Shechita performed by Minors

Chulin (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

Masechet Chullin opens by teaching that anyone who is competent in the laws of shechita can perform it. The Mishnah then excludes the cheresh(deaf-mute), shoteh(imbecile) and katan(minor) since we are concerned that they will err in the shechita. The Bartenura explains that this even includes a child prodigy, since a minor is assumed to have erred.*Consequently, the Mishnah adds that if their shechita was supervised then it is valid. The Mishnah however continues that the shechita of a Nochri however is not valid irrespective of age or intellectual capacity. We shall try to understand the status of a katan’s shechita*.

The Rama (YD 1:5) rules that if a katan performs shechita alone then it is invalid despite his knowledge of shechita. The Shach (1:27) cites the Ra’ah who explains that the issue is the trustworthiness of a katan. The Shach also cites the Levush who explains that a katan has not yet reached the age where he is obligated in shechita. Since the Torah commanded “ve’zavachta” (and you shall slaughter) it excludes those not commanded in the mitzvah of shechita from being able to perform it. Indeed the Tosfot (3b s.v “kasavar”) excludes Nochrim based on this pasuk. The Shach however is not satisfied with this answer for two reasons. First, a Nochri is not commanded in shechita at all, while a katan is not allowed to eat meat without shechita. Secondly, we find situations where a katan’s shechita is valid – when he is being supervised by a gadol.

The Pri Megadim(Siftei Daat 1:27) continues that the Levush addressed the second issue explaining that when a katan acts under supervision he acts for them (al daatam). The Tevuat Shor however argues that if the katan is not considered commanded, supervision does not help. We find that a katan cannot write tefillin even if supervised. The Pri Megadim adds that supervision being considered acting on the daat of an adult only helps when the issue with the katan is daat (legal intent) – like in the case of writing a get – and not if the katan is considered not commanded.

Now if a katan is considered a bar zevicha – one that can perform shechita – we need to ask why? How do we understand the Shach’s statement reasoning, “a katan is not allowed to eat meat without shechita”?

**Rav Soleveitchik (Shiurei HaRav 8) questions the Shach’s reasoning for we find that a katan is not punished for eating non-kosher meat. The Rav provides two answers. First he explains that even though Beit Din is not instructed to prevent a minor from eating neveilot, nevertheless we find that one is forbidden from feeding neveilot to a katan. Consequently even though a katan is not punished, the prohibition still impacts him in practice.

The second answer he brings is in the name of the Grach who explains that even though a katan may not be punished for performing a transgression, that act perform is still defined as a prohibited act.1 Consequently since shechita has practical consequences for the katan, he is defined as a bar zevicha.

The difficulty with this explanation is, as cited above, the Gemara (Gittin 45b) excludes a katan from writing tefillin due to the pasuk “you shall bind and you shall write” – only those commanded in wearing tefillin can write them. How is this case different?

The Rav first answers that a ma’aseh mitzvah (a positive act) of a katan is insignificant since he is not yet at the age of being commanded. A ma’aseh aveirah (act of transgression) however is different, as we have already explained.

He also answers based on the Tosfot who ask how a katan can write a get under supervision. They answer that since the child will eventual be of age where it applies to him, then he is able to already. Why does this logic not also apply to the case of Tefillin? The Rav answers that since the obligation of Tefillin is new everyday, future obligations do not impact today. That being the case since the obligation to shecht is only when one wishes to eat, the future obligation can impact today.2

His final suggestion is that even if the transgression has not relevance to the katan, the laws of tumah and tahara do apply to a katan. Since valid shechita means the difference between tumah and tahara, he is considered a bar shechita.


1 The Rav presents a number of proofs for this position.

2 This answer cans also be found in the Achiezer III 81:12.

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