The tradition of kosher slaughter, or shechita in Hebrew, is one that begins with the giving of the Torah itself and is integral to the Oral Tradition that accompanies it. In fact, the Oral Tradition of Kosher Slaughter, the halacha l’Moshe Mi’Sinai, establishes clear rules and guidelines for the various types of slaughter mentioned in the Torah. For our purposes, we are focusing on the type that permits an observant Jewish person to enjoy consuming the meat of an animal permitted by the Torah. Shechita of this type must occur in the front of the neck, and must sever the trachea and esophagus. There are five rules governing the mode of slaughter:
- Shehiya – it is prohibited to pause in the middle of the act of slaughter
- Derosa – it is prohibited to press down or chop with the knife
- Chalodah – it is prohibited to sever the trachea from below, or cover the knife in any way
- Hagromeh – it is prohibited to exit the area of the neck that severs the trachea and esophagus
- Ikur – it is prohibited to tear or shred the trachea and esophagus, or to detach them from their points of origin
A proper shechita is performed by taking a sharpened knife that is razor sharp, that is blunt on both ends to look like a rectangle, and whose blade is twice as long or longer than the width of the neck of the animal it will be used to slaughter. This design removes the possibility of puncturing the neck upon entry, tearing the skin or vital organs, restricting entry underneath the trachea, or to chop through the neck (or even spine). The incision is made in one motion, back and forth across the neck, to totally sever the trachea and esophagus, thereby slaughtering the animal, and rendering it fit for consumption (assuming, of course, that it was a healthy kosher animal devoid of any life threatening diseases or wounds that could only be discovered after the slaughter).
Kosher Slaughter and the Jedi Knight
It was very common for Jedi to travel the galaxy at light speeds, spreading peace and harmony wherever they went (in theory), and they would offer their wisdom and council to member planets of the Galactic Republic. In our case, we’re dealing with a young Jewish man or woman that has attained the rank of Jedi Knight and may not be able to bring enough kosher food with them for the long stay on their tour. Each planet likely brings its own challenges food wise, but let’s assume the presence of kosher animals was prevalent. The nerf, for example, was a very prevalent space buffalo, which we only learned about a couple of years ago. Our observant Jedi would then be responsible for their own kashrus observance, and perhaps need to slaughter a nerf for themselves.
What Kind Of Knife May Be Used For Shechita?
בכל דבר התלוש שוחטין בין בסכין בין בצור בין בקרומית של קנה האגם הנקרא אישפד”ניא
וכיוצא בהם מדברים החותכים. והוא שיהיה פיו חד ולא יהיה בו פגם:
With every manner of detached item, one may slaughter: whether a knife, a stone, or a reed stem from the swamps; all similar items that are able to cut, remain sharp, and contain no nicks.Shulchon Arukh Yoreh Deah 6:1
The general rule is that any unattached, durable object could be honed into a sharp enough utensil to slaughter an animal according to the laws we’ve just reviewed. Obviously, our well prepared Jedi could just bring along an extra knife like we’ve described, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun if we didn’t explore the possibility of slaughtering an animal with a lightsaber.
Clearly a lightsaber is a very efficient slicing device, and certainly meet many of the criteria listed above: it’s a detached device, has no nicks or any part of it’s blade that tears or shreds, and doesn’t need sharpening. What could keep an observant Jewish person from wanting to deploy an energy sword anywhere in the galaxy for some tasty nerf steak?
Sakin Meluben – the burning hot (knife) issue
אם שחט בסכין מלובנת שחיטתו פסולה ויש מכשירין (אם ידע שהיא מלובנת ונזהר שלא נגע בצדדים):
If one slaughters with a knife that is white (hot) the slaughter is invalidated, although some opinions hold the slaughter may be kosher.
The burning hot issue with a light saber is that it burns through its target using energy. The lightsaber is essentially plasma, emitted from a power source in the holy, with energy modulators and an activation button. The problem raised in this halacha by the commentators is three-fold: a standard knife, when red hot, will either burn the organs before slicing them, burn them while slicing them, or split from the blade before taking damage from the heat. It’s these three potential considerations that allow for a standard knife to possibly be used while red-hot. Our lightsaber, on the other hand, will only burn through until our nerf looks like Jango Fett. That won’t work.
What will definitely work would be, in a case of necessity, to hone the edge of the Kyber crystal from inside the lightsaber to be incredibly sharp and use it for shechita when no other items are available. The reason why using a tiny Kyber crystal is the best option is because the blade of the saber would render the animal a treifah, a kosher species that developed a life threatening wound. This wound would proscribe the animal from consumption, unless of course, they had bacta gel to follow repair it. That’s an issue for another time.
If our observant Jewish Jedi Knight were to find themselves on a planet where they were in need of a Kosher meat meal, then the preferred option, in lieu of getting an actual knife that would operate properly, is to use the Kyber crystal inside of the lightsaber to perform the shechita, but could not use the plasma blade of the lightsaber itself.