ט׳ בטבת ה׳תשע״ט (December 17, 2018)

Hullin 20a-b: Must Birds Be Ritually Slaughtered?

As we learned on yesterday’s daf the laws of sheḥita – ordinary ritual slaughter – and melika – the unique slaughter of birds as part of the Temple service – stand in contrast to one another. While sheḥita can only be performed on the front of the bird’s neck, melika can only be done on the back of the bird’s neck. Nevertheless, on today’s daf, Rabbi Yirmeya quotes Shmuel as teaching that there is one point of similarity between them. The area of the neck that is appropriate for sheḥita and melika are identical.

While comparing and contrasting these two methods of ritual slaughter, the Gemara makes reference to the fact that whether or not sheḥita is a Biblical requirement is, itself, a matter of disagreement (as we learned on yesterday’s daf, the Torah is clear about the requirement of melika – see Vayikra 1:14-17 and 5:8-10). The source for this disagreement appears later on in Massekhet Ḥullin (daf 27b) where Rav Yehuda quotes Rabbi Yitzḥak ben Pinḥas as teaching that the passage that commands kisui ha-dam – requiring that the blood of a bird that was killed must be covered with dirt – should be understood to mean that the bird can be killed in any manner. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi disagrees, arguing that the passage that teaches that animals must be killed “as you were commanded” ( 12:21) refers specifically to the requirement that ritual slaughter involves the two simanim – the windpipe and the esophagus – where the majority of both must be cut for animals and the majority of one must be cut for birds.

Rashi points out that even according to the opinion that there is no Biblical requirement to perform sheḥita on birds, nevertheless a bird that simply dies or is bludgeoned to death will not be kosher. The only argument is whether the rules and regulations of sheḥita (see the five basic rules above, daf 4 ) apply to the slaughter of birds as well as animals. In any case, it is clear that at least on a Rabbinic level, all agree that sheḥita applies to fowl.