ד׳ בטבת ה׳תשע״א (December 11, 2010)

Zevahim 31a-b – Women as ritual slaughterers

We have already learned (see the introduction to Masechet Zevahim) that there are four basic avodot – activities – that must be performed for each animal sacrifice –

  • Shehitah – slaughtering the animal (this need not be done by a kohen)
  • Kabbalat ha-dam – collecting the blood at the time of slaughter
  • Holakhah – carrying the blood of the sacrifice to the altar
  • Zerikat ha-dam – sprinkling the blood on the altar.

 

On today’s daf (=page), the first Mishnah in the third perek (=chapter) of Masechet Zevahim teaches that although shehitah is one of the requirements in the sacrificial service, it need not be performed by a kohen, and will be considered valid if performed by an ordinary Jew. According to the Mishnah, it can even be done by a woman, a slave or a tameh – someone who is in a ritually defiled state.

 

With regard to women performing ritual slaughter, Tosafot point out that the statement in this Mishnah is clear proof that women can act as ritual slaughterers, in contradiction to a teaching presented in the book Hilkhot Eretz Yisrael, which precludes them from acting as shohatim because nashim da’atan kalot – that halakhah perceives women as being “lightheaded.” That work includes a number of other restrictions in the act of shehitah; for example, shehitah performed by someone who was not properly dressed or someone who did not recite the appropriate benediction at the time of slaughter will be invalid. Tosafot argue that in all of these cases, these are humrot – stringencies – established by the author of that work that are not actually requirements of Jewish law.

 

With regard to slaves performing ritual slaughter, the Mishnah is referring to an  Kena’ani – a non-Jewish slave – who has undergone conversion and circumcision, and is obligated in mitzvot on the same level as a woman. An eved Ivri – a Jewish slave – has the status of an ordinary Jewish person and can act as a ritual slaughterer for sacrifices like anyone else.