The Rambam writes (MT Shechita 3:1) about five factors that disqualify ritual slaughter (shechitah). One of them (3:11) is dirasah, pressing on animal throat (based on the gemara in Chulin 30b)

For example, one struck the neck with a knife as one strikes with a sword, cutting the signs [trachea and oesophagus] at one time, without passing [the knife] back and forth or one placed the knife on the neck and pressed, cutting downward like one cuts radishes or squash until he cuts the signs, [the slaughter] is unacceptable.

So one has to draw the knife back and forth instead of pressing to cut the animal throat.

I am looking to understand why this is the case? Is it to minimize pain to the animal? Intuitively this is not so simple to understand. Cutting oneself with a paper (similar to "passing the knife") is quite painful while one often doesn't feel a small knife cut (similar to "pressing").

Or is it to avoid damages that would make the animal taref (unacceptable)? Or something else?

I am not asking about the subjective feelings of pain but rather for halachic reasons that were proposed (taam hamitzvot). I didn't find it in the Sefer Hakhinukh (451).

  • 2
    Moreh Nevuchim III:48 does not address this point specifically, but does write (Friedlander translation): "Since, therefore, the desire of procuring good food necessitates the slaying of animals, the Law enjoins that the death of the animal should be the easiest. It is not allowed to torment the animal by cutting the throat in a clumsy manner..."
    – Joel K
    Jul 10, 2018 at 9:03
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    Regarding your example: To the naked eye, it might seem as if a paper's edge is fairly straight and smooth. But if you were to zoom in, you’d find that paper is more akin to a saw than to a blade. BBC Jul 10, 2018 at 9:10
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    The 5 are halakhah lemosheh miSinai, so the ta'am hamitzvah might be beyond us (ie we can't rule out it being choq). But I always assumed that it's similar to tereifah; an animal that dies (or would die) of a crushed windpipe didn't die of a cleanly cut one. Jul 10, 2018 at 20:11
  • @JoelK thanks for this - could be an answer - although my point was that a clean (pressed) cut might be just as "clean" as a forth-and-back movement but maybe the Torah is telling this is not the case
    – mbloch
    Jul 11, 2018 at 9:29
  • @MichaBerger thanks for this - indeed it might be what the Rambam writes in Schechita 9:8 that some crushed organs are forbidden
    – mbloch
    Jul 11, 2018 at 9:30


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