Shochet, Rosh Ha-Ayin, Israel, 1983
Shochet, Rosh Ha-Ayin, Israel, 1983Click to Enlarge
Notice the bloodstains on this man’s shirt. He’s a shochet—a person who slaughters animals according to Jewish law. A shochet must be thoroughly trained and knowledgeable in the laws of kashrut. Here he is shown sharpening his knife. In order for an animal (other than a fish) to be kosher, it must be killed with a single stroke across the neck from a perfectly sharpened knife. This ensures the most painless, humane death for the animal. The shochet, therefore, has to clean and sharpen his knife after every use. The Torah also prohibits eating blood, because it represents the life of the animal. So after the animal is killed, the shochet must let the blood drain out.
רַב אָמַר, לֹא נִתְּנוּ הַמִּצְווֹת אֶלָּא לְצָרֵף בָּהֶן אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת. וְכִי מַה אִיכְפַּת לֵיהּ לְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוא לְמִי שֶׁשּׁוֹחֵט מִן הַצַּוָּאר אוֹ מִי שֶׁשּׁוֹחֵט מִן הָעוֹרֶף. הֱוֵי לֹא נִתְּנוּ הַמִּצְווֹת אֶלָּא לְצָרֵף בָּהֶם אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת.
Rav said, the miztvot were given only in order that human beings might be purified by them. For what does the Holy One care whether a person kills an animal by the throat or by the nape of the neck? Hence their purpose is to refine human beings.
– Midrash Genesis Rabbah 44:1
לֹא יאֹמַר אַדָם, אִי אֶפְשִׁי לֶאֶכוֹל בַּשָׂר חַזִיר… אַבָל אֶפְשִׁי, וּמַה אֶעֱשֶׂה וְאָבִי שֶׁבַּשָׁמַיִם גַזָר עָלַי.
A person should not say, “I don’t want to eat pork”… but rather, “I want it, but what can I do if my father in Heaven has commanded me not to do it!”
– Midrash Sifra on Leviticus 20:26