Shabbat Parashat Behar-Behukotay| 5767
Ask The Rabbi
Question: We want to open a kosher slaughter house in South America and were wondering if it is permitted to sell the non-kosher parts of the animals to non-Jews. That makes economic sense, but is it permitted to benefit from forbidden foods?
Answer: You are apparently early in the planning process. Obviously, in order to produce kosher meat, you will need an expert rabbinic staff not only to carry out the shechita but to ensure that the other necessary halachic steps are done properly. The head of that staff should be able to answer this and a host of other questions responsibly. We are glad to help with your feasibility check.
Almost all forbidden food is permitted in benefit. Exceptions include meat and milk that were cooked together, chametz, and orlah (fruit from new trees). Nothing that is related to a slaughter house should be forbidden to benefit from, whether it is a neveila (an animal that died without proper shechita), tereifa (an animal with life-threatening blemishes), cheilev (certain fatty sections of cattle), blood, or gid hanashe (certain veins in the animal’s hind legs).
However, it is prohibited to deal commercially with non-kosher food. The mishna (Shevi’it 7:4) says that hunters may sell non-kosher animals they chanced upon. The gemara (Pesachim 23a) derives this from the pasuk, “Vesheketz yiheyu lachem (and they shall remain defiled for you).” In other words, one may benefit from most non-kosher foods (“for you”) and yet is forbidden to do so commercially (“remain defiled”). Most Rishonim posit that the prohibition of trading in forbidden foods is a Torah law (see Shut Chatam Sofer, YD 104-106, 108; Yabia Omer VIII, YD 13). The Rashba (Shut III, 223) says that the reason is to minimize the possibility of eating forbidden foods, while others say it is a gezeirat hakatuv (heavenly decree without a known reason).
The practical distinction is that one may not purposely acquire food which is forbidden from the Torah. However, if the non-kosher food came into one’s possession accidentally or as a by-product of permitted activity, he may sell it (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 117:1). The Rama (ad loc.) urges not to leave the food in his possession longer than necessary. It is not always clear whether a specific situation is considered purposely acquiring non-kosher food. However, in the case of a slaughter house, kosher, live animals come by necessity with non-kosher parts. Therefore, after shechita, when it is necessary to discard of much of the hind section of the animal and the udder (for a combination of absolute halachic reasons, minhagim and a desire to simplify the process) they can be sold to non-Jews. Even if a whole animal turns out to be not kosher, the Torah says explicitly that one can sell a neveila to a non-Jew (Devarim 14:21); the same is true of a tereifa. This arrangement enables producers to sell the meat of animals regarding which halachic questions arose rather than search for difficult solutions to prevent great loss.
Must one be concerned that the non-kosher meat will end up being resold to Jews? The Torah law of lifnei iver,not to put a “stumbling block” before others, does not apply for a few reasons. Whoever ends up eating it could have obtained the same type of forbidden food elsewhere (see Avoda Zara 6b). Also, the food would go from one Jew to another only through an independent intermediary; this is too indirect to be lifnei iver. There is sometimes a rabbinic prohibition to sell non-kosher food to a non-Jew out of concern that it might end up by a Jew (see Pesachim 40b). However, that was said in cases where one might not realize the food is problematic (e.g., flour infested with bugs- Rama, YD 84:5). In our case, one may not buy meat without a hechsher.
What would be problematic is to sell non-kosher food to a Jewish merchant to resell, for this would be aiding him to violate the prohibition of dealing commercially with non-kosher food. Under certain circumstances, there are grounds for leniency (beyond our present scope), but seeking a non-Jew is a simpler idea.
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