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Return to Why Animals Matter: A Religious/Philosophical Perspective

Below are quotations from the scriptures of Judaism and eminent Judaic practitioners both past and present concerning animal rights; the humane treatment of animals and adopting a vegetarian/vegan diet. This page is part of a section about animal rights and religious and philosophical belief,  it is the forerunner of an in-depth article concerning Judaism and animal rights which I hope to include here in due course.  Also links to Judaic Vegetarian/vegan websites and online communities.

For ease of reading all quotations appear in a Purple Font
Please note: External links will open into a new window

You never soar so high as when you stoop down to help a child or an animal
Jewish Proverb

Similar to many religions Vegetarianism or Veganism is not a specific requirement of Judaism but there is no reason why an adherent should not adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, in fact there are many reasons why he or she should do so.  And indeed a significant number of Judaic devotees are becoming vegetarian or vegan.

Quotations from Sacred text

Firstly a short commentary about the sacred text of Judaism

Hebrew Bible

Also called the Tanakh
Judaism recognises the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible as the Tanakh. They correspond in content to the thirty-nine books of the Christian Old Testament but in a different order, with some books combined such as 1 and 2 Kings, Chronicles and Samuel.

The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh has three parts, Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim. The Torah,  is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy;  the Nevi'im are the Prophets - Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets; the Ketuvim is the writings, including Psalms and Proverbs, Esther and Ecclesiastes, Daniel, Chronicles, Ruth, and the love poetry of Song of Songs.  The Torah which in Hebrew means "teaching" or "instruction" in addition to the five books of Moses  refers also to the entirety of Judaism's founding legal and ethical religious texts. Text versions of the Torah, Nevi'im & Ketuvim are available in English with some useful further information at :The Tanakh
 

The Talmud

The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism, in the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs and history. The Hebrew word Talmud means study or learning.

 

 

Right from the beginning God's dietary law was vegetarian

And God said: "Behold, I have given you every herb-yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit - to you it shall be for food."
Genesis 1:29

God made the same same treaties and covenants with animals as he did with human beings:

As for me," says the Lord, "behold I establish My Covenant with you and with your seed after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the fowl, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that go out of the ark, even every beast of the earth.
Gen. 9:0-10

I will make a covenant on behalf of Israel with the wild beasts, the birds of the air, and the things that creep on the hearths, that all living creatures may lie down without living in fear.
Hosea 2:18

Ecclesiastes describes the similarity between people and animals; both await the same fate of death and man has no superiority over animals

For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is vanity.

All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all return to dust.

Who knoweth the spirit of man whether it goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast whether it goeth downward to the earth?

Ecclesiastes 3:19-21


And who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:25

Gods tender mercies are over all His creatures.
Psalm 145:9.

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings and your meal offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take away from me the noise of your song; and let Me not hear the melody of your psalteries. But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Amos 5:21- 4

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?" says the Lord. "I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs or of he-goats. . . bring no more vain oblations... Your new moon and your appointed feasts my soul hates; ... and when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood.
Isaiah 1:11-16

He that kills an ox is as if he slew a person.
Isaiah 66:3

Below is the vision of the Messianic kingdom, life under the messiahs rule, the  Messianic Age of peace, a  perfect society of justice with the end to evil, and warfare as the prophets had predicted.

And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
And the calf and the young lion and the falling together;
And a little child shall lead them
And the cow and the bear shall feed;
Their young ones shall lie down together,
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox . . . .
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain...

Isaiah 11:6-9


But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee;
Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee;
Who knoweth not among all these, that the hand of HaShem hath wrought this?
In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.--

Job 12:7-10

                                                      
 

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.
Proverbs 12:10

One who destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed an entire world, and one who saves a single life is considered to have saved an entire world.
Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:5
 

To relieve an animal of pain or danger is a biblical law.
Talmud, Sabbath, 128b

 

Eminent Judaic Philosophers, Theologians and Writers

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

While not a vegetarian, Rabbi Hirsch, one of the most important Orthodox rabbis of the 19th century, expressed very eloquently and powerfully ideas based on Torah values that are consistent with vegetarianism and seem to be inconsistent with realities of modern intensive livestock agriculture and the consumption of animal products. One can only wonder what Rabbi Hirsch's attitude toward vegetarianism would be today, based on his strong views and modern realities related to the production and consumption of animals.*1)

Quotations below are from Horeb,  Rabbi Hirsch's presentation of Jewish laws and observances, with particular emphasis on their underlying ideas.

Compassion is the feeling of sympathy which the pain of one being awakens in another; and the higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned they are to re-echo the note of suffering, which, like a voice from heaven, penetrates the heart, bringing all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal God. And as for man, whose function it is to show respect and love for God's universe and all its creatures, his heart has been created so tender that it feels with the whole organic world . . .mourning even for fading flowers; so that, if nothing else, the very nature of his heart must teach him that he is required above everything to feel himself the brother of all beings, and to recognize the claim of all beings to his love and his beneficence.
Horeb, Chapter 17, Verse 125

Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours.
Horeb, Chapter 60, Section 416.

There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the presumption of man than the animals, which like man have sensations and instincts, but whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to man. In relation to them man so easily forgets that injured animal muscle twitches just like human muscle, that the maltreated nerves of an animal sicken like human nerves, that the animal being is just as sensitive to cuts, blows, and beatings as man. Thus man becomes the torturer of the animal soul, which has been subjected to him only for the fulfillment of humane and wise purposes . . .
Horeb, Chapter 60, Verse 415
 

As God is merciful, so you also be merciful. As he loves and cares for all His creatures and His children and are related to Him, because He is their Father, so you also love all His creatures as your brethren. Let their joys be your joys, and their sorrows yours. Love them and with every power which God gives you, work for their welfare and benefit, because they are the children of your God, because they are your brothers and sisters.
Horeb, Chapter 72, Section 482.

Rabbi Rashi

Rabbi Rashi was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of the first comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).

Initially God  intended that people should be vegetarians.

Concerning God's first dietary law Rabbi Rashi states:

God did not permit Adam and his wife to kill a creature to eat its flesh. Only every green herb shall they all eat together.
Rashi’s commentary on Genesis 1:29  February 22, 1040 – July 13, 1105,

Babylonian Talmud -

is a collection of study teachings based upon the Hebrew Bible and oral commentaries of Jewish learning. The Babylonian Talmud was transmitted orally for centuries prior to its compilation by Jewish scholars in Babylon about the 5th century CE

"Adam was not permitted meat for purposes of eating."

Rabbi Nachmanides

Rabbi Nachmanides, 1194-1270 , was a  Spanish-born Jewish Kabalah scholar, Philosopher, Physician, and mystic.

In the following  passage Rabbi Nachmanides, stated the reason behind this initial dietary code

Living creatures possess a moving soul and a certain spiritual superiority which in this respect make them similar to those who possess intellect (people) and they have the power of affecting their welfare and their food and they flee from pain and death.
Rabbi Nachmanides, commentary on Genesis 1:29.

Rabbi Moses Cassuto

Biblical Scholar and commentator, 1883-1951, was born in Florence and became chief rabbi there and director of the Collegio Rabbinico Italiano. He was professor of Hebrew at the University of Rome, and from 1939 was professor of Bible studies at the Hebrew University.

You are permitted to use the animals and employ them for work, have dominion over them in order to utilize their services for your subsistence, but must not hold their life cheap nor slaughter them for food. Your natural diet is vegetarian....
Rabbi Moses Cassuto , commentary From Adam to Noah

 

Apparently the Torah was in principle opposed to the eating of meat. When Noah and his descendants were permitted to eat meat this was a concession conditional on the prohibition of the blood. This prohibition implied respect for the principle of life ("for the blood is the life") and an allusion to the fact that in reality all meat should have been prohibited. This partial prohibition was designed to call to mind the previously total one.
Rabbi Moses Cassutto, quoted by Nehama Leibowitz, Studies in Genesis, 77.

Rabbi David Rosen

Rabbi David Shlomo Rosen CBE is the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland (1979-85) and currently serves as the Director of the American Jewish Committee's Department of Interreligious Affairs and the Robert and Harriet Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding. From 2005 until 2009 he headed the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultations (IJCIC), the broad based coalition of Jewish organizations and denominations that represents World Jewry in its relations with other world religions.

The current treatment of animals in the livestock trade definitely renders the consumption of meat as halachically unacceptable as the product of illegitimate means.

Rabbi David Rosen, "Vegetarianism: An Orthodox Jewish Perspective", in Rabbis and Vegetarianism: An Evolving Tradition, edited by Roberta Kalechofsky (Micah Publications: Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1995), 53.

Halakha is the collective body of Jewish religious law, including biblical law, the 613 mitzvot - statements and principles of law and ethics contained in the Torah or Five Books of Moses - and later Talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions. Halakha guides not only religious practices and beliefs, but numerous aspects of day-to-day life.

Rabbi Aryeh Carmell

Rabbi Carmel born in London, England,1917-2006) was an Orthodox rabbi, scholar, and author.

It seems doubtful from all that has been said whether the Torah would sanction 'factory farming,' which treats animals as machines, with apparent insensitivity to their natural needs and instincts. This is a matter for decision by halachic authorities.

Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, Masterplan: Judaism: its Programs, Meanings, Goals (New York/Jerusalem: Feldheim, 1991), 69.

Rabbi Moses Maimonides

Moses Maimonides born in Cordoba, Spain on March 30, 1135, and died in Egypt on December 13, 1204, was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher also known as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, he was one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. He worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt.

There is no difference between the pain of humans and the pain of other living beings, since the love and tenderness of the mother for the young are not produced by reasoning, but by feeling, and this faculty exists not only in humans but in most living beings.
Guide for the Perplexed

It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of anything else.
Guide for the Perplexed

Rabbi Simon Glazer

Rabbi Glazer, born in 1878 was an Orthodox Rabbi and an author, he was Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogues of Montreal & Quebec City, during the years he lived in Montreal.  He was also a founder of the Keneder Adler (Jewish Daily Eagle)

It appears that the first intention of the Maker was to have men live on a strictly vegetarian diet. The very earliest periods of Jewish history are marked with humanitarian conduct towards the lower animal kingdom...It is clearly established that the ancient Hebrews knew and perhaps were the first among men to know, that animals feel and suffer pain.


Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog

Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, 1889 -1959, also known as Isaac Herzog, was the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland, his term lasting from 1921 to 1936. From 1937 until his death, he was Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine and of Israel after its independence in 1948.

Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands...Man's carnivorous nature is not taken for granted or praised in the fundamental teachings of Judaism...A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching.

Rabbi Aryeh Carmell

Rabbi Aryeh Carmell 1917-2006, born in London was an Orthodox rabbi, scholar, and author.

It seems doubtful from all that has been said whether the Torah would sanction 'factory farming,' which treats animals as machines, with apparent insensitivity to their natural needs and instincts.
Rabbi Aryeh Carmell

Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer ,1902 - 1991, was a Polish-born Jewish American author noted for his short stories. He received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1978. During the last thirty five years of his life Singer was a prominent vegetarian. He often included vegetarian themes in his writings, for example in the short story The Slaughterer wherein he describes the anguish of slaughter for a slaughterer trying to reconcile his compassion for animals with his job of killing them.

He considered that the consumption of meat was a denial of all ideals and all religions:

How can we speak of right and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?"

We are all God's creatures--that we pray to God for mercy and justice while we continue to eat the flesh of animals that are slaughtered on our account is not consistent.

He was once asked it he had become a vegetarian for reason of health to which he relied :

I did it for the health of the chickens."

In The Letter Writer, he wrote "In relation to animals:

All people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka
 

The same questions are bothering me today as they did fifty years ago. Why is one born? Why does one suffer? In my case, the suffering of animals also makes me very sad. I’m a vegetarian, you know. When I see how little attention people pay to animals, and how easily they make peace with man being allowed to do with animals whatever he wants because he keeps a knife or a gun, it gives me a feeling of misery and sometimes anger with the Almighty. I say ‘Do you need your glory to be connected with so much suffering of creatures without glory, just innocent creatures who would like to pass a few years in peace?’ I feel that animals are as bewildered as we are except that they have no words for it. I would say that all life is asking: ‘What am I doing here?

Newsweek interview October 16, 1978 after winning the Nobel Prize in literature.

To be a vegetarian is to disagree - to disagree with the course of things today. Starvation, world hunger, cruelty, waste, wars - we must make a statement against these things. Vegetarianism is my statement. And I think it's a strong one.

Various philosophers and religious leaders tried to convince their disciples and followers that animals are nothing more than machines without a soul, without feelings. However, anyone who has ever lived with an animal--be it a dog, a bird, or even a mouse--knows that this theory is a brazen lie, invented to justify cruelty.

As long as people will shed the blood of innocent creatures, there can be no peace, no liberty, no harmony between people. Slaughter and justice cannot dwell together.
 

Even in the worm that crawls in the earth there glows a divine spark. When you slaughter a creature, you slaughter God.

Links

Jewish Vegetarian Associations on-line communities

Judaism and Vegetarianism

A wealth of information concerning Jewish Vegetarianism (Many of the quotations I have included came from this website)

The Torah is full of commandments demanding humane treatment of animals, yet the modern factory farms that produce over 90% of the animal products we consume today raise their animals in unconscionable conditions of abject misery...
 

Please read and learn about the growing Jewish vegetarian movement, and think about how Jewish teachings relate to decisions we make everyday as we sit down to eat. As Rabbi Isaac ha-Levi Herzog said, "Jews will move increasingly to vegetarianism out of their own deepening knowledge of what their tradition commands... A whole galaxy of central rabbinic and spiritual leaders...has been affirming vegetarianism as the ultimate meaning of Jewish moral teaching."

Below is an except from the film Why Jews need to become Vegans today! A Sacred Duty :
Applying Jewish Values To Help Heal The World

A Major Documentary on Current Environmental Threats and How Jewish Teachings Can Be Applied in Responding to These Threats

By taking care of ourselves, others and all HaShems creatures and our earth, we will Fulfill our covenant with G_d.


Richard H. Schwartz - Author of Judaism and Vegetarianism and president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
Lionel Friedberg, producer/director/writer/cinematographer

 

 

An excerpt from A Sacred duty.
please visit http://www.asacredduty.com/ to view full movie.

Note :HaShem is one of the names of God

 

ShalomVeg.com - Home

A comprehensive resource articles , forums recipes

ShalomVeg.com was created in November, 2007 as a networking and learning resource for Jewish vegans, vegetarians and animal activists. With hundreds of articles and essays, recipes, and tools to connect to and communicate with people from around the world, ShalomVeg hopes to be the online meeting place for our growing community.

The Miracle of life A Sacred Duty

Excerpts from , Dr Richard Schwartzs article postcast entitled, "What would a Vegan World Look like"
 

 

References

 1) Rabbinic Teachings on Vegetarianism

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Star of David Wikimedia commons user Christophe cagé
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Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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