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What is Chasidic Shekhita?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are that of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the Union for Traditional Judaism, unless otherwise indicated.

by Rabbi Alan Yuter


There are resorts, hotels, and tours that advertise that they only use Hassidic shechita, the term for the kosher slaughtering protocol. What is special about Hassidic slaughtering, and why is it a (supposedly) superior form of kosher protocol?


According to Torah law, any and every halakhically observant Jew, man or woman, who knows [a] what the kosher slaughtering laws happen to be,  [b] possesses the skill to perform the slaughtering act correctly, and [c] is able to inspect the slaughtered animal to ascertain that it did not have a blemish that would inevitably lead to its death, is by Traditional, canonical Orthodox Jewish law trustworthy to be a ritual slaughterer. It is argued that women may not slaughter may  not, nonetheless.

  1. Hassidic shechita is done [a] by Hassidic Jews [b] who buy into a Hassidic Judaism that [c] requires standards not mentioned, mandated, or memorialized in the Oral Torah library.
  2. Hassidic Jews’ standards of kashrut maintain that the canonical standards, which are God’s word, are nevertheless insufficient to fulfill God’s word. These Jews project themselves as stricter, more Orthodox, more authentically religious, and therefore their slaughter is a more kosher slaughter.  Kosher slaughterers’ wives wear wigs, or shave their heads, they often wear the culturally approved Kapoteh, which is cognate to the English caftan, and immerse in the miqveh every day.
  3. Following the Ashkenazi Rabbi Isaac, whose name is “Luria,” the Jewish male should not shave his facial hair.  Although not mentioned in the Torah, a man’s removing his beard has been condemned as akin donning female attire [Deut. 22:5]. Hassidic “religion” considers the growing of the beard to be a religious obligation and will therefore not certify a kosher slaughterer who is clean shaven. According to Jewish law, the only occasions when Orthodox Jewish tradition forbids shaving are [a] the week when the fast of Av occurs, up to and including the   fast day itself, [b] the intermediate festival day unless one is eligible for legislated dispensations in the Mishnah, and [c] a son for a parent until he is rebuked for appearing unkempt and other mourners for thirty days. So Luria was, consist with his intuitive, mystical wont, a great reformer.  He also introduced a Sefardic-like prayer regimen for Ashkenazi Jews, encouraging the abandonment of traditional Ashkenazi prayer. Oddly, Hassidic Jews often wear their tallit  tassels  outside of  their trousers, against Luria’s own professed instructions.  Street culture Orthodoxy often refers to this gentleman as the Ar”i ha-Qadosh, “the ’holy’ lion,” because his sanctity, according to this mode of thinking, authorizes him to institute new sanctifying norms which in turn make Jewry more holy. Once a rabbi is holy, lesser lights may not subject his words to review.
  4. Hassidic Judaism requires glatt kosher standards, according to which the slaughtered animal’s lungs must be examined for  a disqualifying perforation. Neither Oral Torah nor Ashkenazi “tradition” mandate this stringency. But the Hassidic “tradition,” by being stricter than the Law, and by implication, God the Law giver requires,   proclaims that stringency is an expression of virtuosity.  According to Oral Torah Orthodoxy, one should prefer the lenient decision [bGittin 41b], observing the stringencies of Hillel and Shammai renders one a fool [bRosh Hashanah 14b], and performing an act that is not obligatory is a commoner/idiot [yBerachot 2:9].
  5. As noted above, any Jew is in theory authorized to perform the act of kosher slaughter. The Talmud, the final and most normative articulation of the Oral  Torah,  explicitly permits women to perform kosher slaughter.  This canonical Tradition is superseded by the mimetic “tradition” the mindset of which is not the Masorah expressed in Judaism’s sacred library, but in the blind will of the faithful community and by the charismatic, intuitional will of the “great sage.” This Ubermentsch rabbi is not subject to peer review because he has no peers who are by law not authorized to hold him to account. Although both Sefardic and early Ashkenazi Judaisms found no difficulty in allowing women to slaughter, the sexist mimetic tradition was constrained to casuistry to reconstruct a Judaism that displaced the Oral Law by adding to it in order to make both the law and its adherents more holy.
  1. Jewish law requires that the slaughtering knife possess a sharp blade on one side of the instrument. Blades that are exceptionally sharp become susceptible to knicks, which if they can be sensed, disqualify the slaughtering. The first Lubavitcher Rebbe ruled that that both sides of the instrument must sharpened.  Whether this reform is grounded in the doctrine of soul transmigration, a desire to be “more holy” in God’s eyes, or an attempt to afford the masses a means of being stricter, and therefore more authentic, than the institutional rabbinic establishment, the ruling remains a reform. It implies that the “Tradition” is flawed, it proclaims that Jewish law follows the will of the charismatic leader, not the most reasonable reading of the Jewish sacred library.
  2. What is at stake in Hassidic slaughter?

Many many years ago, Shoichtim sharpened only one side of the chalaf ( this lead to an extremely sharp thin blade but also made it more susceptible to pigimos).

The Baal Hatanya was ” michadaish” that shoictim should sharpen on both sides making in a blade that will hold better. This was a great idea that might have been welcome by the masses, only it came at a terrible time when all innovations by the chassidim were looked at as trying to usurp the mesorah of klal yisroel. The chasidim insisted on using only their knife and even at family occasions would refuse to eat or even throw out the meat geshochten by a one sided misnaged chalaf( even though baal hatanya wrote not to make a big deal). In some towns the chasidim boycotted the meat causing a very big monatery loss to the kahal, as a part of the communal money came from the meat tax and now a large part of the community wasn’t eating meat. The Misnagdim were adamant about not going to use the chssidishe chalaf.
The hakpada on the usage of a knife sharpened on both side was called ” Chassidishe Shechita”, today this is meaningless because everyone uses the same knife– sharpened on both sides. Today all Chassidishe Shechita means is chasdidim are shechting and adhering to whatever rules that rav hamachshir decided makes them properly Chassidishe ie wife shaves head, you toivel daily and wear a long coat.