The Laws of Shechita-First Draft Summary

The Laws of Shechita-First Draft Summary

The following chapter is a first draft of notes which an incomplete summary of the laws of Shechita


  1. The History of Shechita:

The Rambam[1] rules that the Mitzvah of Shechita, ritually slaughtering an animal, only began to take effect on livestock after the Jewish people entered into Eretz Yisrael. However, in the desert only sacrifices were slaughtered. If a Jew wanted to eat meat of a non-sacrificial animal, he was not allowed to slaughter it and had to kill it using other methods.

Countries that forbade Shechita: Many countries tried to forbid Shechita throughout the years claiming it is inhumane to animals.

  1. Is Shechita the most humane method of slaughtering:[2]

Doctors and scientists have proven that the Jewish method of slaughtering is the most humane and involves the least amount of pain.


  1. Drinking Alcohol:

One who is drunk may not Shecht as he may come to do Drisa to the animal.[3] One who commonly gets drunk is not allowed to work in Shechita as his limbs are heavy and he cannot shecht properly.[4]

  1. What item may be used to Shecht with:

From the letter of the law it is permitted to slaughter using any sharp and smooth material that does not have ridges on its blade. One may thus use a stone, detached tooth, or detached fingernail, a detached sharp reed that is smooth etc. However, the item must be detached from the ground. If attached it is invalid. Thus one cannot slaughter using an attached fingernail.[5] Glass is invalid as it is not smooth.[6]

Practically the custom today is to use a metal knife .[7]

Pointy knife: We do not use knives with pointy tops due to worry of Chalada.

2b. How to Shecht: [8]

We shecht always from up to down with the neck of the animal facing downwards. This applies even by chicken.

  1. How long is the knife to be:

From the letter of the law there is no exact measurement although it cannot be small to the point that it causes Drisa [pressure or pushing down onto the neck].[9] Practically each knife is to be double the size of the neck that it is slaughtering.[10]

  1. When is one allowed to Shecht?[11]

One may shecht at any time of day or night so long as he has light. Bedieved if one slaughtered without light it is nevertheless valid.

May one shecht without glasses: One who is nearsighted may not shecht without his glasses as this is similar to shechting at night. [Mateh Asher]

*4. What animlas do not need Shechita:[12]

Fish and Grasshoppers: Do not need to be slaughtered although one may not eat them alive due to Baal Teshaktzu. One may eat however a detached limb of the fish or locust even if it is still alive.

Fetus: A dead fetus of a Kosherly slaughtered mother is Kosher to be eaten without further action. A live fetus that is found after the mom is slaughtered if the fetus is only 8 months then it is Kosher without needing Shehcita and this one kill it in other methods. If the live fetus is 9 months old then Biblically it does not need Shechita, however Rabbinically once the fetus walks on then ground it requires Shechita due to Maaras Ayin, unless it contains a deformity.

Ben Pakua: Is a cow that was born from a cow that was born after the slaughtering and hence does not need to be slaughtered Min Hatorah if both parents were born after slaughtering. If only one parent is a Ben Pakua while the other is not the child is forbidden to be eaten even with Shechita.

  1. Checking a knife for blemishes:

The knife must be smooth without any blemishes.

The size of the blemish:[13] If it has a blemish that can snag a hair the knife is invalid.

Checking the knife before Shechita:[14] One must check his knife before the Shechita. If he didn’t he must check it after shechita and if found smooth it is Kosher.

What is the law if after the Shechita one found a blemish on the knife? Then all the animals or fowel slaughtered with that knife is invalid. [In the Kashrus organizations however such chickens are sold as Rabanut Kosher.]

How to check the knife: One is to check the knife a total of 12 times prior to shechtching: twice [Holacha Vehova] in three directions [the top of the blade and the two sides] and this itself is done once using the fingernail and once using one’s skin. Practically, however today we only check with the fingernail as the fingernail can feel anything that the flesh can feel.

  1. How smooth must a knife be?[15]

Sharpness dimishishes the smoothness of the knife. The Michaber rules a sharp knife which is rough and contains friction but has no blemishes is Kosher. This is called Kerosh Hashiboles or Kesasa. The Rama however rules that a knife which is not smooth is invalid and cannot be used.

6b. How sharp must the knife be?[16]

Smoothness diminishes sharpness. Even if a knife is smooth and not sharp it is valid even if it takes all day to accomplish the slaughtering of the Simanim [trachea-Kaneh; Veshet-Esopagus]. [Admur writes this term is not literal but means a long time].

6c. What are Sakinim Melutashin?[17]

History: Until the times of the Maggid the quality of metal used for Shechita knives was poor and hence either smoothness or sharpness could be achieved but not both. They would make it sharp in order not to come to Drisa but it would be Kisasa [not smooth]  The Shochtim of the Maggid in Mezritch innovated a new metal knife called honed knives which could achieve both sharpness and smoothness. The Alter Rebbe spread this custom amongst all Chassidim. Although some students of the Besht [Yaakov Yosef Polonya] were opposed to the new knife and all Misnagdim were against it and invalidated the Shechita.

The reason of the innovation: The advantage of making it sharp and smooth is to suspect for the Rishonim that hold that a friction knife [Kisasa] may be a Pgam and it is invalid Biblically.

Eating by others who are not careful in this matter

  1. Shechitas Chabad:

The original concept of Chassidic Shechita was that the Shochtim used honed knives [Sakinim Melutashin]. Today these knives are used by all Shochtim, and hence the uniqueness of Shechitas Chabad is no longer relevant to this matter.  In addition to the above, Chassidim are particular that a Shoichat be someone who excels in Yiras Shamayim. That is why the Chasidim made a deal with the Misnagdim that the Shochet would be a Chassid and the Rav a Misnagid. Because of this the idea of Chabad Shechita applies even today that we are stringent that the Shochtim have the highest level of Yiras Shamaytim and this level of Yiras Shamayim can only be achieved through learning about the greatness of G-d which is explained in Chassidus Chabad. Thus, Chabad Shechita means a person who studies Chabad Chassidus and therefore he acts within his life on the highest level of fear of heaven.

The definition of G-d fearing: He is a person that his actions befit that of a orthodox Jew, and the fear of heaven is apparent on his face, and he knows how to learn Gemara with Rashi.

Not to pass three days without learning Chassidus:

Tevila:  From the letter of the law a Shochet is not required to immerse in a Mikveh prior to slaughtering. However, the custom is to be stringent to follow the opinion of the Murdechaiy that one who is a Baal Keri his Shehcita is Pigul. Thus, today a G-d fearing Shochet must be careful to immerse before shechting if he is a Baal Keri.

  1. The area of Shechita:[18]

The area of Shechita differs between the Kaneh and Veshet.

The area of the Kaneh: On top one can slaughter up until the Shipui Kova which is the slanted arrowed area of the trachea. If one slaughters in the large ring within the two Chitin [inside the trachea there is a large ring which contains two kernels like projections inside] it is valid. On the bottom one can slaughter up until Rosh Knaf Haoneh when inflated [which is the top of the lung compartment].  By a chicken one can shecht up until the bottom area of the Vashet.

The Shiur of the food pipe [Veshet/Esophagus]: The entire area of the pipe that cringes inwards when slaughtered. Above this area is invalid.

Grabbing the Simanim prior to slaughtering: It is proper to identify the simanim prior to shechita so one does not come to cut the spinal cord prior to the pipes.

If one slaughtered above the allowed area: The animal is a Neveila and is called Meguremes

  1. How much to slaughter of the pipes:[19]

Initially one is to intend to slaughter both the Kaneh and Veshet in its entirety. Bedieved if he cut majority of one pipe by a chicken or any bird it is Kosher. By an animal one must cut majority of both pipes and if he did not cut majority of both it is invalid.

How much is majority: Officially majority is over 50% even by a length of a hair. [Michaber] however the Taz rules [and so is the Halacha] it must be majority to the naked eye.

  1. Cutting the veins:[20]

One is only required to cut the veins by a chicken if he plans to cook it whole in order so the blood be let off while still hot. Thus, today that we always cut off the head of the chicken, the custom is no longer to be particular to cut the veins. Thus, there is no impediment in one’s slaughtering if no blood has come out.

  1. Shehiya:[21]

The five majour Shechita laws that invalidate slaughtering if the criteria of the law is not fulfilled.

  1. Shehiya
  2. Drisa
  3. Chalada
  4. Hagrama
  5. Ikkur

What is Shehiya: Shehiyah is a delay in the slaughtering process. If one delays the slaughtering once he began cutting the neck the slaughtering is invalid. The Michaber rules that each animal and fowl has a different measurement of time [for example by a cow it is the amount of time it takes to lift it, crouch it and shecht it]. However, the Rama rules today the custom is to invalidate any delay even one moment. Furthermore, if one finds a piece of material that was cut inside the pipe it is invalid as certainly one delayed while cutting it.

  1. Drisa:[22]

Is to cut the simanim by pressing the knife down on them, like when cutting a radish ((מחבר, without moving the knife horizontally forwards (הולכה) or backwards ( (הובאה (אדמו”ר), or to cut the simanim by hitting the knife on the throat as is done with a sword. (מחבר) However to apply pressure on the knife for it to push down on the simanim while its in a horizontal cutting movement (הולכה או הובאה) is permitted. ((אדמו”ר However care should be taken when doing this (that one does not end up pressing while knife is not moving) ((מט”א

*11. Cutting the Mafrekes:

The Mafrekes is the spinal cord and initially may not be cut during the Shehcita.

Summary: If cut spinal cord before simanim its Treif according to all. If cut in shechitah process, after simanim, is problem according to ראבי”ה/רמ”א. If cut after shechitah process, is ok according to all, although should not initially be done.

  1. Chalada:

The term חלדה is rooted in the word חולדה (a rodent), which hides within the holes of a house. So too חלדה refers to the hiding of the knife durring shechitah. This is one of the shechitah laws that render the shechita invalid. The following are a number of examples in which the knife is considered covered and thus invalidates the shechita because of חלדה:

1) if one were to shecht in a way that the knife is covered by one of the סימנים, like he cut the וושט first, which lies under the קנה and then cut the קנה, the shechitah is invalid. (See Exhibit A)

2) If one were to stick the knife into the neck of animal and then cut the simanim, its invalid. (See Exhibit B)

3) If the animal/bird has a patch glued on its neck, and one were to place the knife under the padding and then shecht, the shechita is invalid.  If the patch is not glued but rather is loosely placed over the neck, then לכתחילה one should be stringent not to shecht with the knife placed uder the pad, as the רמב”ם holds that this is also considered חלדה, however בדיעבד one need not invalidate the shechita as its not considered חלדה according to the final rulling. (מחבר) ( See Exhibit C)

4) If the wool of a sheep covered the knife while shechting the simanim, the shechitah is invalid (רמ”א) (See Exhibit D) This applies even if the knife was only covered by a single hair in area of knife used to shecht. (שמ”ח) For this reason one should remove the neck hairs of the sheep before shechting. (רמ”א) So too by chickens the custom is to remove the feathers that are by the neck. However this should only be done if one will not be able to shecht properly if the feathers remain on, as removing the feathers can cause bleeding by the neck , as explained in the previous chapter. ((אדמו”ר However large feathers should be removed in any case. (שמ”ח)

5) If a part of the blade that was not used to cut the simanim was covered in any of above mentioned ways, while the area of blade used to shecht was uncovered, then the shechitah is valid. However לכתחילה on should be stringent, as there are opinions which hold the shechitah is invalid. ((מחבר/שמ”ח


Exhibit A:                                                                                                             

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

  1. Hagrama:

As explained in chapter 20 the shechitah must be done in a specified area of the קנה/ושט. If the shechitah was done above or below the above-mentioned areas then its considered הגרמה and the shechitah is invalid.

  1. Ikkur:

Regarding the definition of עיקור we find in the ראשונים two different opinions:

:רשיי Is when a סימן is torn during the shechitah as opposed to being cut, and the shechitah is thus rendered invalid. Such tearing will occur if one has a פגם in ones blade, thus ones blade must be smooth from any blemishes, as already explained in chapter 18. Tearing may also occure if the animal/bird jerks a lot during the shechitah.

בהג: The סימנים are naturally connected to the animal’s/birds lower jaw. If a סימן became detached from the jaw, then its עיקור and the shechitah is invalid.

According to רש”יי if the סימן became detached the animal is anyways rendered ivalid as its considered a Treifa, thus the Torah must have meant something else when it invalidated עיקור. Thus רש”יי  explains עיקור to mean tearing.

The בה”ג claims however that tearing is not considered an invalidation within the shechitah, but rather is the total antithesis of shechitah which means to cut, thus even without the Torah forbbiding עיקור we would render tearing invalid. Thus the בה”ג explains עיקור to meant detachment of the סימנים.

To note: According to all both tearing of a סימן and a detached סימן invalidate the shechita. The discussion here is only regarding which one of these did the Torah invalidate by using the term of .עיקור However this dispute leads to another dispute regarding the laws of checking the סימנים as will be explained in the next chapter.

In the אחרונים:

מחבר: Defines עיקור as explained by בה”ג. Doesn’t mention the definition of רש”יי.

שמח: Brings both definitions of רשיי/בה”ג.

  1. Checking the Simanim after the Shechita:[23]

Introduction: In order to allow an animal/bird to be eaten one must verify that it passes all the above shechitah requirements, as regarding the shechitah laws the animal has a חזקת איסור until proven otherwise. Thus, any doubt one has regarding if all the shechitah laws were adhered to, renders the animal invalid. This is opposed to the Treifa laws which have the rule of “innocent until proven guilty” applied.

Checking if majority of the סימנים/סימן were cut:

After the shechitah one needs to check that majority of the סימנים/סימן were cut. If one did not check the above then the animal/chicken is forbidden to be eaten. ((מחבר

How to check:

By chickens: one uses ones thumb to press out the סימנים and thus visually can tell if majority has been cut. This method is called .תכיפת אגודל

By animals:

 :טז/אדמור If the סימנים have gotten full of blood and its thus difficult to tell visually if majority has been cut, then one needs to feel with ones hands that the סימנים have been cut. This method is called .משמוש היד

שמח: One is not required to do משמוש היד to the סימנים, rather one may rely on his vision.

מטא: Even according to the שמ”ח one may only do without משמוש if he can clearly see the cut סימנים, however if not then משמוש is also required. Accordingly, when shechthing דקות one must always do משמוש as the cut סימנים are not clearly seen.                                     

  1. Removing feathers before Shechita:

Some Poskim rule one must remove the chicken feathers before the slaughtering [if there are feathers there, such as an old chicken]. The reason for this is is because it may cause Shehiya to cut through the feathers.  However other Poskim rule one is not to pluck out the feathers from the neck as it may cause bleeding to the Veshet.

  1. How chickens many to Shecht per minute:

Mihadrin shechts 12 per minute. Rabanut does about 20

[1] Hilchos Shechita 4:17

[2] Hakashrus 9 p. 224

[3] Rama 1:8

[4] B”H 1:32

[5] Michaber 6:1

[6] Rama ibid

[7] Mateh Ashar on Smach

[8] Smach

[9] Michaber 8:1

[10] Rama ibid

[11] 11

[12] 13

[13] 18:2

[14] 18:3

[15] 18:6

[16] 18:7

[17] Letter of the Alter Rebbe and Mahril.

[18] 20:1

[19] 21:1-2

[20] 22:1

[21] 23:2

[22] 24:1

[23] 25

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