Kosher Slaughtering: An Introduction

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

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This articles covers only some of the more general provisions of the law; additional details may be found in Rabbi Appel’s book and other written sources, but questions about specific instances should be directed to a competent rabbinic authority. For an explanation of the references to “salting and soaking” meat, see the accompanying article, “Making Meat Kosher: Between Slaughtering and Cooking.” Reprinted, with permission from KtavPublishing, from The Concise Code of Jewish Law, Volume 1.

Laws of Slaughtering

1. It is a positive commandment of the Torah that whoever wishes to eat meat must first slaughter the animal, as it is written, “Thou shalt slaughter of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat within thy gates, after all the desire of thy soul” (Deuteronomy 12:21). (Note: Administering electric shock to an animal prior to shehitah [kosher slaughtering] is prohibited, because it incapacitates the animal and renders it a trefah [animal unfit to eat]. It is forbidden to eat the meat of such an animal. The prohibition extends, as well, to administering an anesthetic, in the form of a drug and the like, since it may endanger the health and life of the animal and render it trefah prior to shehitah.)

kosher slaughteringThis commandment applies equally to cattle, to animals, and to fowl. A limb torn or cut from a living animal is forbidden. An animal that is not slaughtered, but dies of itself, is prohibited. The laws regarding the precise method of slaughter are not stated in the Bible, but were given orally to Moses on Mount Sinai, as indicated in the verse by the statement, “as I have commanded thee,” that is, as I have already instructed you. [The function of this previous sentence is to make a link between rabbinically developed laws regarding implementation of these laws and what is traditionally understood as the revelation—of both oral and written Torah (which can be translated as both “teaching” and “law”)—at Sinai.]

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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.

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