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Mishpatim: Tzelach: Halachic Reality: Mitzvah 61 – Concept 589

“If an ox shall gore a man or woman and he shall die, the ox shall surely be stoned, its flesh may not be eaten.” (Exodus 21:28) We may not benefit from an ox condemned to be stoned. (Rambam, Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot – The Laws of Forbidden Foods)

We are commanded with the prevention of acts causing damage. Man is held responsible for every act of causing damage deriving from his possessions. Therefore we are held responsible for damage deriving from our beasts, so that we shall keep watch over them. (Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim – The Guide of the Perplexed, III:40)

The Tzelach (Pesachim 73) writes that the minute the court has ruled that the animal must be stoned, it is considered as “killed animal,” and even if ritually shecheted – slaughtered, afterward, its flesh is not kosher. In fact, he rules that one may not even shecht the animal.

Shechitah is not just the ritual killing of an animal, it is a spiritual tool used to allow us to eat the flesh of an animal without suffering spiritual damage from the killing. The Shechita of an ox condemned to be stoned is ineffective, and doing so would cause us to think of Shechita as having magical power to make something Kosher. It is not, it is only effective on an animal that is already kosher.

The fact that the animal is forbidden once the court rules reminds us that a Halachic ruling creates a reality. The animal is already considered ‘dead.”

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