Is Halitah Required? – A Mekori Perspective


Halitah - Raw MeatHalitah (חליטה), which means “searing” or “blanching,” refers to the submersion of raw meat into either boiling water or vinegar prior to cooking it. The stated purpose of this process is to sear the outer surface of the meat, thereby sealing any remaining blood inside, preventing it from exiting the meat while being cooked in a pot. Since the halakhah only prohibits blood that exits the meat, and not that which remains within the meat, halitah is presented by its proponents as an assurance that no forbidden blood will be consumed.

This custom, mentioned only by the Rambam, is virtually unknown in most of the orthodox Jewish world and was generally confined to various communities in Yemen. Yet for many mekori Jews, halitah is viewed as an indispensable part of kashering meat, without which such meat may not be consumed. Their contention is that the regular process of salting and rinsing does not remove all the blood, and therefore it must be sealed inside through searing the surface of the meat, unless one plans to roast it over an open fire in which case no such precaution is necessary.

Despite the vigor with which many defend the unique injunction of the Rambam, no Talmudic source exists which requires halitah for all regular cuts of meat. As we shall see, it was only practiced specifically with regard to the liver (kabed – כבד), because of its particularly high concentration of blood and its peculiar character as opposed to other portions of meat derived from muscle tissue. However, since the common practice since medieval times has been to only eat liver which has been roasted, halitah fell largely into disuse among the majority of world Jewry over the course of the last 700 years… 

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