Sunday, April 06, 2008


Today I had the honor and privilege of attending a shechita of a beautiful calf.

Warning: The pictures in this post will be graphic/ bloody. If you don't want to see them, don't read this post. Also, if you have nothing of worth to contribute to the comment section, and simply want to complain about how you can't stomach this, kindly don't bother to write anything.

So my amazing Chumash teacher walks into class and informs us that there will be a Shechita in Connecticut, and we are welcome to come if we wish. I and a fellow friend/classmate, Adina, (of stuck-in-the-elevator fame) decided to do so, and that is where we met this beautiful calf with sweet eyes.

The Shochet was amazing and gladly walked us through everything he was doing. He explained to us that the knife has two names, sakin and chalef. It is called sakin because of the root word sakanah, meaning danger, namely that it is dangerous for the animal being slaughtered. It is called chalef because of the word machalif- it changes states for the animal, transforming it from the state of being alive to the state of being dead.

The animal must be given water to drink before it is schechted. This is for two reasons, one of which is halachik, while the other one is simply because apparently the skin separates more easily from the flesh if an animal has drunk water before it has been schechted.

Interestingly, before witnessing a shechita I had somehow thought that the animal stood up when it was being slaughtered. Of course that is not the case. They bound the calf with ropes and placed its head on the ground. They then spilled water over its neck, since apparently this makes it easier for the Shochet to schecht the animal. The Shochet then recited a blessing over the shechita and in a matter of seconds, with a very quick sawing motion, cut through the esophagus and trachea. It was a beautiful shechita.

After he had completed the shechita, we heard the death rattle and gurgle of blood. He ordered everyone who had been holding the calf in position to step backwards, because even after it is dead, the calf kicks and moves. This is called mefarcheses. Also fascinating was the way that steam rose from the neck as the blood was exposed to the cold air.

The Shochet then wiped off the bloody knife and checked it for pigumim, or nicks and notches. If the blade was notched, then it is not a kosher shechita. Of course, he checks the blade before he does the shechitah as well. In our case, the blade was perfectly smooth.

At this point, the Shochet and his helpers began to cut away the skin from the body. There is no particular way in which this must be done, so long as one takes it off. The Shochet explained that in a regular factory, there will be about 10 men whose sole occupation is to de-skin the cows (and this was only a calf, not a cow) and who do this all day.

Because he does not do trabering, the Shochet decided to sell the hind part of the cow.

Now let's focus on the cheilev. The cheilev are the forbidden fats. Anyone who eats cheilev receives the punishment of kares. The korbanot in the mishkan/ Beis Hamikdash were offered with cheilev enwrapping them/ atop them. One can easily understand why upon seeing cheilev. It is beautiful, and looks like a kind of fancy lace.

Now let's move on to the stomachs. The calf has four stomachs.

Here are the stomachs inside of a wheelbarrow. That yellowish/greenish substance you see is actually half-digested or digested food.

This is one of the stomachs. It is called the Beis HaKosos. You can see how it got that name- it resembles a honeycomb, with its clever cups and openings.

I think the Shochet said this had something to do with wolves, and that the wolves hate it and won't eat it. He said this is a receptacle for rotting food within the calf.

I think this is the Shochet cutting a kidney in half. Notice the grape cluster formation of the kidney.

This is the Shochet checking the esophagus by turning it inside out onto his fingers. If the esophagus had had a nick or tear in it prior to his performing the shechitah, the inner portion would be red. However, here it is white.

This was by far the coolest part. Here the Shochet is blowing up the lung like a balloon. If the lung has a hole or puncture, he would hear the air hissing out of it. However, just to make sure, he also submerges the lung in water and blows it up again within the water. If the lung had a hole, it would cause bubbles to form in the water. However, this lung was entirely kosher and smooth.

The Shochet deliberately made a hole in the lung in order to show us the difference. He then submerged it in water again, and attempted to blow it up.

See the bubbles?!

This is the liver.

This is the spleen.

And this is the heart.

This was definitely one of the most fascinating experiences of my life. If anyone would like to see more pictures, feel free to email me for them.


Special Ed said...

I've shechted chickens, and watched them shecht lambs, and although it was almost the same process a cow is so much cooler

Anonymous said...

A fantastic post!
Thank you

Anonymous said...

Due to the (IMHO) very graphic nature of the pictures, maybe there's a way you can cover them at first or have them on a separate page, as I'm sure not EVERYONE will see these as palatable as you do.

Chana said...

hey student,

I don't know the "Expand Post" html. If you happen to know it and could either show me/ link me to the coding, I'd be happy to implement it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Chana,this is quite an educational post. I always wanted to see what the stomachs and the lungs look like and you were able to capture all the detais well.

Great job!

G said...

If you found this of interest you should try and set up a visit to a shlachthouse (slaughtethouse).

The shechita process done on a mass scale adds a whole 'nother level as certain parts of the process are done differently.

Anonymous said...

Interesting juxtaposition with your previous post.

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

thank you for this informative post. I was taught that prohibition of eating the Chelev applies only to domesticated animals. It wouldn't apply to such wild animals such as deer-simply wanted to share this.

MYG said...

Go Ezzie!

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous post!
I never saw a shechita,but now(thanks to the pics) I feel as I've attended one.
Thanks,Chana,for educating us all.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks. I have just finished learning melicha and it is nice to see what comes before.

It always amazes me that an act which appears externally to be cruel can be elevated to the highest levels by performing it according to the Torah's specifications. I think this idea applies directly to shechita...

One pertinent reference is the book "Chullin Illuminated" by Rabbi Yaacov Dovid Lach (Feldheim, NY). It describes the anatomical features of kosher animals as referenced in the gemara and shulchan aruch.

Malka said...

Dear Chana,

Thank you so much! That was really cool and from a biological perspective it was really interesting to see everything in big since cow's are much larger animals than fetal
In addition, I also never knew how they checked to see if an animal was a treifah or not so thank you:)

Ibn Mordechai said...


Fantastic Post. This is my first time reading your blog. Well done!

I had a similar experience in Meron over Lag Baomer when I was in the Holy Land.

Bas~Melech said...

That was fascinating, and very well explained (as usual for you).
Thanks for sharing this experience, which has become unusual in our day and age (at least in the city...)

Anonymous said...

Nice to know that the real thing looks similar to the way it does in the Feldheim Chulin book.

Thanks you for having this experience so I could live vicariously through you. I agree that it's fascinating and cool---but I doubt that I'd have been able to stomach it live!

Anonymous said...

What a great post!
The pics really brought it all home for me. And I like the write-up as well.

Looking forward to more informative posts like this one.

Chana,well done!

David_on_the_Lake said...

I found this fascinating...


Holy Hyrax said...

>This is for two reasons, one of which is halachik,

whats is the halacha for?

Josh M. said...

Very informative. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I learned a lot.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I picked a bad day to have beef chilli for lunch. :)

Thanks for sharing. :)

Anonymous said...

This was really interesting. Thank you for documenting the shechita!

Anonymous said...

Chana,you really documented the shechita rather well via pictures. Your explanation of the actual steps of the process is good. I want to add one very important detail- along with trachea and esophagus, THE CAROTID arteries and JUGULAR veins are severed in a rapid and uninterrupted action causing an instant drop in blood pressure in the brain. This results in the immediate and irreversible cessation of consciousness and sensibility to pain.This makes the kosher shechita very different from all non-kosher types.
Well done!


i would like to see more pictures, kindly forward to

הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Most people eat meat, yet in a much less humane way.

והדברים כה פשוטים, שאין צורך באמירתם

Anonymous said...

I'm not Jewish, but I did find this posting really interesting to read and look at. I had always thought throat cutting as quite brutal but it seems not.

I do think the comments from the vegan were rather uncalled for, and noted the lack of response or argument with it.

Anonymous said...

i am 12 and i can not even read them long words but i did understand. that is disgusing who would do such a thing to a harmless calf???

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!

To the 12 year old, it's because people like to eat meat. Simple as that.

As for the vegan, I understand your distaste for meat-slaughterers in general, but why specifically Jews? Please, go educate yourself before using stereotypes.

Anyway, to the poster: you should mention that the checking the lungs for holes part is in order to certify GLATT kashrut. If the lung is punctured, the meat is still kosher, just not Glatt Kosher. Whether or not you may eat it depends on your practice.

Lastly, I think I heard somewhere that during the actual slaughter the shochet needs to be alone? I guess this is not true...?

Lukas said...

Very interesting article, and good pictures, Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I can understand why so many people choose not to eat meat.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I'm vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'm not Jewish, or religious at all, but I enjoyed this insight into the ritual and meaning behind kosher slaughter. Thank you :)

I am a hunter, and it is fascinating to discover the coincidence between my practices and the kosher process.

I value and respect life most highly, and whenever I kill anything - from a deer to a squirrel - I always take the time to pause and have a 'moment' with the animal to acknowledge its life and to thank it for giving me sustenance.

Ironic, isn't it? It's a kind of prayer!

Anonymous said...

Interesting article .. but you could have posted more pics ..

Anonymous said...

im not anti jew but this fucking culture of letting an innocent animal bleed to death after being tied down so you can say your meaningless prayers disgusts me. you should feel ashamed that you could call this inhumane ritual 'beautiful' and 'fascinating'

Shmuel Spiegel said...

Re: Anonymous
"If the lung is punctured, the meat is still kosher, just not Glatt Kosher. Whether or not you may eat it depends on your practice."
Incorrect. A punctured lung is Treifa according to all authorities. Glatt refers to having no pleural adhesions.

Anonymous said...

Truly sick...