Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A pair of ads about New York's bleeding cattle controversy, 1861

Here are a pair of ads from The Jewish Messenger in 1861, concerning a famous episode in the history of kashrut in America, that arose in the 1850s. 

As you can see, the first ad is a public notice that anyone casting doubt on the kashrut of calves slaughtered after having been bled (see below) has only the right to be machmir on himself, but great authorities permit it. Anyone violating this is causing a loss to butchers, is liable according to the Shulchan Aruch - and the law of the land (they can be sued). It is signed J. Middleman. 

Below it is an unsigned ad stating that Middleman is wrong about the view of the Chasam Sofer, and so is R. Yosef Shaul Nathansohn, if that's what he said: ""Rabbi Nathanson may be, nevertheless, a very illustrious man, but errare est humanum..." It continues to say that it considers the threat of recourse to the laws of the United States in preventing him from speaking out is - mesirah, and furthermore Middleman shall be remembered in the blessing Velamalshinim.

Explanation below:

The issue concerned the lovely practice of bleeding cattle, which amounted to draining them of most of the blood in their body from the jugular - while alive - before slaughter.  Descriptions of the process are horrible. The better to have whiter veal. Cruelty aside, naturally, the question was whether the practice renders the animal trefa. A shochet of pious reputation named Aaron Tzvi Friedman (1822-76), newly arrived in America, discovered that this was a regular procedure here, and was shocked. 

So he asked R. Judah Middleman in New York ("Yudel"; an interesting figure who, among other things, wrote a reply to Alexander M'Caul's infamous missionary tract Netivot Olam-Old Paths; Mittleman's book was called Netivot Emet-True Paths, and was translated into English in the 1840s). Mittleman was originally from Lemberg, and he asked a friend of his, perhaps Galicia's greatest posek, R. Joseph Saul Nathansohn, who replied that it is permissible, and the Chasam Sofer already permitted it, but it can only be done by an expert, so it doesn't render the animal trefa. I admit here that I didn't do my homework yet (=look in the primary sources), but according to others who have, the Chasam Sofer only permitted bleeding cattle for the health of the animal itself, not indiscriminately. 

Here is Rabbi Friedman's account of it in his Chein Tov, including the letter from R. Yoseph Shaul (note that Friedman cites the heter he received from "Rabbi Shlomo Adler of London," but he almost certainly meant Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler):

The above work was part of a series of pamphlets on shechita author by Friedman, best known as Tuv Ta'am, the first part of which was translated to English, written as and used as a defense of shechita from attack (English, here).

Here is, incidentally, a wonderful blog by a descendant of R. A. Z. Friedman, the shochet in this story, who posted many facts about his ancestor, as well as these two wonderful portraits kept in the family, of Friedman and his second wife (link).

Apropos, there are a number of responsa from R. Nathanson to R. Middleman, including one interesting one regarding whether or not a church can be converted into a synagogue. For those interested in seeing an English name of a Church explained in a teshuva, here it is, "Written in English 'Welsh-Scottish Methodist Church.' This means, of those from Wales, joined with people of Scots Land, Lutheran church." Then he describes their service, and the beliefs of Protestants generally. See Otzar Yisrael Vol. 2 pg. 246, entry on R. Avraham  Yoseph Asch (link).

1 comment:

  1. This rang a personal bell with me, because Reb Aaron Tzvi was an ancestor of mine. According to a follow-up post in the blog that you cited, it's most likely that he only married once, and that the lady in the portrait is his first and only wife Rebecca. Their daughter Rachel, my great-grandmother, apparently inherited his sense of self-assuredness. "I'm never wrong," she is reported to have said, perhaps only half jokingly, "and if I were, I'd know it."



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