According to Torah law, one may only consume the meat of kosher fowl or animals which have been slaughtered in accordance with Halacha. However, there are many detailed laws regarding “Terefot” or blemishes and illnesses which may be found within the fowl or animal which would render the animal a “Terefa” and forbidden for consumption according to Halacha. This applies especially to an animal’s lungs which must be checked well, for the lungs are very prone to Terefot.
One of the things which render an animal forbidden for consumption are “Sirchot” (which are adhesions that cross the lung from side to side and resemble scabs; if there are Sirchot on the lungs, this is a sign that there was once a hole in that area that was later sealed by this Sircha). When checking for Sirchot, there are certain problematic Sirchot which raise questions whether or not the animal can be rendered kosher or non-kosher.
The early Poskim discuss the status or a Sircha which is easily removed by rubbing it with one’s hand until it disconnects. Some rule that this does not retain the status of a Sircha at all and is merely considered mucus which covers the lung from side to side. Only a Sircha which cannot be removed even by passing one’s hand over it is considered a Sircha.
Indeed, the Rashba was asked whether or not there is room for leniency regarding such Sirchot and this was his reply: “This is also another matter which you should distance yourselves from very much and we have likewise harshly rebuked those who have done so (rubbing Sirchot with one’s hands). If one of ours (a slaughterer or checker) would do this after being duly warned about this matter, he would be dismissed. The reason for this is because this matter (rubbing Sirchot off and claiming that they are only mucus) cannot be found anywhere in the Talmud and we have no basis for it; is a Sircha only one which is as thick as the reigns of a wagon which cannot be disconnected? To conclude, do not allow yourselves to act leniently on this matter in any way whatsoever.”
The Rashbetz (Rabbeinu Shimon bar Tzemach) writes that whoever rubs Sirchot off with his hands is tantamount to feeding Terefot to the Jewish nation. Maran Rabbeinu Yosef Karo zt”l rules accordingly in his Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 39, Section 10) and writes that whenever Sirchot are forbidden, there is no difference if the Sircha is as thin as a strand of hair or if it is thick and strong, as opposed to those who rub the Sircha and if it is removed, they assume that there is room for leniency. Anyone who does so is tantamount to feeding Terefot to the Jewish nation.
Nevertheless, the Rama (ibid. Section 13), whose rulings are followed by Ashkenazi Jews, rules as follows: “Some permit mashing Sirchot and rubbing them and they claim that an actual Sircha (the forbidden kind and not merely mucus) cannot be disconnected even if one rubs it all days long. Thus, if it is indeed removed after being mashed, we rule leniently and assume it to be mucus and not a Sircha. Although this is a great leniency, this is already the established custom in these countries; one need not protest this custom, for they have on whom to rely.”
When the Rama writes that they have on whom to rely, he is referring to the Rosh who writes that the custom in Ashkenaz (Germany and the surrounding areas) to rub Sirchot with one’s hand and to ascertain whether it had the status of a Sircha or merely mucus. The Maharshal, Shach, and many other Poskim rule likewise. Meat which comes from an animal which did not have any such Sirchot is called “Bet Yosef” or “Chalak/Glatt (“Chalak” and “Glatt” both mean “smooth” in Hebrew and Yiddish respectively) Bet Yosef” in Israel while meat which comes from an animal which had Sirchot which were rubbed off by hand is called “Kosher” (there is another classification of meat which is regular “Glatt”, the most common form of meat marketed by respectable Ashkenazi Kashrut organizations all over the world, and refers to meat from an animal in which no Sirchot were found in the critical areas of the lung as defined by the Rama, however, there may have been one or two negligible Sirchot and would still be considered Glatt for Ashkenazim but not for Sephardim. This is certainly a higher level of Kashrut than regular “Kosher”). Meat originating from an animal which had Sirchot which could not even be peeled off by hand is rendered “Taref”.
Clearly, Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jews who have accepted upon themselves the rulings of Maran Ha’Bet Yosef must make certain to act stringently and not consume meat from an animal whose lungs were found to have any Sirchot, even those as thin as a strand of hair. The Sephardic authorities have always ruled very stringently on this issue.
One of the most fundamental issues which Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l instituted for Sephardic Jewry all over the world was not to purchase meat unless it was truly “Chalak” or “Glatt” according to the Bet Yosef’s standards, for according to the majority of the Poskim, including Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, this issue borders on a possible Torah prohibition of consuming Terefot. The Ashkenazi custom of ruling leniently on this issue was only instituted because of the dire and pressing circumstances in those countries at that time and even the Rama refers to it as a “great leniency.” Nevertheless, nowadays when “Glatt” and “Chalak Bet Yosef” meat is available in abundance, it is worthy and proper even for Ashkenazim not to purchase meat that is merely “Kosher” and only to purchase “Glatt Kosher” meat.
Approximately sixty years ago, there were those who wished to unify the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities in Jerusalem (amongst whom there were constantly fights regarding ritual slaughter) by imposing on everyone the Ashkenazi tradition of slaughtering including the leniency of rubbing and peeling Sirchot. The great Rishon Le’Zion at the time, Hagaon Harav Ben Zion Meir Chai Uziel zt”l, who was known for his great character traits, accepted this offer as he wished to bring peace among the various communities in Jerusalem although this entailed Sephardim eating meat which had Sirchot being peeled by hand.
When this offer was brought up by Hagaon Harav Uziel zt”l at a meeting of the Chief Rabbinate, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Maran Hagaon Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank zt”l (who was Ashkenazi) stood up and announced that if the Sephardic tradition of slaughtering would be abolished from Jerusalem, he would establish his own Kashrut agency that would adhere to the standards of Maran Ha’Bet Yosef and the Sephardic customs. Thankfully, this idea was quickly buried. Today, thanks to all of the staunch efforts of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l and others, there are several respectable Kashrut agencies that produce meat checked according to the most rigorous standards of Halacha and is “Chalak/Glatt” even according to the standards of Maran Ha’Bet Yosef.