Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Rabbi Klass,

It has been a while now that a number of countries, where Jews reside, have outlawed shechita – Jewish ritual slaughter. Especially disturbing is what is happening now in Greece and Belgium, since they portray shechita as being cruel. What are we as Jews to do? Is there any recourse for us in this matter so fundamental to our people?

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M. Goldblum
Via e-mail

 

Synopsis: Last week we discussed the difficulties faced by Jewry post-Holocaust in rebuilding itself. The attack on shechita in many countries is just another manifestation of this difficulty. In Poland today one may not so much as attribute any Polish complicity with the Nazi regime in any of the wrong – the atrocities to the Jewish people that occurred during the Holocaust. For them to forbid shechita is galling. However, now we are faced with so many other countries such as Greece, Belgium, Australia, and New Zealand, all with Jewish populations, joining the bandwagon in outlawing shechita, causing great trepidation for their Jewish citizens. Not all of the problem should be attributed to anti-Semitism, as there is a movement to equate animals with humans, a view to which the Torah does not subscribe. Last week I noted my own late father’s lobbying efforts in Albany, New York, on behalf of shechita and the Sunday Blue laws. I also cited the editorial in The Jewish Press that documented the efforts of the late Dr. Isaac Lewin, z”l, who proved the humaneness of kosher shechita, and its successful defense before the United States Supreme Court by his celebrated son, noted attorney Nat Lewin, on behalf of COLPA (the National Commission on Law and Public Affairs).

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Answer: That the gentile political establishment enacts laws and issues decrees contrary to our Jewish faith is bad enough, but when our fellow Jews succumb to this talk it is unfortunately due to their being ignorant of their rich Jewish heritage and its laws. What they fail to realize is that our method is not only the correct way, but it is the most humane manner of rendering an animal fit for human consumption. Therefore, if it is acceptable to the Jew whose kashrut laws include such high standards, it should surely be acceptable to the gentile.

The Talmud (Chullin 33a) discusses this very matter – whether something that is acceptable to Jews could be forbidden to gentiles. The question considered there is the following: is it permitted to give a gentile the innards of an animal to eat?

First one must understand the means of our shechita – ritual slaughter. According to the Mishnah (Chullin 27a), the two simanim (signs), the kaneh (windpipe) and the veshet (gullet), must both be cut to render a valid shechita. However, that in itself does not render the animal edible; the animal must be fully rendered dead (read convulsing post-slaughter below) before eating from it, as the Torah in Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:26) states: “Lo tochlu al ha’dam… – You shall not eat over the blood…” According to Rashi citing the Gemara (Sanhedrin 63a), this means that the animal must be dead before it is permitted for consumption. However, any meat that was cut from the animal immediately after the shechita, even if at that moment the animal was not yet dead, may be eaten by a Jew after the animal actually dies. That a Jew may eat that meat is simply because the Torah instructs Jews to slaughter in this manner. The bottom line is that this is the way an animal becomes permitted for Jews to eat. Important to remember is that nothing in our Torah or Talmud is inhumane.

Further to our discussion and even more important is the following, as we refer to the Mechaber (Yoreh De’ah 17:1, based on Chullin 37a) one finds the following: “If one slaughters an animal that is presumed healthy and it did not convulse – ve’lo pirchasa [following the slaughter] it is permissible. But if one slaughters an animal that is seriously compromised [close to death – and how that manifests is] that if one seeks to raise the animal but it won’t stand [on its feet] even though it eats the [same] feed of healthy animals, if it was slaughtered and it did not convulse at all it is to be deemed nevelah and anyone who consumes of its flesh is punishable by lashes.”

Now we see that an animal presumed healthy is not necessarily the optimal state since such an animal is “permitted” only post facto, but not a priori; rather, the optimal state of an animal that is healthy is that it exhibits all signs of vitality. Now, we don’t always know the exact state of health of every animal; thus, post-slaughter convulsing or wagging of its tail is a great sign of the animal’s vitality. Should the animal be stunned prior to slaughter there will be no convulsion and the question arises as to what brought about the animal’s death – Was it the slaughter or the stunning that preceded it? We may never know.

For those Jews who are meticulous in their observance of all the laws of the Torah no less than the laws of kashrut, any impediment to slaughter in the manner prescribed by our Talmud presents an infringement of their religious rights.

On the other hand, gentiles are not commanded to slaughter and as far as they are concerned, shechita has no consequence. But be aware that for them, according to the Noahide laws (which are incumbent upon them though, due to ignorance, those who observe these laws are minuscule in numbers), a dying animal from which a limb or any meat was removed before death remains forever forbidden as it is “ever min ha’chai – a limb from the living.”

Indeed, Rav Acha bar Yaakov believes that the lungs and intestines of an animal that are cut off before its death are forbidden to gentiles. But the Gemara cites Rav Papa’s opinion: “Is there anything permitted to Jews that is forbidden to gentiles?” In other words, it cannot be that there is any food of which a Jew may partake that would in turn be forbidden to a gentile.

The Tur (Yoreh Deah 27) rules: “If one [the shochet] cuts [a piece of meat] from the animal after it was slaughtered properly albeit that it was still mefarcheset (moving about convulsively) – it is forbidden to eat it [that piece of meat] as long as the animal remains alive. However, after the animal has died, it is permissible to eat it and to give a gentile to eat from it; one may even feed its intestines to a gentile….”

Interestingly, the Mechaber (Y.D. 27:1), in recording the same halacha, makes no mention of the permissibility of feeding to a gentile. Yet the Shach (ad loc. sk2) is quick to cite the Tur who rules that after the animal dies one may feed it to a gentile. We thus see how far this halacha goes – it even transcends the normal Noahide prohibition.

The above is from a purely halachic rule. However, there is another aspect based on relative values. The Jewish people are considered bnei Melachim (princes, lit. children of kings), and as such, they are bound by the wider strictures of the Torah, the 613 mitzvot (precepts), as opposed to the gentile, who is bound by only the seven Noahide laws. Among other things, we are restricted in the foods that we may eat. Logically, if Hashem allowed the Jew a certain food, He certainly did not forbid that same food for a gentile.

To be continued

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.