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Shabbat Parashat R'ei 5774

P'ninat Mishpat: Disqualifying a Shochet

(based on Beit Yitzchak (Shmelkes), Choshen Mishpat 83

[This responsa is the last one in the final volume of Beit Yitzchak. One can easily argue that it should not be in Choshen Mishpat (or in this column), as it is focused on the laws of kashrut. The explanation is that Rav Shmelkes was asked to state his opinion on whether a certain shochet could continue in his post or whether he needed to be removed. Apparently, there was a din Torah on the matter, and the beit din of Rozadiv, whose members are addressed in the letter, had to rule on the matter of his continued employment.

As opposed to most cases of this sort where the author of the responsum is approached solely due to his great scholarship, here there is an interesting additional twist. The shochet had been trained in Parmishla, the city where Rav Yitzchak Shmelkes had been rabbi for many years (by this time, he was in L’vov).]


I received your inquiry about the accomplished shochet R. Avraham, who was trained in Parmishla, and now some of the people of your town want to disqualify him because he certified as kosher an animal with a certain question of tereifa. [We will not get into the animal’s specific questionable blemish.]

I have been told by all the shochtim of Parmishla that there was a minhag started by the brilliant Rabbi Shmuel Zeinviel Heller, head of Parmishla’s rabbinical court, to rely on the lenient opinion of the K’reiti U’pleiti on this matter. When I came to Parmishla, I did not agree with that ruling, as I wrote in Beit Yitzchak, Yoreh Deah I:69, but I did not protest against the practice. I always tried to find a way to be lenient on the matter by finding alleviating factors [again, we skip the technical details]. It is not clear whether in the case R. Avraham was involved in, there were not additional doubts in the direction of leniency. If there were, then his certification was proper.

However, even if there were no additional indications for leniency, since the K’reiti U’pleiti ruled leniently and this is the minhag in several places, R. Avraham is not considered like one who wrongly permitted a tereifa. Firstly, it is clear that even those who forbid such an animal do so only on the level of Rabbinic law, and the Avodat Hagershuni (15) says that a shochet who makes a mistake on a ruling on a Rabbinic matter is not disqualified.

The above is only extra justification, as the main idea is that since he followed the minhag of Parmishla, where he was trained, he should not be blamed. His training also is an excuse for the fact that he did not ask the local rabbi to rule on this matter. Another “extra” factor is that many Yom Kippurs have passed since he made the mistake in question, and you should therefore not question his reliability. [The responsum ends with a long tangent about the extent to which the passage of Yom Kippur affects those who are in need of atonement for various sins, and how Yom Kippur is more limited in its atonement powers when we no longer have the service of the sa’ir hamishtaleach (the “scapegoat”).]

In summary, it is clear that R. Avraham can be relied upon to shecht and check the animals, even for those who want to be mehadrin among the mehadrin without any concern.

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