Masechet Chullin 75a-81b

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08 Sep 2011

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Chullin 75a-b: A living, breathing, partially slaughtered animal

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, there is a difference of opinion regarding the status of a viable fetus that was in utero at the time that its mother was slaughtered. Rabbi Meir rules that in such a case it would need its own shechita. The Chachamim disagree, arguing that the mother’s slaughter permits the fetus.

What if the mother was a treifah – an animal with a terminal condition that will not allow it to survive? The slaughter of a treifah does not render the mother kosher, although it does affect the mother’s status with regard to laws of ritual purity (see above daf 73).

This question is discussed in the Gemara where we find Rabbi Ammi teaching that if a person slaughtered a treifah animal and found in it a viable fetus, then the positions are switched. Rabbi Meir who forbids the fetus (without slaughtering) permits this fetus, while the Hakhamim who permit the fetus without slaughtering would forbid this fetus, even if it is slaughtered on its own. Rabbi Ammi’s argument is that Rabbi Meir views a viable fetus as an independent entity, so its mother’s slaughter has no impact on it. It cannot permit the fetus if it was a kosher slaughter and it cannot forbid the fetus if the mother’s slaughter was invalid. On the other hand, the Hakhamim who view the fetus as part of its mother and rule that the mother’s shechita affects the fetus will have to accept the fact that if the mother’s slaughter was invalid, we view it as if the fetus has been improperly slaughtered, and that cannot be rectified.

Rava argues with Rabbi Ammi, saying that even according to the Hakhamim, the fetus can be permitted if it receives its own shechita, “for the Divine Law permits the fetus by the slaughtering of any two out of four simanim.” That is to say, although the mother’s slaughter did have some legal standing – it removes the ritual defilement of neveilah – nevertheless the option remains for it to receive its own shechita, which will permit it entirely.

Chullin 76a-b: When an animal’s legs are cut off

Another case of an animal rendered a treifah – that it has a terminal condition that will not allow it to survive – is discussed in the Mishnah on today’s daf. The Mishnah teaches that if the hind legs of an animal were cut off below the joint, it is permitted, but if they were cut off above the joint, it is considered a treifah. This is also the case if the tzomet ha-gidim – the juncture of the tendons – was gone.

Which joint is the one that serves as the “cut-off point” for this law?

The Gemara brings a difference of opinion with regard to this question. Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav who reported it in the name of Rabbi Hiyya, “below” means below the joint, and “above” means above the joint, and the joint referred to is the joint which is sold together with the head. Ulla said in the name of Rabbi Oshaya: It is that joint which is clearly distinguishable in the camel.

An animal’s leg is made up of three main bones (aside from the smaller bones around the hoof that are comparable to a human foot). They are:

Between each of these bones there is a joint called an arkuvah; the upper arkuvah can be seen clearly in a camel, although in a cow it is difficult to discern since it is close to the cows belly and it is covered with muscle and skin. The discussion in the Gemara is which arkuvah is referred to in the Mishnah when it teaches that an animal becomes a treifah if the hind legs of an animal were cut off “below the joint.”

Chullin 77a-b: Burying an animal’s placenta

This perek has focused on the rules and regulations that apply to an animal that was slaughtered and was discovered to have a developing fetus within it. The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses the case of a shilya – a placenta – that was found in such an animal. A placenta is a large organ – filled with blood vessels – that connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall. By means of the placenta – and specifically the umbilical cord connected to it – the fetus “eats,” that is, ingests nutrients that allow it to develop. The presence of a placenta in an animal (or in a human) is a clear indication that a pregnancy began, although if no fetus is present then the pregnancy did not continue with its normal development.

While the focus of the Mishnah is on the permissibility of the placenta – the Mishnah rules that it can be eaten, even though it is not ordinarily considered to be food – it concludes that “it may not be buried at cross-roads or hung on a tree, for these are the practices of the Amorites.”

“The practices of the Amorites” refers to activities that are not truly in the category of idol worship, but they are non-Jewish traditions that are forbidden based on the passage in Sefer Shemot (23:24, and see Rashi there) “…nor do after their doings.” Another source for this prohibition is Vayikra (18:3) “…neither shall you walk in their statutes.” In particular, these are understood as referring to practices of magic and witchcraft.

In explanation of this idea, we find in the Gemara that Abayye and Rava agree that whatever is done for medicinal purposes is not prohibited as Amorite practices, and whatever is not done for medicinal purposes is prohibited as Amorite practices. Thus, the Gemara explains, that the common practice of painting a tree whose fruits fall off with red paint and piling stones on it can be done since the stones may limit the strength of the tree, and by calling attention to it, those who pass by will be encouraged to pray on its behalf.

Chullin 78a-b: Mothers and offspring cannot be slaughtered on the same day

After dealing with the laws of ritual slaughter and related rules and regulations whose focus were the main concerns of shechita, the fifth perek of Masechet Chullin turns its attention to other laws related to ritual slaughter that stand as separate commandments. This chapter deals with the laws of oto ve’et beno – the rule that forbids the slaughter of a parent and its offspring on the same day (see Vayikra 22:28).

The language of the prohibition in the Torah makes it clear that it refers only to kosher, domesticated animals – not to birds or wild animals. All agree that the prohibition stands whether it is the parent or the offspring that is slaughtered first; similarly, all agree that it makes no difference whether the offspring is male or female. There is a difference of opinion, however, as to whether the parent mentioned refers only to the mother, or if slaughtering the father is included in this prohibition.

According to the Mishnah, the prohibition of oto ve’et beno applies not only to ordinary animals, but to sanctified animals brought as sacrifices in the Temple, as well. Tosafot ask why this needs to be taught. Surely the context of the prohibition, which appears in the midst of a collection of laws about the sacrificial service, is a clear indication that this rule would apply in cases of sanctified animals! Tosafot offer two possible explanations:

The Mishnah is teaching about a specific case, where a person is obligated to offer the Passover sacrifice and the only animal that is available to him is one whose mother had already been slaughtered that day. Rather than saying that the prohibition would be set aside in the face of the positive commandment to bring the korban Pesach – the Mishnah teaches that the prohibition remains in place.

Tosafot is reluctant to limit the Mishnah’s teaching to one, limited situation, so they offer another approach, as well –

The passage that teaches this law opens with the introductory words “…and whether it be a cow or a sheep” which effectively separates this verse from the one before it. I therefore may have thought that this was done in order to show that it is not to be included in the list of rules for sanctified animals, so the Mishnah must teach otherwise.

Chullin 79a-b: Of mules and hinnies

The Torah forbids many types of mixtures, among them is the prohibition against mating different species of animals together (see Vayikra 19:19).

With this in mind, we find on today’s daf that Rabbi Yehuda teaches: if a mule was in heat it may not be mated with a horse or a donkey, but only with one of its own kind. The Gemara explains that Rabbi Yehuda forbids mating it with any kind of horse or any kind of donkey, since we do not know the mule’s true species.

The Gemara then suggests that we should determine what “its kind” must be by examining it by means of specific signs taught by Abayye. These include: If its voice is harsh, it is the offspring of a female donkey; if its voice is shrill, it is the offspring of a mare. In addition we have the tradition of Rav Papa that if its ears are long and its tail short, it is the offspring of a female donkey; if its ears are short and its tail long, it is the offspring of a mare!

Since Rabbi Yehuda does not consider the possibility of checking these physical traits, the Gemara concludes that this must be dealing with a case where the animal was dumb and mutilated and therefore could not be examined.

The offspring of a horse and a donkey – equus mullus – will either be a mule (if its mother was a female horse) or a hinny (if its mother was a female donkey). A mule can be either male or female, but even though externally it appears to have fully formed sexual organs it is infertile because it has an odd number of chromosomes. Mules are known as strong, hard-working animals, and they have served as work and pack animals for thousands of years. Hinnies are generally smaller than mules and are relatively uncommon.

In contrast with the descriptions in the Gemara – perhaps contemporary mules are from a different stock of animals – common mules today have long ears similar to those of donkeys and their tails are bald at the top like donkeys; their voice vacillates between the braying of a donkey and the neighing of a horse. In contrast, a hinny appears similar to a horse in the structure of its head and tail and its ears are shorter than those of a donkey.

Chullin 80a-b: An animal whose identity is difficult to pin down

In the context of discussing animals that are produced from the mating of different species (see yesterday’s daf), the Gemara introduces a koy – an animal that has the features of both a wild animal and a domesticated one . At first, the Gemara assumes that the koy is the result of a union between a deer and a goat, but on today’s daf Rav Yehuda suggests that it is a beriah bifnei atzmah – it is a unique creation – about which the Sages could not conclude if it is a wild animal or a domestic animal. The Gemara points out that this is a disagreement that hearkens back to the time of the Tanna’im, quoting a baraita where Rabbi Yossi echoes Rav Yehuda’s position that the koy is a unique species, while Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel testifies that it is a domesticated animal – the family Dushai would raise flocks of them.

Identifying the koy is a difficult task. Even though it is mentioned many times in the Mishnah and Talmudic literature, that is not because it is a common animal, rather because its status between a wild and domesticated animal allows it to serve as a test case for many halakhot. The disagreement as to its identification began in the time of the Mishnah, when some of the Sages argued that it is the offspring of a deer or similar animal with a goat. Others claim that it is a unique type of animal – an Ayal ha-bar .

The Ayal ha-bar can be identified with the ovis musimon, which, according to many, is the forerunner of domesticated cattle. It is distinguished by its short hair and grey color, and it lives in mountainous regions, where it is a nimble climber – today mainly in uninhabited areas in Europe. It is likely that the clear similarities between a koy and a sheep, together with its being a wild animal, led to the Sages’ confusion about its classification .

Its name, “koy” and even the pronunciation of the name, are themselves the subject of disagreement .

Chullin 81a-b: When a more severe penalty negates a lesser one

We have learned (see above, daf 78) that the Torah forbids the slaughter of a parent and its offspring on the same day (oto ve-et beno – see Vayikra 22:28). The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses situations where the shechita has a problem attached to it.

In cases such as these, Rabbi Shimon rules that the laws of oto ve-et beno will not apply, since the slaughter that took place did not permit the animal to be eaten. The Chachamim disagree and rule that we still consider this to be shechita, and the law of oto ve-et beno remains in effect.

Reish Lakish opens the discussion in the Gemara by pointing out that in this case the order in which the animals are slaughtered will make a difference. If the first animal was slaughtered for idol worship and the second was slaughtered for ordinary purposes, then the person can indeed be punished. If, however, the first animal was slaughtered for ordinary purposes and the second was slaughtered for idol worship, then he cannot possibly be punished for oto ve-et beno, since he is liable for a more severe punishment for performing the act of shechita – he will be killed for performing idol worship – and we apply the rule of kim lei be-derabah minei. According to the rule of kim lei be-derabah minei, when a person who commits an act for which he is liable to receive two separate punishments, Jewish law will only allow him to be punished once, i.e. he will receive the more severe of the two punishments and be freed of the lesser punishment. Thus, if a person performs an act for which he would receive both capital punishments and lashes, he will not receive the lashes, as the capital punishment suffices as punishment for this act.

Rabbi Yochanan objects to Reish Lakish’s teaching by saying that every school child knows that law. He suggests that even if the second animal were slaughtered for idol worship there could still be a situation where the man would receive punishment for oto ve-et beno. That would be in a case where the only warning that he received was about the lashes that he would receive if he slaughtered the mother (or the child), but that he was not warned about the capital punishment that he would receive for performing idol worship. The Gemara points out that Resh Lakish disagrees with Rabbi Yochanan’s assumption. According to his view, performing a transgression for which one is liable to receive a severe punishment will always erase the lesser punishment, even if the punishment is not actually applied.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.