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I'm not too experienced with the rabbinic literature and history, and from just plain reading of the text in this week's torah portion (V'Yikra) I'm finding that it says "HE shall bring it...HE shall kill it":

"And he shall kill the bullock before HaShem..." -Vayikra 1:5

"And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it..." -Vayikra 3:2

Etc. The context of these verses seem to indicate that the "he" being referred to is the one bringing the sacrifice. Did the kohenim actually do the slaughter, or was it the one bringing the sacrifice?

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Anyone can do the Shechita –  Double AA Mar 15 '13 at 1:33
    
But not everybody has access to the altar. I've wondered about this too and assumed the kohanim did the slaughter. (I think there's a pretty explicit description of the process for the Pesach lamb in particular in Pesachim, though I don't have it handy and could be wrong.) –  Monica Cellio Mar 15 '13 at 1:59
    
@MonicaCellio - I don't have it handy either, but I seem to remember the Mishna in Pesachim making it clear that anyone can slaughter the animal, but only the kohanim can sprinkle the blood. –  Shimon bM Mar 15 '13 at 2:14
    
I have a vague memory of long lines of people queued up for kohanim (it being the busiest day of the year). Perhaps they were queued for sprinkling rather than slaughtering; I thought the latter but I could certainly be mistaken. Anyway, we've identified a place to look for the first person who has time and inclination to do so. :-) –  Monica Cellio Mar 15 '13 at 2:16
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Kovesh, welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thank you too for this interesting quesiton. I hope you register your account and continue to contribute and stick around. –  Double AA Mar 15 '13 at 6:04

1 Answer 1

The Mishna (Zevachim 3:1) states:

כל הפסולין ששחטו שחיטתן כשרה שהשחיטה כשרה בזרים בנשים ובעבדים ובטמאים אפילו בקדשי קדשים
Anyone who is invalid for Temple service who slaughtered [a sacrifice], the slaughter is valid, for slaughtering [sacrifices] is valid even for non-priests, women, slaves and even impure people, even for the holiest of sacrifices.

So yes, any adult can slaughter the sacrifice. If anything, it is best if the owners themselves do the slaughtering, as there is a principle מצווה בו יותר מבשלוחו that it is preferable to do one's Mitzva one's self and not to send a messenger. Much ink has been spilled debating if that principle applies here or not, but all agree that nearly anyone can do the slaughtering, certainly bedieved.

The Rambam codifies this rule in Pesulei Mukdashin 1:1, noting that children are invalid for slaughtering sacrifices, as slaughtering sacrifices requires certain specific intentions, and impure individuals should not slaughter sacrifices ab initio lest they accidentally come to touch the meat and render it impure.

Interestingly, the only instance in all of Halacha TTBOMK where a non-Jew can slaughter an animal (Shechita) is by way of offering his own burnt sacrifice (Olah) to our God when outside the Temple. He can even do this nowadays if he wants (Rambam Ma'aseh Korbanot 19:16).

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