As we prepare for Yom Kippur and are fulfilling the custom of kapporos, in light of the protests by “animal-rights” advocates these past years, we present a letter in which the Rebbe explains the function of shechitah and its Chasidic dimension. The letter, written originally in English, is from the archives of the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel.
By the Grace of G-d
29th of Menachem Av, 5712
I was pleased to learn that the marriage of your son will be solemnized on the… day of Elul. I wish you and Mrs. … mazal tov and lots of nachas from your children.
I take this opportunity to tell you it has been a source of gratification to me to learn of the cooperation which you, as Chairman of the Shechitah Board, and Rabbi…, as Rosh Hashochetim have always shown towards the shochetim belonging to our Chassidic following. I trust that you will continue to take a growing interest in their problems and will do your utmost for them, so that they, in turn, could do their utmost for your community.
There is a well known saying of the Baal Shem Tov, which I often heard quoted by my father-in-law if sainted memory, to the effect that every experience in one’s life is a lesson in better human conduct and worship of G-d.
The function of shechitah is to prepare the flesh of kosher animals and birds for human consumption and to transform it into human flesh and blood. For, what was at first but animal flesh, now, after the necessary preparation by shechitah , is raised to the standard of being part of the human being.
Every Jew, as pointed out in the Tanya, has a spiritual duality: a “Divine” soul and “animal” soul. The purpose is that the “anima” soul should be so sublimated as to not only not interfere with the functions of the Divine soul, but should itself be elevated into a vehicle for the Divine soul. The way to accomplish this is not through seeking ways and means of our own intelligence, but to follow the road prescribed for us by G-d in the Torah, through the precepts and practices of our religio.
This is one of the lessons of shechitah, for it is only by fulfilling the laws of shechitah that the animal is transformed into the human, as mentioned above.
With prayerful wishes,