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Recent Questions

Kosher Slaughtering

There has been a lot of controversy lately about kosher methods of slaughtering meat. I always thought that kosher was more humane, but now I’m hearing a lot of negative press. What exactly does kosher slaughter involve?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Besides being from a kosher species, kosher meat requires that the animal/bird be slaughtered in the manner prescribed by the Torah (Shechita). (Fish do not have this requirement.) In this procedure, a trained kosher slaughterer (shochet) severs the trachea and esophagus of the animal with a special razor-sharp knife. This also severs the jugular vein, causing instantaneous death with no pain to the animal.

After the animal/bird has been properly slaughtered, its internal organs are inspected (bedika) for any physiological abnormalities that may render the animal non-kosher (treif). The lungs, in particular, must be examined to determine that there are no adhesions (sirchot) which may be indicative of a puncture in the lungs.

Further, animals contain many veins (e.g. Gid HaNashe) and fats (chelev) that are forbidden by the Torah and must be removed. The procedure of removal is called "Nikkur," and it is quite complex. In practice today, the hind quarter of most kosher animals is simply removed and sold as non-kosher meat.

Finally, since the Torah forbids eating of the blood, the blood of an animal or bird must be removed through a process of salting. The entire surface of meat must be covered with coarse salt. It is then left for an hour on an inclined or perforated surface to allow the blood to flow down freely. The meat is then thoroughly washed to remove all salt. Meat must be koshered within 72 hours after slaughter so as not to permit the blood to congeal. (An alternate means of removing the blood is through broiling on a perforated grate over an open fire.)


Baal Teshuva Under Attack

I recently became a baal teshuva and on my first trip back home, my friends and family started peppering me with questions: Why do I do this, and why do I do that? I'm really new to this, and I could not answer many of the questions. So now I am having doubts about whether all of this is really true.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You are not the first to experience this. But there's a simple method to help you handle it.

When someone asks you a question, it is important to distinguish between a question which merely addresses a detail of your observance (e.g.: “Why do you salt the bread at the Shabbat table?") versus a question that attacks the very foundation of your observance (e.g.: “How do you know that God spoke at Mount Sinai?").

In the first case, the proper response is: "Judaism is so rich with customs and traditions, and I haven't had the opportunity to learn the deeper reasons behind everything. But that’s a great question and I am going to do some research and get back to you – and then we'll both know the answer!"

In the second case - a foundational question - if you don't have a decent answer, then perhaps you may want to sit with a rabbi and discuss the issue in-depth. For although "evidence" is not a prerequisite for belief in the veracity of Torah, in today's day and age, with so many people trying to attack religion, it is wise to have a solid intellectual basis for one's belief. And given that Judaism is very, very solid in the area of rational basis for belief, it's a good idea to have that knowledge clear.

I hope this helps.


Do-It-Yourself Menorah

I live in North Vancouver, Canada and I have looked everywhere for Chanukah candles - but to no avail. Either the stores are all out of them, or their supplier cannot get them. Any help would be appreciated.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

You don't need candles specifically made for Chanukah. Actually, any candle will work (providing they were not made for use in a pagan ceremony). The candles just need to be long enough to burn for more than 30 minutes. Most supermarkets sell boxes of Shabbat candles, which are just fine for this.

Actually, even better is to use olive oil, because that is how the actual Chanukah miracle took place in the Holy Temple. For this, all you need are some standard shot glasses. Pour in some olive oil, and top it off with a floating wick. Then line 'em up in a neat little row, and you're all set to go!


Due to limited resources, the Ask the Rabbi service is intended for Jews of little background with nowhere else to turn. People with questions in Jewish law should consult their local rabbi. Note that this is not a homework service!

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