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If a fish is considered shechted when it is taken out of the water, what is the status of that fish when it is placed back in the water and it swims away? If it was dead, surely it cannot come back to life, so is it considered already dead even though it is swimming around and living like any other fish? If so, what are the practical implications of the swimming fish being considered dead (such as with respect to eating it "alive" and tza'ar ba'alei chaim, unnecessary pain to animals)? If it is not considered dead when it is taken from the water, what is the definition of death for a fish?

  • I think you are confusing 'shecheted' and 'dead'. – Double AA May 20 '15 at 13:21
  • @double-aa Why do you think that? And, what do you see as the difference between dead and slaughtered? Is schechted not the same as killed or slaughtered? Does not killed or slaughtered mean made dead? – Yehuda W May 20 '15 at 13:24
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    Incidentally you may be interested in the case of the animal that is Mefarkeses מפרקסת as it relates to Eiver Min HaChai – Double AA May 20 '15 at 14:05
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    Death of a fish is when his skin has dried to the right amount. Asifa is his shechita, not removal from water, This was addressed in a different question on this site. – user6591 May 20 '15 at 14:08
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    judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/57725/… see Double's answer there – user6591 May 20 '15 at 14:10
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The Shulchan Aruch doesn't seem to mention it, but the באר היטב in 'סעיף ח of סימן שטז - צידה האסורה ומתרת בשבת mentions the Rambam:

פטור. דהוי מלאכה שא''צ לגופה. העלה דג מן הספל של מים והניחו עד שיבש כסלע בין סנפיריו חייב משום נטילת נשמה דשוב אינו יכול לחיות רמב''ם גמ'. וא''כ צריך לזהר שלא יצוה לעכו''ם ליטול דג מן החבית של מים אע''פ שירא שימות. מ''א: ‏

Once a fish has been out of the water so long that a the skin between its fins has dried, it is considered dead - even if only the size of a Sela-coin is dry - as it cannot live any longer.

It's a Gemara in Shabbat 107b (and mentioned Ta'anis 24a):

אמר שמואל השולה דג מן הים כיון שיבש בו כסלע חייב א''ר יוסי בר אבין ובין סנפיריו אמר רב אשי לא תימא יבש ממש אלא אפילו דעבד רירי

Shmuel says: one who removes a fish from the sea, once a Sela-area has dried, has transgressed (for killing it). Rav Yossi bar Avin says, specifically between its fins. Rav Ashi says, it needn't be dry; even if it's no longer slimy.

The Rambam in הלכות שבת - פרק אחד עשר Paskens likewise:

א: הַשׁוֹחֵט חַיָּב. וְלֹא שׁוֹחִט בִּלְבַד אֶלָּא כָּל הַנּוֹטֵל נְשָׁמָה לְאֶחָד מִכָּל מִינֵי חַיָּה וּבְהֵמָה וְעוֹף וְדָג וְשֶׁרֶץ בֵּין בִּשְׁחִיטָה אוֹ בִּנְחִירָה אוֹ בְּהַכָּאָה חַיָּב. הַחוֹנֵק אֶת הַחַי עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת הֲרֵי זֶה תּוֹלֶדֶת שׁוֹחֵט. לְפִיכָךְ אִם הֶעֱלָה דָּג מִסֵּפֶל שֶׁל מַיִם וְהִנִּיחוֹ עַד שֶׁמֵּת חַיָּב מִשּׁוּם חוֹנֵק. וְלֹא עַד שֶׁיָּמוּת אֶלָּא כֵּיוָן שֶׁיָּבֵשׁ בּוֹ כְּסֶלַע בֵּין סְנַפִּירָיו חַיָּב שֶׁעוֹד אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לִחְיוֹת.‏

As you can see, the Rambam says that once it has a Sela-worth of dryness it won't live.

(A Sela was a silver coin similar to a tetradrachm. The tetradrachm size varies according to when and where it was minted but ranges from 25-40 mm wide and weighs 17.2 grams of silver. According to Wikipedia and Coins of time.)

  • Millimeters?! What are you in Europe or something:) +1 – user6591 May 21 '15 at 11:22
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    @user6591 His profile says he's in Israel, where we all should be. – Double AA May 21 '15 at 14:07
  • @user6591 - I can only imagine how user-friendly it would be to write 0.984-1.574 inches :-) – Danny Schoemann May 21 '15 at 14:13
  • @DannySchoemann 1-1.5" would do just fine (and it's so much more concise) – wfb May 21 '15 at 15:26
  • @Double I was aware that. I was not aware if Israel uses a metric standard or not. So I chose to word my JOKE as I did. And Im yirtza Hashem bikarov kulanu nigaal vi'alinu lisham! – user6591 May 21 '15 at 15:33

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