Thursday, January 31, 2008

Question & Answer With Rafi G. - Shechita & Reincarnation

(Painting by Nat Dickinson)

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.

12 Comments:

At January 31, 2008 at 8:27:00 AM EST, Blogger Rafi G said...

your graphics are always so amazing. where do you find your images?

 
At January 31, 2008 at 8:29:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks for the compliment. I simply use Google images.

 
At January 31, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM EST, Anonymous m said...

I recall a teaching in likutei eitzos going something like: "if the shochet doesn't intend to uplift the soul of the animal he's shechting, than he's no better than a murderer..."
Anyone knows where it is exactly in likutei eitzos?

 
At January 31, 2008 at 12:22:00 PM EST, Blogger A Talmid said...

It's in Likutei Eitzos in the section on parnasa. The source is Likutei Mohoran 37:6 where Reb Nachman says that an "unfit" shochet causes a lack of parnasa to Klal Yisroel.

 
At January 31, 2008 at 12:30:00 PM EST, Blogger A Talmid said...

Here is a PDF of the English translation of Likutei Eitzos. The passage can be found on page 89, paragraph #21.

 
At January 31, 2008 at 3:13:00 PM EST, Anonymous m said...

Thank you A Talmid.
Now, it seems to be talking about a shchita which is completely kosher al pi halacha... The exact lashon is "v'eino sham b'shas habracha - he (the shochet) is not THERE when he's making a bracha", i.e. he makes the bracha without thinking, like many people do unfortunatelly. This seems like something very hard to control, and even a shochet who's a jew with basic yiras shamaim could on occasion say the bracha without "being there". Now, the bracha doesn't make shchita pasul, so the meat is definitelly kosher halachikally, and yet...

Seems like a pretty serious issue, especially with commercialised shechting nowdays. Anyone got any thoughts?

 
At January 31, 2008 at 7:06:00 PM EST, Blogger Adam said...

I saw some of the footage of modern factory style shechita that has unfortunately been floating around on the internet. While I was not shocked by the parts of the slaughter that were sadly stressed as being inhumane(slaughtering meat is blood business regardless of how you do it), I was amazed by how nonchalant the shochet seemed about the whole thing. Granted, the man was a professional, and likely had done this over 1000 times. Yet some of the beauty and spirituality that oddly enough exists in the laws of shechita just were not there. Or at least I could not see them.

I must say that I have often considered not eating meat anymore. In part due to some of the concerns over the modern kosher meat industry that surface from time to time, in part due to the seeming lack of spirituality that is in the modern kosher meat industry. While all food preparation and eating has spiritual sides to them, this element seems to be espcially present regarding kosher meat.

That being said, I rarely eat much meat. I do not have much of an urge for it, prefering fish, and we usually don't make meat during the week, limiting it to shabbos and yom tov.

 
At January 31, 2008 at 10:05:00 PM EST, Blogger Gandalin said...

A minor point, but it is evident after all isn't it that the soul of a human being can in fact be (re)incarnated as an animal, hence the idea that animals do not have a soul is false. They do not have a neshomo, but the nefesh is immortal, too. An animal is a nefesh chaya as much as a human being, indeed it is evident that human beings have an animal nature as part of their overall structure.

 
At February 1, 2008 at 5:24:00 AM EST, Anonymous m said...

Adam: here're two great articles about the spirituality in eating meat. The first article also discusses if it's recommended for regular peopel to eat meat at all during the week:
http://www.koshertorah.com/PDF/noah.pdf
and http://koshertorah.com/PDF/ekev-defending_torah_secrets.pdf (towards the end of article).

 
At February 1, 2008 at 1:01:00 PM EST, Blogger Adam said...

m,

(Is that a James Bond reference?)

Thanks for the links. I am a fan of Rabbi Bar Tzaddok and have read these articles before, and they have certainly been helpful.

I'll mention that I don't have an objection to meat eating as such. As I mentioned, I love fish, so its not do to an objection to eating animals. I just question why I should be eating meat and some of the aspects of the modern kosher meat industry.

I think was Herman Wouk who writes that his grandfather never ate meat the whole time he lived in the US (over 20 years), as he could not find a shochet he truely trusted. The only exception was when he shechted chickens himself.

While I am perhaps not cut from that kind of cloth, I find this level of dedication inspiring and thought provoking.

 
At February 1, 2008 at 1:40:00 PM EST, Anonymous Sid Salad said...

I wonder what you imagine the Beis HaMikdosh looked like on Erev Pesach?

I don't think "spirituality" is something we can see or define on such emotional-intuitive grounds.

Nevertheless, there is no obligation to eat meat b'zman hazeh, except to increase simchas Yom Tov (and oneg Shabbos according to some views, although this is more of a minor issue). If a person prefers to be a vegetarian, there is nothing wrong with this choice halachically. In fact, there are even some authorities who regard vegetarianism favorably (Akeidas Yitzchak, Ikkarim, Kli Yakar, Rav Kook, etc.), as you probably know. The hardest thing is to follow a diet that is so different than that of one's family and community. But there are plenty of frum vegetarians around these days!

 
At February 1, 2008 at 2:38:00 PM EST, Blogger Adam said...

I can imagine that it looked rather glorious.

Thousand coming in groups, bringing their korbans to the Beis HaMikdash to fulfil the mitzvah of pesach and eating their meals together. The shear number of sacrifices being preformed within that time and with in that space are must have been a testament to the Divine reality of the mitzvah. G-d willing will all get to eperience this soon with the coming of Moshiach.

The cellophane wrapped chicken or nitrate filled hotdog that has been frozen and shipped from somewhere in the mid-west to my local store, almost giving the illusion that the animal it came from never existed to begin with, is a far cry from the above scene.

Intuition has little to do with it.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home