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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Theme for our Shabbat hike on August 8, 2009 was Judaism’s view on the ethical treatment of animals

Part I: Rabbi Korngold Talks About Jewish Views on the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Part II: Rabbi Korngold Talks About Jewish Views on the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Part III: Rabbi Korngold Talks About Jewish Views on the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Part IV: Rabbi Korngold Talks About Jewish Views on the Ethical Treatment of Animals

We began by going around the circle, introducing ourselves and answering, "If you were an animal. What would you be and why?"

We had jaguar (run fast and graceful) chimp (related to us) mountain goat (like to climb mountains) and a host of other animals . Feel free to respond to this blog with a posting of what animal you would be and why.

Then I introduced the following teaching gleaned from a fabulous source

"Judaism places great stress on proper treatment of animals. Unnecessary cruelty to animals is strictly forbidden, and in many cases, animals are accorded the same sensitivity as human beings. This concern for the welfare of animals is unusual in Western civilization. Most civilized nations did not accept this principle until quite recently; cruelty to animals was not outlawed until the 1800s, and even now it is not taken very seriously."

But for Jewish people it is an ancient tenet of our religion. For example, the historian Josephus wrote in Antiquities of the Jews, in 93 CE

"Herod also got together a great quantity of wild beasts, and of lions in very great abundance, and of such other beasts as were either of uncommon strength or of such a sort as were rarely seen. These were trained either to fight one with another, or men who were condemned to death were to fight with them. And truly foreigners were greatly surprised and delighted at the vast expenses of the shows, and at the great danger of the spectacles, but to the Jews it was a palpable breaking up of those customs for which they had so great a veneration."

In case you are wondering about who Josephus was, he was a Jewish man who become a Roman. His second major work, the Antiquities of the Jews, was completed in 93 C.E. Despite his ambivalent role, Josephus was an eyewitness to history, and his writings are considered authoritative.

As we hiked to our next stop at the pup station, I invited people to think about why Judaism might have such a strong ethic about taking good care of animals.

At our next stop, we regrouped and discussed our answers. Basically they fell into two groups:

  1. Links between treatment of animals and the way a person treats human beings.

    • A person who is cruel to a defenseless animal will likely be cruel to defenseless people.

    • There are many studies citing a correlation between childhood animal cruelty and adult criminal violence.

  2. Idea that God has a covenant with all creatures not just people. God values all creatures and so should we.

    Genesis 9:8 - 10 And God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living things that is with you  birds, cattle and every wild beast as well  all that have come our of the ark, every living thing on the earth."

As we continued to hike, I invited people to think about the connection between treatment of animals and people. Can you think of biblical examples of heroes and villains who are presented in relation to their treatment of animals? Modern examples or contradictions?

  1. Biblical figures who were good to animals

    • Moses chosen to lead people because of his compassion as a sheep herder. Talmud, "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said 'Since you are merciful to the flock of a human being, you shall be the shepherd of My flock, Israel.

    • Rebecca chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals. When Abraham's servant asked for water for himself, she volunteered to water his camels as well, and thereby proved herself a worthy wife (Gen. 24).

    • Other biblical figures who cared for animals: King David, Jacob (as opposed to Esau the hunter)

  2. Figures who were bad to animals:

    • Esau the hunter is a villain

    • The Talmud tells the story of a great rabbi, Judah Ha-Nasi (born 135 CE, redactor and editor of Mishna) who was punished with years of pain because he was insensitive to the fear of a calf being led to slaughter.

      Excerpt from:
      Various stories are told about Judah haNasi to illustrate different aspects of his character. One of them begins by telling of a calf breaking free from being led to slaughter. According to the story, the calf tries to hide under Judah haNasi's robes, bellowing with terror, but he pushes the animal away, saying: "Go  for this purpose you were created." For this, Heaven inflicted upon him kidney stones, painful flatulence, and other gastric problems, saying, "Since he showed no pity, let us bring suffering upon him".

      The story remarks that when Judah haNasi prayed for relief, the prayers were ignored, just as he had ignored the pleas of the calf. Nevertheless, it goes on to describe him subsequently preventing his maid from violently expelling baby weasels from his house, on the basis that "It is written: 'His Mercy is upon all his works.'" For this, Heaven removes the gastric problems from him, saying, "Since he has shown compassion, let us be compassionate with him".

At our outdoor synagogue site: I passed out slips of paper with the following rules about treatment of animals. People read them aloud and we talked about them.

Text 1: Animals get to rest on Sabbath:

Exd 20:10 - but the seventh day is a Shabbat to the LORD your God. You shall not do any work in it, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your man-servant, nor your maid-servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates;

Texts 2-3 - We are required to relieve an animal of its burden, even if we do not like its owner, do not know its owner, or even if it is ownerless (Ex. 23:5; Deut. 22:4).

Exd 23:5

If you see the donkey of him who hates you fallen down under his burden, don't leave him, you shall surely help him with it.

Deu 22:4

You shall not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen down by the way, and hide yourself from them: you shall surely help him to lift them up again.

Text 4: We are forbidden to muzzle an ox while it is working in the field so it can eat as it works:

Deu 25:4

You shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out [the grain].

Text 5-6: just as we must allow human workers to eat from the produce they are harvesting (Deut. 23:25-26).

Deu 23:25

When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, then you may eat of grapes your fill at your own pleasure; but you shall not put any in your vessel.

Deu 23:26

When you come into your neighbor's standing grain, then you may pluck the ears with your hand; but you shall not move a sickle to your neighbor's standing grain.

Text 7: Animals permitted to eat the grain from fallow fields the sabbatical year:

Exd 23:11

but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the animal of the field shall eat. In like manner you shall deal with your vineyard and with your olive grove.

Several commandments demonstrate concern for the physical or psychological suffering of animals:

Text 8: We may not plow a field using animals of different species (Deut. 22:10), because this would be a hardship to the animals.

Deu 22:10

You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

Text 9: We are not permitted to kill an animal in the same day as its young (Lev. 22:28)

Whether it is a cow or ewe, you shall not kill it and its young both in one day.

Text 10-11: and are specifically commanded to send away a mother bird when taking the eggs (Deut 22:6-7), because of the psychological distress this would cause the animal.

Deu 22:6

If a bird's nest chance to be before you in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the hen sitting on the young, or on the eggs, you shall not take the hen with the young:

Deu 22:7

you shall surely let the hen go, but the young you may take to yourself; that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days.

Text 12-14: In fact, the Torah specifically says that a person who sends away the mother bird will be rewarded with long life, precisely the same reward that is given for honoring mother and father (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16), and indeed for observing the whole Torah (Deut. 4:40). This should give some indication of the importance of this law.

Exd 20:12

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Text 13:

Deu 5:16

"Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you; that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

Text 14:

Deu 4:40

You shall keep his statutes, and his mitzvot, which I command you this day, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land, which the LORD your God gives you, forever.

Text 15: A person must feed animals before feeding self and may not purchase an animal unless he has made provisions to feed it, and a person must feed his animals before he feeds himself ( Talmud interpreting Deut. 11:15).

Deu 11:15

I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be full.

Humanity is given dominion over animals (Gen. 1:26)

Text 16:

Gen 1:26
God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the eretz, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the eretz."

Which gives us the right to use animals for legitimate needs.

" consumed for food

" animal skins can be used for clothing

" The Torah, mezuzh scrolls written on parchment (animal hides),

" teffilin must be made out of leather.

" Shofar rams horn

However, dominion does not give us the right to cause indiscriminate pain and destruction.

Based on all we have discussed, what should our dominion be like?

  • The group agreed it should be composed of careful and compassionate stewardship.

  • Examples were given about kosher laws prohibit harming the animal any more the necessary. There can be no nicks in the butchers blade or anything that prolongs death.

  • And finally, we talked about how in the messianic age we will all be vegetarians and what an ideal way of eating that is, in terms of treatment of animals.

Then we sang a few songs with the backpacking guitar, ate some vegan candy and went back on down the trail.



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