By now, we all know that Karaites and Rabbanites have different traditions regarding kashrut (e.g., milk and meat and alyah). But the historical Karaite practice of slaughter (Hebrew: shechita) is also different from the Rabbinic practice.
Today, I catch up with Travis Wheeler, a Karaite schochet, and Eli Shmuel, a young Israeli Karaite, about the Karaite halakhic tradition regarding slaughter.
I am not an expert on anything – let alone slaughter (Karaite or Rabbanite), but I’ll note some interesting differences of which I’m aware.
First, historically Karaites absolutely forbade slaughtering a pregnant animal. [1.] By way of example, in March 2013, my uncle wanted to slaughter a lamb for our Passover seder. He showed up to the farm and saw that all the lambs were pregnant and refused to slaughter any of them. by contrast, the Rabbinic tradition permits slaughtering a pregnant animal. [2.]
Second, Karaites and Rabbanites differ as to the actual method of slaughter. In the historical Karaite tradition, all four parts of the animal’s throat must be completely cut in order for the slaughter to be valid. In the Rabbinic halakha, only two parts of the throat must be cut (and do not have to be completely cut). [3.]
Travis Wheeler became a Karaite shochet a few years ago. At the time of his training, he already had a background in slaughtering animals so it made the process go a bit more smoothly. But Travis notes that his training was not still not easy. His study included two trips to Israel to learn with Hakham Moshe Yosef and Hakham Moshe Firrouz.
Travis was only formally approved as a Karaite shochet later, when H. Moshe Firrouz came to the U.S. to observe Travis slaughter a goat. The goat became part of that night’s dinner – on a pizza with real cheese. Being Karaite is awesome – except for that shawarma thing.
Travis says that the most interesting thing he learned during his training is that he should not film the slaughter because it diminishes the dignity of the animal. The Karaites with whom Travis studied impressed upon Travis that mankind was given the permission to slaughter and we should not take that permission lightly.
Eli Shmuel, who is planning a trip to the United States in the coming months, discusses the dignity of the animal in this short video explaining the historic Karaite halakhic tradition. The video is only about nine minutes and addresses a lot of topics, including: (i) that some Karaites do not eat meat slaughtered by Rabbanites; (ii) that the method of slaughter was likely known before the Torah was given – and that is why God does not command a specific method of slaughter; and (iii) that the historical Karaite halakha imposes some requirements as to the piety of the slaughterer.
Regardless of how we each might view certain aspects of the Rabbanite and traditional Karaite practice, I think you’ll find this video informative.
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[1.] Among the reasons why Karaites forbid slaughtering a pregnant animal is the biblical prohibition against killing an animal and its young on the same day. See Leviticus 22:28.
[2.] See, e.g., Talmud Bavli Chulin 68, 74.
[3.] Mishneh Torah, Sefer Kedusha, Shechita, Chapter 1, Halacha 9.