The term ben pakua refers to a live fetus that is found in the womb of an animal after the animal has been slaughtered.1 What makes the discovery of a ben pakua unique is that according to Torah law, the fetus does not require shechita in order to be eaten; it may be killed in any manner. According to rabbinic law, however, a ben pakua must be ritually slaughtered like all other animals unless certain specific conditions are met. The Sages instituted this requirement due to the concern of marit ayin – lest onlookers be led to believe that one regularly eats meat that was not properly slaughtered.2
Some authorities rule that if the shechita of a ben pakua was not performed properly, such as if the knife used for the shechita was perforated, the meat may nevertheless be eaten since the requirement for shechita on a ben pakua is only a rabbinically-instituted stringency.3 Most other authorities disagree, however, and rule that the shechita of a ben pakua is no different from the shechita of any other animal.4
The permissibility of a ben pakua is derived from the words ba’beheima ota tocheilu, which teach that anything found inside a properly slaughtered animal is also permitted to be eaten, including another animal.5 This is because once one has slaughtered the mother, it is considered as if the fetus had been slaughtered as well. Indeed, it is noted that a pregnant cow is unfit to serve as the para aduma, the red heifer required for the ritual purification. This is because the shechita performed on a pregnant cow is considered to be a shechita performed on two animals at once, something that disqualifies a cow from being used as the para aduma.
Interestingly, if a ben pakua fathers a calf, the calf is forbidden to be eaten, as it is forbidden to slaughter such an animal. This is because the calf is considered to be a “half-slaughtered” animal, since it is the product of an animal that is considered to have been slaughtered although it is very much alive. According to halacha, an animal must be slaughtered in one act of shechita. In this case, however, if one were to slaughter this new calf, the slaughter would essentially be coming after a long interruption since the father had been first “slaughtered.” Since such a shechita is not considered to have been performed in one continuous motion, the shechita is invalid and the animal may not be eaten.6
So too, a ben pakua is disqualified from serving as a Korban Pesach. This is because the animal used for the Korban Pesach must have been born naturally and not by a caesarian section. Another reason is that the Korban Pesach must be slaughtered with the specific intention that it will be used as the Korban Pesach. Since a ben pakua is considered to have already been slaughtered, it is no longer possible to slaughter it for the express purpose of it being used as the Korban Pesach.7
- Chullin 74a.
- Chullin 75b; Aruch HaShulchan, YD 13:11.
- Rashba, Chullin 75b.
- Rosh, Chullin 84:6.
- Devarim 14:6.
- YD 13:4; Shach, YD 13:12.
- Rashi, Tosafot, Chullin 74b.