Author Archives: Rabbi Gersion Appel

About Rabbi Gersion Appel

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.

Jewish Compassion for All Creatures

Reprinted, with permission from Ktav Publishing, from The Concise Code of Jewish Law, Volume 1.

While the Torah permits eating meat, which entails the taking of the life of an animal because it is necessary for man’s sustenance, the laws of shehitah [kosher slaughter] assure that the animal is slaughtered in the most humane manner possible. [The medieval scholar] Maimonides notes that although shehitah is primarily a test of man’s obedience to the will of God, it is intended specifically “to ensure an easy death and to effect it by suitable means” (Guide of the Perplexed 111, 26). The eating of blood, deemed to be the life force of the animal, is likewise prohibited, in keeping with Judaism’s profound reverence for all manner of life.
compassion for all creatures
Slaughtering an animal is a divine dispensation, it being permitted only when it serves a human need, such as food or health. Killing an animal, or inflicting pain needlessly, as in hunting for sport, is wanton destruction, and violates the biblical law against causing suffering to a living creature (tza’ar ba’al hayyim). Maimonides explains the object of the law as follows, “There is a rule laid down by our Sages that it is directly prohibited in the Law to cause pain to an animal…but the object of this rule is to perfect us, so that we should not acquire habits of cruelty and should not inflict pain gratuitously without any utility, but we should be kind and merciful to all living creatures, except in case of need…. We must not kill animals out of cruelty or for sport” (Guide of the Perplexed 111, 17; see Sefer Hahinnuch, Mitzvah 186).

The Torah seeks to cultivate humane and compassionate feelings for animals, as well as for human beings, in emulation of God, whose “tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalms 145:9). Such is the intent of the law prohibiting the slaughter of an animal and its offspring on the same day. Similarly, it is forbidden to muzzle the ox when it treads the corn, a prohibition that applies to all animals employed in labor. The yoking of two animals of diverse species is forbidden. In the opinion of some authorities, this is because it must result in anguish and pain to one of the animals (Sefer Hahinukh, Mitzvah 550; A. Ibn Ezra, Commentary to the Torah, Deuteronomy 22:10).

Making Meat Kosher: Between Slaughtering and Cooking

Once an animal considered acceptable for consumption has been slaughtered according to the prescribed method, there is still more to be done before the meat is considered kosher and fit to eat. This article covers only some of the provisions of the law in this area; 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. It should be noted that in many cases kosher butchers have already done the salting and soaking required before meat is sold to a consumer. Reprinted, with permission from Ktav Publishing, from The Concise Code of Jewish Law, Volume 1.

Prohibition of Eating Blood

1. The blood of cattle, beasts, and fowl, whether of a clean or an unclean species, is forbidden, as it is written, “Therefore I said unto the children of Israel: No soul of you shall eat blood… Ye shall not eat the blood of any flesh… Whosoever eateth it shall be cut off” (Leviticus 17:12, 14). Apart from removing the veins and blood vessels, the blood must also be extracted from the meat through salting or broiling, as will be explained later. 

Salting and Soaking of Meat

1. It is forbidden to cook meat that has not been koshered by salting it and drawing out the blood. However, before the meat is salted it must be thoroughly rinsed with water, and soaked entirely submerged in water for half an hour. All blood that is visible should be washed off the meat. In the case of fowl, the place where the incision was made in slaughtering it should be washed, and any blood visible inside the fowl must also be washed away. Lumps of coagulated blood resulting from a wound, that are sometimes found in cattle and fowl, must be cut away and removed before the meat is soaked. If the water is very cold, it should first be put in a warm place to take the chill out before the meat is soaked in it, because the cold water would harden the meat and the salt would then fail to draw out the blood.

Kosher Slaughtering: An Introduction

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.]