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The prohibition of eating terefah stems from the biblical verse, וְאַנְשֵׁי קֹדֶשׁ תִּהְיוּן לִי וּבָשָׂר בַּשָּׂדֶה טְרֵפָה לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ לַכֶּלֶב תַּשְׁלִכוּן אֹתוֹ (And you shall be holy people to Me, and flesh torn in the field you shall not eat; you shall throw it to the dog[s]). From this verse, the Rabbis applied its meaning to any kosher animal which had sustained an injury of any kind. Thus implying that regardless if a clean (kosher) animal suffered a mortal injury that occurred from wild beast or from a fall, the animal would become unfit (non Kosher) for ritual slaughter or human consumption. However, if the injury to the animal is not life-threatening, and the animal will not die within a year of its injury, then the animal may be ritually slaughtered. According to the Talmud, there were originally only 8 types of terefah, however, the author(s) of the Mishnah added 18 more specific additions to the list. Eventually, Maimonides added even more to finish the list of terefah conditions at 70. Joseph Caro organized all of these symptoms in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah, 29-60) by categorizing them according to parts of the animal, their minute malady, and any disease, fracture, or abnormality they may possess.
More generally, it is forbidden to eat of any animal which died by itself. Such meat is called Nevelah (a carcass). Any animal that dies by any means other than fully observed ritual slaughter (shechita) is considered in this class. Nevelah differs from Terefah in that Nevelah imparts ritual impurity, whereas Terefah does not.
The First Eight Types of Terefah
The Talmud enumerates 8 types of Terefah that would make an animal unfit for ritual sacrifice according to Mosaic law. These damages include: clawing, perforation, deficiency, missing organs, severed organs, falling, tearing, and fracturing. They are defined as follows:
- Clawing: the clawing of an animal by a wild beast or of a bird by a bird of prey
- Perforation: a perforation to the cavity of one of the following 11 organs: the pharynx, the membrane of the brain, the heart and its aorta, the gall bladder, the vena cava inferior, abomasum, rumen, omasum, intestines, the lung and trachea.
- Deficiency: the absence from birth of one of the lobes of the lung, or one of the feet
- Missing: the absence of converging sinews in the thigh, or the liver, or the upper jaw
- Severing: the severing of the membrane covering the spinal cord whether the spinal column be broken or not
- Falling: the crushing of one of the internal organs of an animal as the result of a fall
- Tearing: the tearing of most of the flesh covering the rumen
- Fracturing: such as the fracturing of most of its ribs
Other reasons an animal may be terefah
While the previously mentioned conditions would force a formerly kosher animal to become terefah, there are other circumstances in which animals can be non-kosher. Both shellfish and pork are considered to be terefah at all time. However, improperly slaughtered animals also become terefah, as well as animals who have been properly slaughtered but upon inspection are diseased or malformed.
The word terefah, via Yiddish trejf/treif and its verb form tre[i/j]f[e]n (the latter formed by applying Germanic orthographic and generative-grammatical patterns to the Hebrew root), gave rise to the concept of trefny (deficient, illicit) in Polish.
- Arzi, Abraham. "Terefah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 19. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 647. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
- Exodus 22:30
- Hullin 37a
- The Jewish Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls Company. New ed., Vol II. pp. 109-110
- Deuteronomy 14:21
- Hullin 43a
- "Terefah." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 29 Mar. 2011.
- Laws of Judaism concerning food including laws concerning terefah