Animals and Religion Judaism's Perspective
Although various Christian clergy have come out with their individual beliefs attesting to the holiness or redeemable nature of animals, most adhere to the belief that scripture does not offer a definitive answer.

Yet, in Judaism, issues related to animal kindness and to the questions of whether animals have souls and whether our beloved companion animals go to heaven are clearly addressed.

CHAI, an organization in Israel, is striving to foster empathy, respect, and responsibility toward all living beings. They are inspiring and empowering people, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, to recognize the interconnectedness of all life and to make compassionate choices for the good of all.

The following True-False quiz on Judaism and Kindness to Animals comes from their fabulous Curriculum for Children Jewish Humane Education Kit. Let's see how you do!

1. G-d made covenants with animals just as with people.
2. Only humans go to Heaven.
3. Hunting for sport is permissible as long as the animals have a "sporting chance."
4. Rebecca was chosen to be Isaac's wife because she gave water to some thirsty camels.
5. Rabbi Judah suffered from a toothache for thirteen years because he ignored a calf's plea for help, but his health was restored when he prevented his daughter from killing a family of weasels.
6. Any animal that kills a human should be put to death immediately.
7. A person who was a spectator at gladiatorial games was only condemned if the games involved humans.
8. A person who is noble, polite, sensible, learned, and orthodox may be considered righteous even though he or she is cruel to animals.
9. Noah was called righteous because he spent an entire year caring for animals in the Ark.
10. Since humans are given dominion over the animals, we can subordinate all their needs to ours.
11. When an animal is slaughtered for food, the blood of the animal or bird is covered to indicate that killing is a shameful act.
12. Animal sacrifices are considered worthy deeds.
13. It is important to muzzle oxen when they are threshing corn.
14. It is forbidden to tie the legs of a beast or of a bird in a manner that would cause them pain.
15. Although a blessing is said when new clothes are worn, the blessing may not be said if the clothes are made of fur or leather, for you have killed to get them.
16. There is a special blessing only for fruit, vegetables, bread, and wine, but not for meat dishes.
17. Animals are to be fed and watered only after humans have finished eating.
18. Only humans are required to rest on the Sabbath. Animals can work on the Sabbath as long as it is for a non-Jew.
19. The first diet of humans and animals was vegetarian, and one day we will all be vegetarians once again.
20. You should help an animal in distress only if you don't have to violate the Sabbath or interrupt the carrying out of a commandment do so.
21 You are not permitted to wear leather shoes on Yom Kipper because you can't ask for compassion for yourself if you haven't shown it to others.
22. G-d chose Moses and David as leaders of their people because of their compassion for animals.

 

Quiz Answers and Discussion (from CHAI Online)

1.  G-d made covenants with animals just as with people.  True Genesis 9:8-12; Hosea 2:18

2.  Only humans go to Heaven.  False  Ecclesiastes 3:18-22

3.  Hunting for sport is permissible as long as the animals have a "sporting chance."  False   In the Responsa literature, hunting is deplored as wasteful, unnecessarily cruel, and dangerous to human life. "Based on the statement 'not to stand in the path of sinners' (Psalms 1:1), the Talmud prohibited association with hunters." (R. Schwartz, Judaism and Vegetarianism)

4. Rebecca was chosen to be Isaac's wife because she gave water to some thirsty camels.  True Genesis 24:11-20

5. Rabbi Judah suffered from a toothache for thirteen years because he ignored a calf's plea for help, but his health was restored when he prevented his daughter from killing a family of weasels.  True Psalms 145:9; Baba Metzia 85a; Genesis Rabbah 33:3

6.  Any animal that kills a human should be put to death immediately.  False Like humans, animals have responsibilities as well as rights (for example, the right to Sabbath rest and the right to protection from needless suffering). Animals that kill people may be put to death only after due consideration of all the circumstances, including whether the death was accidental.

7.  A person who was a spectator at gladiatorial games was only condemned if the games involved humans.  False "He who sits in a stadium spills blood." Talmud. No distinction was made between human victims and animal victims. (Avodah Zarah 1)

8.  A person who is noble, polite, sensible, learned, and orthodox may be considered righteous even though he or she is cruel to animals.  False "The righteous man regardeth the life of his beast," or translated literally "the righteous man knoweth the soul of his beast." (Proverbs 12:10) "The man...who is careless and indifferent about it (his animal), though he may not be hard-hearted and cruel to it, yet inasmuch as he regards it not, he is an unrighteous man; for the righteous man regards the life, the desire and the happiness of his beast....If I know that a man is cruel to his beast, I ask no more questions about him. He may be a noble man, or a rich man, or a polite man, or a sensible man, or a learned man, or an orthodox man, or a church man, or anything else, it matters not; this I know, on the sacred word of a wise king, that being cruel to his beast, he is a wicked man." (Humphrey Primatt, Dissertation on the Duty of Mercy and Sin of Cruelty to Brute Animals, London T. Cadell, 1776, p. 208/9 and "Sefer Orhot Tsadikim," Koenigsberg, H. Gruber, 1858, p. 17 as quoted in "Tsa'ar Ba'ale Hayim, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Its Bases, Development and Legislation in Hebrew Literature" by Noah J. Cohen, Feldheim Publishers, N.Y., 1976).

9.  Noah was called righteous because he spent an entire year caring for animals in the Ark.  True According to several interpretive sources, the word "righteous" is applied to people who supply food to people or animals in times of distress. Tan Huma BI, 31; Tan Huma Noah 3.

10.  Since humans are given dominion over the animals, we can subordinate all their needs to ours.  False See answer to question #8 above. As God is a good shepherd to humans, so humans are to be good shepherds to animals. Ezekiel 34:1-6. Dominion means stewardship, not a license to abuse. "There can be no doubt in the minds of every thinking man that the concept of dominion as expressed in the Torah...does not in any way imply the rule of a haughty despot who tyrannically governs his people and his servants for his own personal selfish ends and with a stubborn heart. Heaven forbid that such a repulsive form of servitude be forever integrated (sealed) in the world of the Lord, whose tender mercies are on all His works and of whom it is said, 'He shall build a world of kindness." Rabbi Yitzchak Hacohen Kook (first rabbi of pre-state Israel), "The Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," edited and compiled by "The Nazeer of Jerusalem," Rabbi David Hacohen, from a lecture delivered by Joe Green entitled "Chalutzim of the Messiah," p. 2, P.O. Box 64119, Highlands North, Johannesburg, South Africa.

11.  When an animal is slaughtered for food, the blood of the animal or bird is covered to indicate that killing is a shameful act.  True Leviticus 17:13; "The removal of blood, which kashrut teaches, is one of the most powerful means of making us constantly aware of the concession and compromise which the whole act of eating meat, in reality, is. Again, it teaches us reverence for life." (Rabbi Samuel Dresner, "Jewish Dietary Laws," p. 29); "The covering of the blood of slaughtered beasts and birds can be likened to a Divine Protest The eating of meat with all thy soul without any concept of inner opposition was due to the low spiritual state of man. To this the Torah retorted, 'Cover the blood, hide thy shame and your moral weakness.' The aforementioned deals with beasts and birds, which in the majority of cases live in surroundings which are situated far from man's domestic habitat. With regard to the slaughter of domestic animals, that is, those that live in close proximity to man, the procedure is the opposite. The blood is not covered, in order that your eyes shall behold the blood that has been spilt and the blood shall cry out to you from the face of the Earth at first with a still small voice which in due course will penetrate the ears of the most deaf and open the eyes of those who are blind (to the message). And in that day, 'I shall remove your stony heart and replace it with a heart of flesh.' " Rabbi Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, "The Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," ibid.

12.  Animal sacrifices are considered worthy deeds.  False Psalms 40:6 and 50:9-14; Isaiah 1:11-15 and 66:3; Hosea 6:6 and 8:13; Micah 6:6-8.

13.  It is important to muzzle oxen when they are threshing corn.  False Deuteronomy 25:4: "At the time of threshing, when the ox is surrounded by the food that he enjoys so much, it should not be prevented from satisfying its appetite." (Richard Schwartz, "Judaism and Vegetarianism," p. 12). Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch cites the Talmud (Choshen Mishpat 338) as indicating that you may prevent an animal from eating that which would harm it. (Hirsch, "Horeb," p.293 as quoted in R. Schwartz, ibid).

14.  It is forbidden to tie the legs of a beast or of a bird in a manner that would cause them pain.  True "Code of Jewish Law," Rabbi Solomon Gamzfried, Hebrew Publishing Company, N.Y., 1961, book 4, chapter 191, p.84.

15.  Although a blessing is said when new clothes are worn, the blessing may not be said if the clothes are made of fur or leather, for you have killed to get them.  True Ganzfried, comp., "Code of Jewish Law," Vol.2, p. 29 as quoted in Richard Schwartz, op.cit., p.18. Similarly, leather shoes may not be worn on Yom Kipper because it is not proper to plead for compassion when one has not shown it to other living creatures. (Joe Green, "The Jewish Vegetarian Tradition," Johannesburg, South Africa: Joe Green, 1969, p.15, based on the teaching of the Ramah as quoted in R. Schwartz, op.cit., pp. 17-18).

16.  There is a special blessing only for fruit, vegetables, bread, and wine, but not for meat dishes.  True R. Schwartz, op. cit., p.7.

17.  Animals are to be fed and watered only after humans have finished eating.  False Gitten 62a; based on Deuteronomy (11:15); "And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied." Food for cattle is provided before food for humans. See R. Schwartz, op.cit., p.13.

18.  Only humans are required to rest on the Sabbath. Animals can work on the Sabbath as long as it is for a non-Jew.  False Exodus 20:8-10 and Exodus 23:12.

19.  The first diet of humans and animals was vegetarian, and one day we will all be vegetarians once again.  True Genesis 1:29-30, Isaiah 11:6-9; Hosea 2:20. The famous Jewish Bible commentator Rashi states the following: "God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature and to eat its flesh. Only every green herb shall they all eat together." (See R. Schwartz, op.cit., p.1.) Rabbi Kook and Joseph Albo state that in the days of the Messiah, people will again be vegetarians. (See R. Schwartz, op. cit., pp.1-5.)

20.  You should help an animal in distress only if you don't have to violate the Sabbath or interrupt the carrying out of a commandment do so.  False "The duty to feed an animal first is so great that a person may interrupt the performance of a rabbinic commandment in order to ascertain that this has been done. For example, a person may, after saying the benediction over bread, not immediately eat the bread in order to inquire as to whether the animals have been fed." (Orach Chayim 167:6; Berachot 40a as quoted in R. Schwartz, op. cit., p.14.

On Yom Kippur eve, Rabbi Israel Salanter freed a Christian neighbor's calf that had become lost and tangled in the brush and led it home through many fields and over many hills. His act of mercy represented his prayers that Yom Kippur evening. (S.T. Agnon, Days of Awe, Shocken, Jerusalem, 1939, see R. Schwartz op. cit., p. 20). See also the story of Rabbi Abramtzi, R. Schwartz, op. cit., p. 21.

21.  You are not permitted to wear leather shoes on Yom Kipper because you can't ask for compassion for yourself if you haven't shown it to others.  True See answer to #15.

22.  G-d chose Moses and David as leaders of their people because of their compassion for animals. True Exodus Rabbah 2:2. Also, Rebecca was chosen as Isaac's wife because of the kindness she showed to animals (Genesis 24:11-20). Jacob also demonstrated concern for animals (Genesis 33:12-14). See Richard Schwartz, op. cit., pp.18-19.

 




 

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