Tractate Chulin: Hakol Shochatin
By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi
With Hashem’s help we have finished Menachos and now we pass from the realm of kodshim to the realm of chullin – the mundane. Chullin is one of the longest tractates in the Talmud and its sugyos treat practical and most important subjects. It is one of the most varied tractates as it addresses a number of utterly different topics and therefore learners find much interest and satisfaction because of the many concepts they discover.
The tractate before us: First we shall learn the details of slaughtering, without which an animal is a neveilah. In the third chapter we shall learn about the signs of treifah and the signs of kashrus of land animals, fish and locusts. In the next chapter we shall complete different details of the topics learnt in the previous chapters and especially concerning the embryo of a slaughtered animal (ben peku’ah) and the impurity of a neveilah. Further on, the chapters are full of different subjects accompanying slaughtering and kashrus. In Chapter 5 we shall examine the details of the negative mitzvah not to slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day and in the next chapter we shall explore the mitzvah to cover up the blood of a slaughtered wild animal or fowl. In Chapter 7 we shall learn about the prohibition of gid hanasheh and Chapter 8 is devoted to the prohibition of meat and milk. In these chapters we shall also become aware of the great questions of mixtures. The halachos of a limb from a live animal and the impurity of a neveilah are detailed in Chapter 9 and in Chapter 10 and 11 we shall learn halachos concerning gifts to kohanim. The final chapter addresses the mitzvah of shiluach haken (chasing away a mother bird before taking its eggs).
After we finish chullin, we shall again learn about kodshim. chullin is like an island of matters of mundane meat among the tractates dealing with kodshim and some say that it is therefore called chullin or Shechitas chullin, as Rashi often calls it. Rambam (in the preface to his commentary on the Mishnah) explains that chullin was placed after Zevachim and Menachos because the Torah also treats the halachos of sacrifices and then addresses eating mundane meat: “Yet as much as you desire you shall slaughter and eat meat” (Devarim 12:15).
Who is fit to be a shochet?
In the first paragraph of the first chapter of Yoreh De’ah the Remo details who is fit to serve as a shochet: “He shouldn’t slaughter, though he is an expert and knows the halachos of shechitah, till he slaughters three times before a chacham expert in the halachos of shechitah, so that he knows that he is expert and will not faint (Tur in the name of Rambam). Therefore, we are accustomed that no one slaughters unless he received a kabalah (approval to slaughter) from a chacham. The chacham does not grant him a kabalah unless he knows that he knows the halachos of shechitah and is expert with his hands. Therefore we are accustomed to rely on anyone who comes to slaughter (that he surely received a kabalah)… and in some places they have the custom to be stricter, that the recipient takes a written kabalah as proof. Every shochet, though he has a kabalah, should review the halachos of shechitah from time to time, that he should be expert in them not to forget them (Rav Yaakov HaLevi in the name of the Maharash). The same applies to the halachos of examining the lungs and to the bodeik – the person who examines – their halachah and custom are equal in this entire matter. And the beis din should inspect the bodekim and shochetim to see that they should be expert and kosher (Mahariu, 50) for the hazard of any transgression concerning shechitah and bedikah, accessible to everyone, is immense.”
How often must he review of the halachos of shechitah: When the Remo said “from time to time”, he meant that a shochet should review the halachos every month! (Baer Heiteiv, S.K. 8). Beer HaGolah wrote in the Maharil’s name that during the first 30 days of his position a shochet should review the halachos of slaughtering and examination every day. After the first 30 days he should review them every 30 days and when he completes his first year, he should review them once in a while but if he doesn’t do so, his slaughtering is disqualified!
ShUB: shochet ubodek: It has always been known that a shochet must be an outstandingly G-d-fearing person and the title Shub, the initials of shochet ubodek is a source of pride to many, such that some adopted it as their family name. The need for an outstandingly G-d-fearing slaughterer is not mere stringency but concerns the basic halachos of slaughtering, as follows.
The three phases of shechitah: The process of rendering an animal fit to eat by shechitah consists of three phases: (1) examining the knife, (2) slaughtering, (3) examining the lungs.
Examining the knife: Rabeinu Yonah writes in his Sha’arei Teshuvah (sha’ar 3, os 96) that examining the knife demands extreme scrupulous care: “And regarding someone who is not conscientious, his heart will not understand to be meticulous about examining the knife for he must greatly concentrate all his attention on his examination. You will see that a person sometimes checks two or three times without detecting a slight fault and then he finds it, for he concentrated the last time.” Indeed, the task of examining the knife was given to the chacham or Rabbi and a shochet who didn’t show his knife to the Rabbi before slaughtering would be ostracized (chullin 18a)! Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 18:17) maintains that in later eras the custom arose to appoint special people for this task and the Rabbi relinquishes his honor to them as they are scrupulously careful. In fact, the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav (18, Kuntres Acharon, S.K. 9) maintains that the Rabbanim only relinquished their honor for G-d-fearing people but others are not allowed to examine knives!
Slaughtering: One witness is believed regarding prohibitions (chullin 10b), as opposed to halachos of property and marriage, which require at least two witnesses. According to the Reem, one witness is still not believed to testify that an animal was properly slaughtered as, opposing his testimony there is a chazakah (previous knowledge) of prohibition to eat the (unslaughtered) animal, and one witness is not believed against a chazakah. Only a witness known to be faithful and kosher may testify (Mordechai, chullin, §579). There is therefore a need for a G-d-fearing shochet because otherwise, if he slaughtered an animal alone, he is not believed to testify that he slaughtered it properly. We emphasize that the Reem’s opinion was not accepted as halachah (see Pri Megadim in the preface and „Aroch HaShulchan, 4). But all the poskim repeatedly warn that we must eat from the shechitah of a G-d-fearing and scrupulous shochet, as Baer Heiteiv asserts (S.K. 29): “Not to give a kabalah to anyone who is frivolous but only to the G-d-fearing.”
Examining the lungs: An examination of the lungs is conducted to eliminate the possibility of a hole or another disorder of the lung, rendering the animal treifah. Though most animals are not treifah, one must examine the lungs because of the frequency of treifos (Shach, ibid) and Shulchan Aruch warns (Y.D. 39:1): “Anyone who breaches the fence – to eat without examination – should be bitten by a snake.”
Only the G-d-fearing may be lenient: Regarding two types of suspected treifah that could occur in a lung, Shulchan Aruch states (ibid, se’if 11 and 13) that in certain instances we may be lenient but he limits his statement: “We rely on this leniency only in case of an outstandingly G-d-fearing and kosher examiner.” We thus see that the need for an outstandingly G-d-fearing ShuB is essential, as otherwise one must not be lenient.
The Chasam Sofer zt”l decreed a fast in his yeshivah before learning chullin according to Sefer Chasidim (261 and 1012; Mekor Chesed on Sefer Chasidim, 261, remark 6). Some believe that the reason is because of the danger that arises when a person demonstrates the matters of slaughtering and treifos on his own body (Sichas chullin in the preface, according to the Maharsha, Gitin, end of 57b).
What Is an Outstandingly G-d-fearing Person?
As explained in the article “Who Is Fit to Slaughter”, a shochet must be an outstandingly G-d-fearing person (yerei shamayim meirabim). People say in the name of the Belzer Rebbe that an outstandingly G-d-fearing person means that he must practice every stringency practiced by two people in his town as the least number of rabim (many) is two!