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Aiding Or Abetting?
Due To Suspicion, We Check
(Chullin 12a, Rashi)

 

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The Shulchan Aruch rules, “One need not examine for any treifos…except for the lung…. May a snake bite anyone who breaches the fence and eats without examination” (Yorah De’ah 39:1).

 

Examining the Lung: Biblical Or Rabbinical?

All the Rishonim on our sugya emphasize that the obligation to examine the lungs is not biblical. Our sugya states that we should follow the majority, and since most animals are not treifah and are assumed (bechezkas) to be healthy and kosher, there is no obligation to examine them. They may be eaten without bedikah as long as no suspicion has arisen that obligates examination.

Strictly speaking, the lungs also do not need examination. Yet, as the Rambam writes, “Although it appears from the Gemara [that bedikah is unnecessary], the common custom is [to check]…and one examines the lung…” (Hilchos Shechitah 11:7). According to some Rishonim, examining the lungs was not required in the Talmudic era (Mordechai, Chulin, 3:619, in the name of Rabeinu Baruch), and the Geonim rule that it is not required as well (Meiri, Chulin 9a).

However, the Ramban and the Rashba (9a) prove that the Talmudic sages did require bedikah and checking, therefore, is a rabbinical decree (see Pri Megadim, preface to 39).

 

Reasons for Examination

The Rishonim offer a few reasons for this decree. According to Rashi (on our daf, s.v. Pesach), since there is a reasonable suspicion that a lung will be found to be a treifah, the sages said we cannot rely on the majority.

Some say (see the Rashba, 9a) that since common treifos of the lung are visible, a treifah lung is likely to be revealed later, forcing everyone who bought parts of that animal to discard anything they cooked from it. The Chachamim, though, suspected that not everyone would withstand the temptation and so required bedikah.

The Pri Megadim adds (ibid.) that bedikah of the lungs is very simple compared to bedikah for other treifos, and therefore Chazal required it.

 

Slaughter the ‘Pig’

We now turn to a halachic question that was posed to poskim: An observant shochet was asked to work for a Jew who wanted his animals shechted but said he didn’t care about treifos. Was he allowed to forgo checking the animal?

If the shochet didn’t check the animal, the consumer eating the meat later on would be violating a rabbinical decree against eating meat whose lungs haven’t been checked. Yet, he wouldn’t be violating a Torah law since a person is allowed, biblically, to rely on the fact that the majority (rov) of animals are fine.

On the other hand, if the shochet did check the animal – and the lungs turned out to be problematic – the consumer eating the meat later on would be violating a biblical prohibition against eating a treifah.

Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l, author of Har Tzvi (Responsa, Yorah Deah 19), instructed the shochet not to examine the animal as we sometimes “tell a person to sin so that your companion will [avoid a greater sin].” In this instance, he was not even being asked to sin; he was being asked to do nothing.

Furthermore, the obligation to examine is not incumbent on the shochet but on the consumer. Thus, not examining yields greater benefits than examining. Not examining results in a rabbinic prohibition; examining may result in a biblical prohibition.

 

A Dissenting View

The author of Tzitz Eliezer (Responsa 9:36) rejects this decision for a few reasons. First, he says the rule that we sometimes “tell a person to sin so that your companion will [avoid a greater sin]” only applies when, if not for the minor sin, the major sin would certainly be transgressed. In this case, there is no certainty that the animal will be found to be a treifah and that a sin will occur. On the contrary, the animal will probably not be a treifah.

Second, the rule only applies when one’s companion won’t wind up sinning at all as a result. In this instance, though, other people would wind up sinning by eating unexamined meat. Therefore, the shochet should, in fact, check the animal, he ruled.

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.