Question Responsa on Slaughtering Giraffe !!!

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David Ben-Abraham (Yemenite)

Thursday, December 08, 2005 - 09:11 am Click here to edit this post
[Moderator: This post has been included for the purpose of halakhaic discussion. However, points described therein are not in keeping with commonly accepted Halakha. As such, each person must consult their Rabbi for clarification and pesaq.]

The kashrut of birds requires a Mesora (tradition) in order for it to be considered kosher even with all the kosher characteristics. This follows the decision of the Rama (Rabbi Moshe Iserlisch) and which only applies to Ashkenazi Jews, since he was the first to suggest that one needs a Mesora (tradition) for eating birds. Is it the same for split-hoof ruminants even the ones for which Jews don't have a Mesora, such as the giraffe, or bison, elk, caribou and reindeer? It would seem that the Chazon Ish (based on his interpetation of hints in certain latter authorities) felt that one also needs a Mesora for ruminants.

Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon, in his Arabic Translation of the Pentateuch known as "Tifsir," translates the Hebrew word "Zamer," (in Deuteronomy 14:5) as "Giraffe," meaning that it is one of the ruminants that the Torah clearly says can be eaten by Jews! So, why haven't we seen it eaten as Kosher food? I posed this question to Rabbi Yoseph Qafih z"l who said to me simply that this animal was not found in areas settled by Jews. When asked if it were permitted for us to have it ritually slaughtered and eaten, he replied to me with a definite "Yes," saying that as far as a Mesora is concerned, it is sufficient to rely upon the expertise of Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon who said that it was a Kosher animal, and that obviously anyone could see that it had the clear signs of a Kosher animal. In this regard, it is no different from a Yemenite Jew who today eats "Turkey," although this fowl was not native to Yemen or to Asia, but rather native to North-America. Yet, since we rely upon the expertise of others that the bird is Kosher (viz., that it has a crop, gizzard, and a fourth toe, and it does not pounce upon its prey with its talons), we eat it!

As for "not knowing the place of slaughter," this is a common fallacy. Maimonides writes in his Halachot Shehita that "the entire neck is valid for ritual slaughter."

As for the Halakhic ruling of the Chazon Ish, someone pointed out to me and I will use his words: "this was a big chidush (novelty) and was strongly objected to." He went on to say that he didn't know of any American Rabbanim who accepted it. "Rab Wozner [of Benei Baraq]," he said, "was also less than enthusiastic. What really upset people was his ruling that the zebu, or Indian cow, has no Mesora while the European cow does." So far his words.

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