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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa 5774

P'ninat Mishpat: Replacing a Problematic Shochet Without a Beit Din

(based around Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat I:2)

[There is no need to introduce Rav Moshe Feinstein, easily one of the most prominent poskim of the last generation, to the great majority of our readership. In this context, he did not sit as a dayan on a regular basis, as far as I am aware. His writings on monetary law include general Talmudic scholarship but also reflect his serving as a resource to rabbis and communities involved in disputes who needed outside guidance from a foremost halachic authority. The first responsum we present is a classic example of halachic advice in lieu of formal beit din proceedings.]

 

The community of Caracas, Venezuela had serious complaints about the reliability of a local shochet, but there was no local beit din that could investigate and rule on the matter. What are they to do in such a situation?

In a matter that impacts on individuals, no dayan can decide the matter without hearing the claims of both sides in person. This applies even to a religious matter such as the reliability of the shochet’s shechita and his kashrut supervision. After all, the shochet might claim that the facts presented about him are false and that someone is trying to defame him or improperly remove him from his role. Even if there are witnesses, they must be heard in his presence. Therefore, I cannot make a decision based on the complaints mentioned in your [a local rabbi’s] letter.

What I am able to tell you has to do with the shochet’s counterclaims of forbidden competition (hasagat g’vul). If there are ostensibly substantive suspicions about the shechita and the kashrut supervision of the shochet, and because of that people cannot eat the meat, it is not applicable to speak about limitations on competition due to hasagat g’vul.

Consequently, if in Venzuela and the neighboring countries there is no beit din that is fit to rule on the matter and to investigate the shochet, there is no greater loss than the fact that people cannot eat the meat. [Ed. Note – Rav Moshe seems to posit that even if the local rabbi cannot have the shochet fired or censored, he can tell people that they may not eat the meat he supervises in the meantime]. There is also concern about possible kashrut violation for those who are G-d-fearing. Therefore, one is allowed to take the law into his own hands, even in a dispute between two individuals and certainly when it is a matter of the community against an individual, which is even easier to permit (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat 4:1). However, this is only when it is known to you that the truth and justice is with you, i.e., that there are real doubts about his shechita, hashgacha, and fear of Heaven.

If after you take steps, he summons you to beit din, you will have to respond and go with him to a beit din when the matter becomes feasible. Therefore, my advice to you is to offer him a certain sum of money for his agreement to be removed because you will not be able to find a beit din.

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