Kosher Slaughtering: An Introduction

A survey of some of the laws governing the slaughter of kosher animals for meat.

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5. It is forbidden to slaughter the parent with its young on the same day (Leviticus 22:28).

Defective Animals and Fowl

1. The Bible states, "Ye shall not eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field" (Exodus 22:30). This prohibition is taken to include other diseases or disorders that afflict the animal and cause it to die. Jewish tradition holds that eight kinds of trefah, that is, fatal organic defects that may afflict the animal and thereby render it unfit to be eaten, were imparted to Moses on Mount Sinai. They are (a) defects resulting from attack by a predatory beast or a bird of prey, (b) perforation or piercing of vital organs, (c) certain organs missing from birth, (d) non-congenital defects involving missing organs, (e) laceration or tearing of certain organs, (f) defects resulting from a fall, (g) severance of certain organs, and (h) fractures.

2. Since most animals are free of the above diseases or disorders, no special examination is required unless some defect is detected. However, the lungs of the animal must be carefully examined, since this is the area where defects are most likely to be found. Inspection must be done by one who is reliable and qualified, as it requires extensive knowledge of the laws and considerable skill and experience. (Note: Although Ashkenazim and Sephardim follow different procedures in their examination of the lungs in accord with the differing views of the Bet Yosef [Yosef Karo, Sephardic author of the Shulhan Arukh) and the Rama [Rabbi Moshe Isserles, Ashkenazi author of the classic Mapat Ha-shulhan commentary printed as part of the Shulhan Arukh], nonetheless an Ashkenazic Jew may eat meat in the home of a Sephardic Jew, because we do not presume that any problem developed that would have rendered the meat forbidden. However, if a specific problem arises, one is obliged to inform the other so that he may refrain from eating, in accordance with his own tradition.)

Removal of Forbidden Fat, Veins, and Sinews

1. The Bible considers certain fats in oxen, sheep, and goats to be forbidden (Leviticus 7:23-25). All forbidden fat (helev), such as fat covering the kidney, the spleen, and certain inward parts of the animal, must be removed before the meat is soaked and salted.

2. The "sinew of the thigh-vein that is upon the hollow of the thigh" is likewise biblically prohibited in animals (Genesis 32:33). Both the inner sinew and the outer sinew, and their branches, must be excised. (Note: Most of the forbidden fat and the sinew of the thigh vein are found in the hindquarters of the animal. Since their removal is difficult and must be done by one who is highly qualified, the hindquarters are not used for kosher meat in most Jewish communities, except where meat is not readily obtainable, as in Israel and some European communities.)

3. Veins and blood vessels are prohibited because of the blood that they contain that cannot be extracted by salting. Hence these forbidden veins, such as those in the forelegs, shoulder, lower jaws, tongue, neck, heart, and in the fat of the entrails, and other blood vessels and tissues must be removed before the meat is made kosher and cooked. In fowl, the blood vessels in the throat should be removed or cut through together with the neck. It is also customary to cut between the knee joints in order to reach the blood vessels that are there.

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Rabbi Gersion Appel, (1916-2008) D.H.L., Ph.D., served congregations in Worcester, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; New York City and Kew Gardens, New York; and was Professor of Philosophy at Stern College of Yeshiva University. He is the author of A Philosophy of Mitzvot.