Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NZ Shechita Ban – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Last week the heads of the Jewish communities in Auckland and Wellington put out a letter calling on people to take action to make sure that the ban on Shechita in New Zealand is defeated when it goes to court next year.

Since then there have been a number of articles in the media.

The Good

  • There is a good summary of what Shechita is and the implications of the ban available here.
  • The New Zealand Herald ran an informative article on Shechita and how the ban may hurt the future of the New Zealand Jewish community.
  • The issue was also covered in J-Wire and The Jewish Journal,
  • And for those on Facebook, there is a group that you can join.

The Bad

Arutz 7 reported that a major English Supplier of Kosher Meat is discontinuing Shechita, lets hope that this isn’t the next stage in a world trend.

The Ugly

The New Zealand Animal Welfare group SAFE has launched a campaign to have the ban on Shechita reinstated in New Zealand.

That isn’t by itself surprising. What is surprising is that they didn’t take the time to do even basic research into what Shechita is, the short article on Shechita is so full of basic errors it is amazing that they put it on the Internet (Errors on The Internet – hard to believe but true).

Following is a short letter that I just sent them asking them to publish a clarification. I’ll let you know if there is a response.


Subject: Kosher Slaughter

Dear Sir / Madam,

Your article on Kosher Slaughter ( completely mis-represents Kosher Slaughter and has several errors.

  • The knives in the pictures are not at all similar to a Shechita knife which is extremely sharp (and sharpened between each animal) to make sure that the animal cannot feel the cut. If the knife was not 100% smooth, there is a chance that the animal would feel pain of the cut and the animal is not kosher.
  • An animal slaughtered through Shechita does not “bleed to death”, as your article claims, rather oxygen is cut off to the brain so that the animal is rendered unconscious immediately. The Animal feels no pain. If there is any indication that the animal did not die instantaneously (for example the cut did not go completely through the wind-pipe) the animal would not be kosher.
  • Your claim that “Another method is a stab to the chest which severs the major arteries and veins.” is completely false, such a method of slaughter would not be kosher.

Many scientific studies have found that Kosher slaughter is in fact more humane than stunning (which does not always render the animal unconscious immediately). The studies carried out by the Animal Welfare Board in New Zealand did not accurately investigate Shechita as the tests were carried out with a different type of knife using a different type of slaughter.

The Jewish religion requires humane treatment of animals before, during, and after slaughter. This includes the way that animals are raised, how they are slaughtered, and symbolically the blood of some animals is buried to show respect for the life that was lost.

Wikipedia has a short article on the treatment of animals in Jewish Law:

The US Humane Society also has an article on the Jewish treatment of animals:

I appreciate that you have animal welfare at heart, but I believe that you owe it to your readers to provide accurate information about Shechita.

I hope that you will consider publishing a correction to the misrepresentations in your article.


Michael Sedley


The only response that I received from SAFE was a short note saying that they would investigate the matter, however upon checking the link above I see that they have completely re-written the article on Shechita. They are still calling for the ban to be enforced, however they have removed the incorrect information about the Shechita process.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cute Video – They Spoke Hebrew

Jacob Richman just put together a short (less than 5 minutes) video of Hebrew being used in popular TV shows (Everything from MASH to House), it opens with a great scene of a Brit being supervised by Father Mulcahy with the Hebrew words being to him via Morse Code (with Radar’s Help).

You should definitely check it out:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Can anyone help me out with this Rashi

Can anyone explain the last Rashi in Parshat Noach:

בראשית י”א ל”ב

וַיִּהְיוּ יְמֵי תֶרַח חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח בְּחָרָן


בחרן - הנו"ן הפוכה לומר לך עד אברם חרון אף של מקום

The Nun is inverted to tell you that until the time of Abraham, the fierce anger (חרו) of the Omnipotent was kindled against the world

(Translation from Silberman)

I looked in a few commentaries on Rashi (Siftei Chachamim, Gur Ariyeh) but couldn’t find any explanation as to what Rashi means by נון הפוכה. In our Sifrei Torah there is nothing unusual about the Nun in that word.

Silberman has a footnote that on the word “Inverted” that “According to some authorities this should be so” – does he mean that there are opinions that the Nun at the end of חרן should be upside-down like the end of Bamidbar 10 ( ׆ )

Anyone else have any idea what Rashi may be referring to?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Amazing Photos of Jewish life in New Zealand

HaChayim Hayehudim Jewish photo Library has just posted several collections of Jewish Life in Australia and New Zealand including a wonderful collection of photos of the shul where I grew up, a separate collection of photos of the Holocaust Education Center which was initiated by my father, and pictures of the Library/Beit Midrash in the shul in Wellington (the Van Staveren Room).

He also has many gravestones, I even found a pictures of the graves of my Paternal grandfather and grandmother and Maternal Grandfather and grandmother.

Amazing photos, well worth a visit.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rashi in the News

One of the strangest Rashis in Parshat Berashit is on 4:23 where he describes the death of Cain:

שמען קולי" - שהיו נשיו פורשות ממנו מתשמיש לפי שהרג את קין ואת תובל קין בנו שהיה למך סומא ותובל קין מושכו וראה את קין ונדמה לו כחיה ואמר לאביו למשוך בקשת והרגו וכיון שידע שהוא קין זקנו הכה כף אל כף וספק את בנו ביניהם והרגו והיו נשיו פורשות ממנו והוא מפייסן

For his [Lemech’s] wives separated from him because he killed Cain and Tuval-Cain, his own son. For Lemech was blind and Tuval-Cain used to lead him. [Tuvan-Cain] saw Cain and thought that he was an animal, and told his father to draw his bow, thus he [Lemech] killed him [Cain].

I had always hound this Rashi odd, to say the least – however yesterday The Gainsesville Sun reported a surprisingly similar story….

Hunter mistaken for deer shot with arrow

By Karen Voyles
Staff writer

A hunter is expected to survive after being shot in the back with an arrow. Investigators said the hunter's friend shot the arrow from a bow after mistaking the hunter for a deer.

"This is a good time to remind hunters — no matter what they are hunting with — to make sure they know what they are aiming at," said Karen Parker, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The incident occurred around sunset Wednesday in Jennings State Forest, a popular North Florida hunting site east of U.S. 301 and north of Camp Blanding in Clay County.

The hunter, John Whigham, 22, of Fleming Island, was taken to Shands Jacksonville. Parker said Whigham's injury was not considered life-threatening.

Whigham said he was returning to a hunting stand when his friend, Randy Pritchard, 40, of Middleburg, shot him in the back.

Pritchard told investigators the shooting was accidental and happened when he mistook Whigham for a deer.

FWC investigators were continuing their investigation Thursday morning. The shooting has been preliminarily identified as an accident, and no charges had been filed.

No mention of whether the hunter was blind.