Tablet magazine has a fascinating write-up of Rabbi Moshe Yurman, a Brooklyn shochet who is one of the only three ritual knife-makers in America (and they’ve got a witty, if obvious title for it). The knife a shochet uses, called a chalif, is required to be homemade and exceedingly sharp. And given how long a shochet spends with his knife, it end up becoming quite a personal object.
Rabbi Chaim Loike, a rabbinic coordinator for OU Kosher, describes Rabbi Yurman’s knives as works of art (Rabbi Loike earned his own Tablet profile last year with his quixotic quest to save the Philby’s Partridge). Given how few knives Rabbi Yurman makes per year, they’re a bit on the expensive side. Rabbi Loike admits that he and his students buy existing knives and then alter them to fulfill the chalif requirements.
The piece is chock full of interesting details about the shechita world, like the fact that there are roughly 300 men responsible for all the kosher meat and chicken produced in North America. While the piece’s author doesn’t give too much in the way of Rabbi Yurman’s biography or motivation (or what he keeps in his basement for that matter), she does emerge with some very great, very Jewish repartee.
“How difficult is it to sharpen a knife?” I ask.
“How difficult is it to play piano?” he responds. “To play saxophone? To play violin?”
And, in case you know someone who needs a beautiful knife with the sharpest blade imaginable, Rabbi Yorman’s least expensive knife starts at $200.