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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
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Home » Judaism » Parsha »

The Origin Of Shechitah


In this week’s Parshah, Re’eh, the Torah commands us that if we want to eat meat we must first shecht the animal. This command came as klal Yisrael were about to enter Eretz Yisrael. Hashem said that when klal Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael they will have wide boundaries and it will not be very convenient to always come to the Beis Hamikdash every time one wants to eat meat. Therefore if one wants to eat meat he may shecht an animal any place that he wishes, outside the Beis Hamikdash.

Whether klal Yisrael were permitted to eat meat that was not a korban in the midbar is a machlokes. Rabbi Yishmael maintains that they were allowed to eat meat only from a korban or from an animal unfit for a korban, namely a chaya (e.g., a deer). Rabbi Akiva maintains that in the midbar after klal Yisrael received the Torah they were allowed to eat meat from an animal without shechting it. The requirement to shecht an animal before eating it came into effect only when klal Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael, as is mentioned in this week’s parshah. According to Rabbi Akiva if one wanted to eat meat from an animal in the midbar he would have to perform a process called nechirah. Rashi explains that nechirah is cutting from the nostrils down to the tail.

According to both opinions the mitzvah to shecht animals which one wishes to eat began only when bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael. According to Rabbi Yishmael one was not permitted to eat such an animal prior to entering Eretz Yisrael, while according to Rabbi Akiva one was permitted to eat animals if he would perform nechirah.

The Gemara in Chullin 17a asks: According to Rabbi Akiva, after bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael, would one be allowed to eat the leftover steaks from an animal that one had performed nechirah on? The Gemara does not resolve the quandary, and leaves it as a teiku.

Rashi explains that this question has no halachic bearing on us today, and pertained only to that generation. In essence, Rashi says that the Gemara is only asking the question for “drosh v’kabel s’char.” This is the same phrase that the Gemara uses in explaining why the parshiyos of ben sorer u’morer; ir hanedachas; and a house with tzaraas were written in the Torah, despite the fact that they have never and will never actually occur. Drosh v’kabel schar – learn and receive reward.

The Rosh fundamentally disagrees with Rashi. He says that the Gemara would never contemplate a question that had no practical application. The Rosh therefore explains that this question can be applied to other common day applications. For example if one takes a neder upon himself not to eat a certain food beginning in a designated time, and he still has some of that food in his home when the neder begins. will he be able to continue eating those items that he had from before the neder began, or not. Alternatively, if beis din decides to forbid something such as cheese of an akum, and one has some still in his possession. The Rosh says that this would be similar to the Gemara’s question regarding the leftover steaks from an animal that had nechirah performed on it in the midbar.

Since the Gemara did not resolve the question it remains a safek. Therefore if the question pertains to an issur d’oraisa we will rule stringently. If the question regards an issur m’derabanan, then we will rule leniently, as is generally the case with all sfekei d’Rabanan.

The Shaarei Teshuvah in Orach Chaim 551:11 quotes the Birkei Yosef who extends the logic of the Rosh to the leftover meat from Shabbos Chazon (the Shabbos in the Nine Days). The meat that was prepared for consumption on Shabbos Chazon was permitted to be eaten on that Shabbos. When Shabbos is over the prohibition to eat meat during the Nine Days resumes. The leftover meat from Shabbos should fall under the same category as the meat left over from the midbar when klal Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael. Since refraining from eating meat in the Nine Days is only a minhag, we could be lenient and rule that one would be able to eat the leftover meat from Shabbos after Shabbos.

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5 Responses to “The Origin Of Shechitah”

  1. so complicated…..

  2. First attitude helps. Most Christians automatically are conflicted because Torah tends to be optional to them. But consider the sages are trying to solve real problems for people devoted to doing their utmost to follow God as much as possible. The emphasis is “being doers of the word” rather than “hearers” and spiritualizing things away, to use some Christian catchphrases. But at least you read the article and were interested. Yeah, it IS complicated. ;-)

  3. First attitude helps. Most Christians automatically are conflicted because Torah tends to be optional to them. But consider the sages are trying to solve real problems for people devoted to doing their utmost to follow God as much as possible. The emphasis is “being doers of the word” rather than “hearers” and spiritualizing things away, to use some Christian catchphrases. But at least you read the article and were interested. Yeah, it IS complicated. ;-)

  4. While I appreciate that as a convert I should learn Hebrew, and am working to do so, I cannot understand anything this article says. So, you only want Hebrew-speakers to learn? So frustrating.

  5. Lisa Deckter says:

    These are basic Hebrew words that refer to what you do everyday life. These words are used today in Hebrew no matter what language you speak. The words are translated into English as there is no word in English. So if you are convert then you really didn’t learn the lessons of Judaism.

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