty with the Kessef Mishneh's interpretation, because Hilchot Teshuvah specifically states that a person is deemed an apostate only when his transgression is performed with the intent of angering God.


Although we do not assume that he will definitely transgress, it is logical to presume that he will not be careful in his observance.

Although it also cites the Rambam's view, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 2:6) mentions the opinion of the Tur and others who rule that if the person is not an apostate with regard to partaking of non-kosher meat, it is not even necessary to check his knife. He may slaughter in private. If, however, he is an apostate with regard to partaking of non-kosher meat, his knife must be checked. Moreover, if he shows no concern for kashrut at all, his slaughter is not acceptable [Rama (Yoreh De'ah 2:50].


See the conclusion of Hilchot Shabbat.


Hilchot Teshuvah 3:8.


See Hilchot Edut 10:1-3.


In this instance, the Rambam does not even require him to have another person observe him. Since his disregard for Jewish observance is not as severe as that of an apostate, he is allowed to slaughter on his own.


I.e., he would not slaughter the animal in an invalid way when it would be just as easy for him to slaughter it in an acceptable way.


Tzadok and Beotus were two of the greatest students of Antigonus of Socho. As the Rambam states in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Avot 1:3), after they heard Antigonus teach: "Do not be as servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward," they forsook Jewish practice, saying: "Is it just that we labor without receiving a reward?"

They began splinter sects with the intent of swaying the people after them. At first, they sought to abandon Jewish practice entirely. They saw, however, the people would not accept this and so they focused their complaints on the Oral Law, arguing that although the Written Law was of Divine origin, the Oral Law was not. Their intent, however, was to deny the entire Torah.


The Rambam appears to be saying that there is no inherent difficulty with these individuals slaughtering an animal. The only question is whether or not they slaughtered correctly. Hence, when it is possible to verify that the slaughter was performed correctly, the animal is permitted. They are not placed in the same category as apostates. Kin'at Eliyahu adds that, based on the previous halachah, these Tzadukim must also be Sabbath observant.


There is a difference of opinion concerning this point among the Sages (Chullin 17a). The Rambam follows Rabbi Akiva's perspective.


The obligation to offer as a sacrifice an animal which one desires to ritually slaughter.


See Chapter 2, Halachah 1.

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