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Jul 28, 2008

Shechita: trash talk

Yesterday's shechita was a bit of a different experience for me. Because of a technical problem at the place we usually go to shecht, they brought us to their cousins place a few blocks away. The cousin, also Bedouin Arabs, had a larger place overall, with a pen of different age bulls and cows and calves, along with pens of sheep and lamb of varying sizes and ages, but the slaughtering area itself was a bit smaller.

When they move the animal out of the pen into the slaughtering area, they moves him through cages and fenced off walkways, locking him in at different positions, closer and closer to the final destination. As he was waiting in his final spot before the slaughtering area, and as the Arabs were getting themselves prepared, I went over and had my usual "eye to eye" with Mr. Meat. I don't know why I do it, but I stand there in front of him, we stare each other down for a bit, and then I talk to it, telling him to behave as he is about to be shechted. I guess you could call it trash talk.

It was interesting to see the different methods used. They brought down the animal differently, they tied it down differently, and they held it down differently. These guys, instead of just tying it to the back of the car and pulling until it lost its footing, actually fought with the animal to get him down. They tied a lasso of sorts around him, they moved him out of the pen, they inched him forward and got a rope around his leg, they pull, they leveraged, they pulled some more, and some more, and worked hard to get him down.

Once they had it down, they tied him to a couple of rings in the ground, kind of like the rings that were in the slaughtering area of the Beis Hamikdash. I never really understood those rings, and am not sure what I saw yesterday is similar to how it worked in the Beis Hamikdash. But that is what I thought of when I saw it tied to the rings.

They held it slightly differently, and I will add that they did not hold it as firmly or as well as what I was used to. The angles were different as well. The calf was still moving around alot, even though they were holding it down. As I shechted it, it moved its head. Had I gotten startled, I would have jumped back (as I have seen happen once or twice by other shochtim) thinking I was about to be knocked over. But I was not startled and held my position and kept going, moving my knife with his head motion all the way through and the shechita came out perfect.

Another problem with the angle used, and with the way the calf shifted his head, was the potential to hit the ground with the tip of the knife during the shechita. Doing so would have rendered the shechita passul and the animal treife. But I was careful and I did not hit the ground with the knife.

For some reason, I got hit with more of the spray of blood this time than previous times. Maybe because of the different angles used, or maybe because we were working in tighter quarters than the previous times. Also the drain was right net to the slaughtering area, and the blood was drained out, and washed away, very quickly. These guys were much more efficient in quickly cleaning the area, and keeping it clean, than the other guys we shecht by.

The Arab guys are nice. They show us a lot of respect and trust. They call us Rav, they offer us coffee and chat. After the shechita and helping weigh the animals, I sat down for a moment to rest. I sat near the grandfather who had stopped by and was watching.
He started chatting with me, and I asked him if he had been in this business as well. he told me he had not been. He had been a career army man. he was in the army 33 years, and was released as an injured soldiers, as his legs had been shot up. He told me he served in two wars (I did not think of asking which ones), and if he understood my question, he was a tracker in the army, as is common by Bedouins. He was very proud of his boys and told me they both were (and one still is) officers in the army.

The rest of it was fairly routine - we moved the meat (the calf, along with another 2 sheep we shechted) to the other location where we broke it down, kashered it, and butchered it.

I brought it home where we cut it down some more, labelled and packaged it all, and stuck about 100kg of beef and lamb in my freezer.

Man, am I sore from hauling sides of beef. Maybe I'll have a steak - or a lamb chop!

(If I get any good pics later, I will add them to the post...)


  1. if the knife hit the ground wouldn't it only passul the shechita if it nicked it?

    Or is the problem that you stopped in the middle?

    Still it seems like if you realized you hit the ground you could avoid treifing it up

  2. if it hit the ground we would assume there was a hesitation, along with a nick in the knife...

  3. Totally amazing post. Please submit it to KCC!!!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. So Rafi, if I wanted to make a bbq I know where I can get some good ribs & steaks!

  6. mmmmm.....100kg of beef and lamb.
    Can we be friends?

  7. The Ba’al Shem Tov, in the years that he was a hidden mystic, would make his livelihood slaughtering chickens and cows for Jewish communities before the holidays. When he left this occupation, a new slaughterer took his place. One day, a Gentile assistant of one of the Jewish villagers brought a chicken to the new slaughterer. As the new shochet began to sharpen his knife, the Gentile watched and began to laugh. “You wet your knife with water before you sharpen it!” he exclaimed, “And then you just start to cut?” “And how else?” the slaughterer asked. “The Ba’al Shem Tov would cry until he had enough tears to wet the knife. Then he would cry as he sharpened the knife. Only then would he cut!”

    -The REAL Mora D'asra

  8. nice story, mora d'asra.

    Someone asked me if there is anything special to concentrate on when shechting. I responded that I am sure some people, perhaps chassidim or others involved in kabala have mystical and spiritual thoughts while shechting. Personally, I am still new enough, and inexperienced enough, to this that all my concentration is on doing it properly - cutting the right place, the right amount, making sure I get everything right..

  9. Very interesting post! I could almost imagine I was there with all of the details you provided. So you actually butcher and haul all of the meat too? That's a huge job! You must have been tired.

  10. I hired a butcher, but I did almost all the hauling... I was wiped by the end of the day... and sore for a couple days after...

  11. I went over and had my usual "eye to eye" with Mr. Meat. I don't know why I do it, but I stand there in front of him, we stare each other down for a bit, and then I talk to it, telling him to behave as he is about to be shechted.

    Rafi- there's an old Yiddish expression. קיק מיר נישט אהן ווי א האהן אין בני אדם"="Don't stare at me like a rooster staring at " בני אדם".

    This refers to the opening words of the Kapporos service. It is analogous to the English expression "that deer in the headlights look" IOW a glazed over, sapcing out, terror of death look in the eyes.

    I understand Mr. Meat and his look. I don't get why you'd want to do it though.

  12. Bray - nice of you to stop in here...

    About the look, I would say that it is not my imitating his look. On the one hand, I am causing him to have that look by letting him know what I am about to do.

    On a more serious note, and the other hand, I am in a way momentarily connecting with him. I have thought it strange, but I have felt the need, and I have done it by each of the shechitas I have performed of animals (not fowl for some reason), to sort of connect with it and pass a few words with the animal before I shecht him. Maybe I am just strange.


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