Open Orthodoxy

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Chicken hugger, chicken killer

In the recent edition of the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah newsletter there is an article titled “Animal Instincts: Student Seeks Insight Through Sh’khitah [ritual slaughter] Training”. The article was probably written with genuine solemnity, but instead is hilarious. I don’t think I’m being insensitive at all. Everyone I have read selected passages to has burst out laughing. (Or, maybe we’re all just insensitive.) To preface, I’m not a vegetarian. In fact, writing this blog post made me hungry for some BBQ chicken. I’m sure that PETA could have a field day with this:
Andy Kastner, a second-year rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, spends a lot of time thinking about animals. He believes all life is sacred and every living creature deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

The slight, curly-haired rabbi-to-be looks and sounds like a young man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. And yet, on a rainy afternoon in late February, he stood in the backyard of a Scarsdale synagogue, holding a knife to the throat of a six-week-old chicken. Moments later, Andy’s borrowed white butcher’s coat was stained with the animal’s blood and the chicken was dead.

Andy says he believes his love of animals sparked his interest in sh’khitah [ritual slaughter]. “When I was exploring my role as a rabbi, I realized this was [a] project I could take on,” the 28-year-old student explains. “I wanted to feel the fear of taking an animal’s life out of this world to sustain myself. I wanted to reconnect with the sanctity and fragility of life.”
Let me get this straight, Kastner kills animals because he loves them and wants “to feel the fear of taking an animal’s life out of this world”. That's just creepy. Since it seems like he has a bad case of being born under the sign of Mars (Shabbos 156a), I guess it's better that his predilection is for animals.

Kastner states, "The first time I performed sh’khitah I broke down in tears—I was inconsolable, it was an incredible feeling to watch an animal leave this world at my hands". While Andy was experiencing the "euphoria of the kill", was the chicken blubbering too?

Leslie [Andy’s wife] says Andy has learned a great deal throughout the training process. “He has a deep sense of kavannah when doing sh’khitah,” she says. “I still remember his first time. He called to tell me the details and we both had so many emotions. The meal we ate that evening—his first chicken—was very meaningful. We felt a deep connection to the food we were putting into our bodies.”
Just beautiful. I wonder if that's a new YCT pastoral counseling technique to strengthen spousal intimacy - "slaughter therapy".

Kastner says, "I’m a little afraid this is going to become a circus or a novelty act and people will just want to see it, it’s not the kind of thing most Jewish boys learn how to do.” Why not allow others to "feel the fear of taking an animal’s life out of this world" and experience the "incredible feeling to watch an animal leave this world at [his] hands"? I can't wait to see what Andy kills next!

Kastner’s goal is to create a kosher meat brand called “Tikun Harvest” that “provide[s] a holistic eating experience that invites spirit and God to the table”. It sounds like a marketing ploy to sell expensive meat to guilt-ridden carnivorous chicken hugging vegan wannabees.

I have some serious commentary on Kastner’s and YCT’s agenda, but this whole thing is just too ridiculous to be serious.