Parsha Mitzvot: Re’ei: Mitzvah 440 – Concept 204
“If the place where God, your Lord, will choose to place His Name will be far from you, you may slaughter from your cattle and your flocks that God has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may
eat in your cities according to your heart’s entire desire.” (Deuteronomy 12:21) We are commanded to ritually slaughter an animal before eating. (Rambam, Hilchot Shechitah – The Laws of Slaughtering)
Rabbi Katz zt”l was my rebbi in the laws and practice of Shechita – Ritual Slaughtering. He was a magnificent human being in many ways. He always spoke gently. He never spoke negatively of anyone or anything. He spent every moment possible studying Talmud. He felt and acted as if he was sitting in the Telshe Yeshiva Beit Midrash each time he sat before an open Gemara, a volume of the Talmud.
I learned a lesson from him about Halacha, Jewish Law, on the day I first actually slaughtered an animal. I had not been able to eat meat since I began spending my days in Shamrock Meats in Los Angeles. Rav Katz repeatedly spoke of compassion for each animal before and during Shechita. He even cared about the care and dignity we gave the animal after Shechita. On the day I first actually shechted, he invited me to eat dinner at his home. Rebbitzen Katz served steak, and I was so shaken by my experiences that day that I didn’t want to eat.
“Did you shecht or did you kill?” he asked. “I can understand that if you killed those animals that you would not want to eat. Shechting however, is a Mitzvah, and if done properly was a holy act. Halacha transformed the act of killing the animal into an act of making it holy. If that is what you did, you will not have a problem eating.”
Rav Katz reminded me that Halacha is not a series of prescribed acts. It is a way to transform everyday actions into something holy. It had never been as clear to me as it was at that moment.