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.