Question & Answer With Rafi G. - Shechita & Reincarnation
A Simple Jew asks:
Commenting on Shemos 22:30, וְאַנְשֵׁי-קֹדֶשׁ, תִּהְיוּן לִי; וּבָשָׂר בַּשָּׂדֶה טְרֵפָה לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ, לַכֶּלֶב תַּשְׁלִכוּן אֹתוֹ. (Be holy people to Me. Do not eat flesh mangled in the field. Cast it to the dog), Me' am Lo'ez states,
"The wording of the verse is somewhat difficult to understand. The verse is speaking of a "mangled animal" (tereifa, טרפה), which is a feminine noun. We would expect the Torah to use the feminine word othah (אותה) for "it" in the phrase, 'throw it (othah) to the dog." Why does the Torah use the masculine otho (אותו)?
This alludes to the teaching that if a shochet does not slaughter animals properly, causing his fellow Jews to eat non-kosher meat, he is reincarnated as a dog and suffers accordingly. When the Torah literally says, 'throw him (otho) to the dog,' it is referring to such a slaughterer."
As a shochet who takes his responsibility and work extremely seriously, what is you thought about this severity of this teaching?
Rafi G. of Life In Israel responds:
That pshat from the Me'am Lo'ez is frightening. I just finished reading a book that described Judaism in the early part of the 20th century in the USA. The book described some of the conflicts and issues Jewish communities had to deal with at the time, when survival was very difficult.
A very large part of the discussion revolved around shechita and kashrus issues in general. The issues they had to deal with were awesome, considering what Judaism has achieved since then. They were struggling for basic survival as a community and had to deal with the great temptations of sweeping things under the rug in order to earn a meager living (true, some were doing it to make a lot of money as well). There were stories of shochtim and mashgichim who were covering up treifos and declaring them kosher, either because they were worried about losing their jobs, or because of other pressures.
I am not judging them, as there is nothing I can possibly experience that will simulate the hardships they had to contend with. There is no way I can understand the real pressures they were under to keep problems quiet, but I should point out that these great pressures that caused many to be nichshal also show how great and how much integrity the other shochtim who dealt honestly had and withstood those pressures.
The temptation to be machshir treifos is great. There is little oversight and it is easy to slip a treifa through the system declaring it kosher. No shochet, from my little experience, wants the animals coming under his knife to be treifos. Everyone wants to be successful, shochtim included, and want all his shechitas to be kosher.
Unfortunately, we are all human and not every shechita is going to come out perfect. Shochtim have bad days like anybody else. They are tired from working long hours, their senses could be dulled, they might be pressured to shecht too fast, or a myriad of other reasons why a shochet might have a bad day and a shechita might be no good, aside from the financial pressures of having to be matrif an animal that could cause hundreds to thousands of dollars of loss to the owner.
The shochet who gives in to those pressures and declares a treifa to be kosher and is thereby being "maachil treifos l'Yisroel" is doing a horrible misdeed. He is taking advantage of a trust placed in him by the jewish people. Such a shochet should be thrown to the dogs, because of his abusing our trust. That statement in the Torah as explained by the Me'am Lo'ez shows how serious a breech it is, and I think it is because of the trust we place in the shochet and the ease with which he can subvert it.
We should, however, focus on something else. The shochet who withstands those pressures. He is a tzaddik y'sod olam. He is, at great sacrifice to himself and under great pressure, staying faithful to that trust. He is helping Klal Yisrael fulfill the mitzvos of keeping kosher. The temptations and the ease with which he could do otherwise, make his reward all that much greater.