Shechita on Shabbat

Chulin (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | a month ago

Masechet Chulin begins with the laws of shechita – kosher slaughter. One of the laws found in the first Mishnah is that if shechita is performed on Shabbat or Yom Kippur, despite the violation of serious prohibitions, the shechita is valid.

The Mishnah uses the expression "despite being liable with his life". This is because if one performed a melacha, such as shechita, deliberately, and is forewarned, it is a capital offence. Similarly, performing shechita on Yom Kippur is punishable with karet. A simple reading of the Mishnah implies that even if the shechita was performed be'mezid, with full knowledge that the prohibition will be violated, the shechita is still valid.

The Bartenura however understands that the case in our Mishnah is where the violation is be'shogeg, inadvertent. He explains the Mishnah to mean that despite the fact that if the shechita would have been performed be'mezid he would liable with his life, in this case, where it is performed be'shogeg, the shechita is nonetheless valid. The Bartenura however adds that in our case, it would only be permitted to everyone after Shabbat. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that had the shechita been be'mezid, it would be similar to a case where one cooked on Shabbat deliberately; it would be prohibited indefinitely to the one that performed the melacha, yet permitted to others after Shabbat. Since the Mishnah does not differentiate between to whom the animal is permitted, it makes sense to assume that the case is be'shogeg.

The Rambam (on the Mishnah) however explains that if the individual slaughtered the animal be'mezid the shechita would be invalid, and no one could eat it. He explains that from the moment he begins the shechita he is defined as a mumar le'chalel shabbat, a Shabbat desecrator, and shechita by such a person is invalid.

The Tifferet Yisrael (Boaz 1:1) cites his son who questions the position of the Rambam. If we isolate that first act, it is considered destructive – mekalkel – for which one is not liable on a biblical level. It is only ultimately considered constructive (mekalkel al me'nat le'taken), once the shechita is complete. How can he therefore be considered a mumar in that first instant? This is indeed the position of the Ran (14a) who maintains that he is not considered a mumar until the completion of shechita.

The Tifferet Yisrael explains one is indeed liable for mekalkel al me'nat le'taken irrespective if the tikkun occurs. For example, if one demolishes with the intention of building, they are liable for the demolition immediately. Consequently, he is can be considered a mumar from that first moment.

The Chatam Sofer (YD 14) however explains that the Ran obviously also agrees with the principle of mekalel al me'nat letaken and from the first moment it is considered constructive. He however maintains that he cannot be considered a mumar from the first moment since at any point he may change his mind and stop, resulting in a destructive act.

The Chatam Sofer however continues citing the Gemara Horayot (11a) that according to R' Yehuda even regarding a rabbinic violation one can be considered a mumar.2 Consequently, the Rambam maintains that here too according to R' Yehuda, even if the first moment is considered mekalkel, it is a deliberate rabbinic violation and he would be considered a mumar.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however cites the Tosfot that provide two answers why this individual is not yet considered a mumar. One is that he is only defined as a mumar if the deliberately violation was performed in public. The other answer is that a single violation does not define one as a mumar.


1 The Ketzot (52:1) also explains the Rambam in this manner and notes that both the Rambam and the Ran agree that he is only defined as a mumar from after the moment he is liable, but not at the same time he is liable. The Ketzot uses this a proof regarding witnesses on a loan contract with interest. Despite the fact they performed a sin, they are only considered invalid to act as witnesses from after the violation and the testimony on this contract is valid.

2 The example there is regarding rabbinic kilayim.

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