February 28, 2006

2/28/06 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1a. Using Earth Day 2006 to Promote Vegetarianism and Environmental Activism

1. Announcing a JVNA “Ask the Rabbi” Campaign/My Question

2. Roberta Kalechofsky’s New Book on Animal-Issues

3. Very Challenging Article re Potentially Catstrophic Consequences of Global Warming

5. Recent Reviews of “101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian” by Pamela Rice

6. Former President Bush Speechwriter Blasts Factory Farming

7. Report From JVNA Advisor David Cantor on Activities of His Group “Responsible Policies for Animals” (RPA)

8. Update on Foie Gras Ban in Israel

9. Help Stop Seal Slaughter in Canada

10. Help End the Slaughter of Dolphins

11. Connection Between Bird Flu and Factory Farming

12. Worldwatch Institute Connects Factory Farming to Many Current Threats

13. Israeli Site Features Biblical Plants

14. Another Report Re the Increasing Potential of Catastrophic Global Warming Effects

15. How Animal-Based Diets Contribute to Water Shortages and Coming Food Shortages/Please Write

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1a. Using Earth Day 2006 to Promote Vegetarianism and Environmental Activism

As indicated in the special JVNA newsletter sent out yesterday, I am spearheading campaigns to:

* Celebrate Earth Day 2006 (Saturday, April 22, 2006) as an “Environmental Shabbat” (and more broadly as an “Environmental Sabbath;”

* Get a shift toward vegetarianism onto the Earth Day 2006 agenda.

If you have any suggestions re these projects and/or would like to help, please let me know. Many thanks.

1. Announcing a JVNA “Ask the Rabbi” Campaign/My Question

There are many “Ask the Rabbi” links on the Internet, places where questions can be asked of a wide variety of rabbis. As I have indicated several times already, our efforts to get a respectful dialogue on vegetarianism onto the Jewish agenda has had little success. Perhaps we can change this with a widespread campaign to have many of us ask respectful questions on vegetarianism and related issues. A question that I sent to 5 or 6 rabbis is below. If you do an Internet search for “Ask the Rabbi,” you will see something like what I received below from a Google search. There are many additional pages with many “Ask the Rabbi” connections.

So, please do a search and please send a respectful letter to many rabbis. If you can find even one hour for this, it can have a major impact. Please forward any significant responses to me. Thanks.
Google Search Results

PreferencesWeb Results 1 - 10 of about 7,010,000 for Ask the Rabbi. (0.52 seconds) Sponsored Links
In Brooklyn by Samuel M. Katz
www.eBay.comSponsored Link
Ask the rabbi
www.AskMoses.comGet Answers to Jewish Questions Now Live Assistance Always Available.
Ask a Rabbi
A fun and useful web site whereby the user can ask questions and receive answers from Rabbis from around the world.
www.askarabbi.com/ - 14k - Cached - Similar pages
Message Board - Ask a Rabbi - Meet the Rabbis - Fun and Games
More results from www.askarabbi.com »
Ohr Somayach - Ask The Rabbi / Search
Ohr Somayach's ask a rabbi program. Their staff of rabbis and educators research and answer questions on Judaism.
ohr.edu/yhiy.php/explore_judaism/ask_the_rabbi/ - 18k - Cached - Similar pages
Ask the Rabbi at Aish.com - We'll give you answers
Questions about judaism? From torah and being jewish to spirituality, kabbalah and more - our rabbis will answer you.
www.aish.com/rabbi/ - 29k - Feb 23, 2006 - Cached - Similar pages
Ask the Rabbi Chabad.org
Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service. Staffed by Chabad Rabbis worldwide.
www.chabad.org/tools/asktherabbi.asp - 31k - Cached - Similar pages
Jewish Community Online: Ask A Rabbi
Users can specify from which denomination they want an answer and a rabbi will personally (and confidentially) answer questions via e-mail in a day or two.
www.jewish.com/askarabbi/ - 1k - Cached - Similar pages
Just Ask The Rabbi - The Place For All Your Questions
Ask the Rabbi - Just ask your question and a staff of scholars will quickly answer it. Service provided by Gateways.
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Arutz 7
Arutz Sheva’s weekly “Ask The Rabbi” column answers questions about Jewish values ... The "Ask The Rabbi" column is underwritten by a special grant from the ...
israelnationalnews.com/english/ newspaper/torah/ask-rabbi.htm - 19k - Cached - Similar pages
AskMoses.com - Judaism, Ask a Rabbi - Live
Ask a Rabbi - Chat Live with a Rabbi or Scholar - online twenty four hours-a-day, six days-a-week.
www.askmoses.com/ - 25k - Feb 23, 2006 - Cached - Similar pages
Ask the Rabbi
Wherever you are, however much you know - Ask the Rabbi ... Our "Ask-the-Rabbi" service can't replace direct personal contact with a real live Rabbi. ...
www.ohr.org.il/ask/page/askrabbi.htm - 52k - Cached - Similar pages
Union for Reform Judaism - Ask the Rabbi & FAQ
If you are looking for a rabbi for a life cycle event, please contact your congregational rabbi or the rabbi ... Up to top of page Back to Ask the Rabbi & FAQ.
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Here is my letter to the rabbis at the “Ask the Rabbi” sites:

Dear Rabbi,

In view of important Jewish mandates to preserve human health, attend to the welfare of animals, protect the environment, conserve resources, help feed hungry people, and pursue peace, and since animal-centered diets violate and contradict each of these responsibilities, shouldn’t Jews (and others) sharply reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal products.

In responding, please consider how the mass production and widespread consumption of meat not only contradicts many Jewish teachings but also harms people, communities, and the planet. Also, please consider the following re how high meat consumption and the ways in which meat is produced today conflict with Judaism in at least six important areas:

- While Judaism mandates that people should be very careful about preserving their health and their lives, numerous scientific studies have linked animal-based diets directly to heart disease, stroke, many forms of cancer, and other chronic degenerative diseases.

- While Judaism forbids tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, inflicting unnecessary pain on animals, most farm animals -- including those raised for kosher consumers -- are raised on "factory farms" where they live in cramped, confined spaces, and are often drugged, mutilated, and denied fresh air, sunlight, exercise, and any enjoyment of life, before they are slaughtered and eaten.

- While Judaism teaches that "the earth is the Lord’s" (Psalm 24:1) and that we are to be God's partners and co-workers in preserving the world, modern intensive livestock agriculture contributes substantially to soil erosion and depletion, air and water pollution, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the destruction of tropical rain forests and other habitats, global warming, and other environmental damage.

- While Judaism mandates bal tashchit, that we are not to waste or unnecessarily destroy anything of value, and that we are not to use more than is needed to accomplish a purpose, animal agriculture requires the wasteful use of grain, land, water, energy, and other resources.

- While Judaism stresses that we are to assist the poor and share our bread with hungry people, over 70% of the grain grown in the United States is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while an estimated 20 million people worldwide die because of hunger and its effects each year.

- While Judaism stresses that we must seek and pursue peace and that violence results from unjust conditions, animal-centered diets, by wasting valuable resources, help to perpetuate the widespread hunger and poverty that eventually lead to instability and war.

One could say "dayenu" (it would be enough) after any of the arguments above, because each one constitutes by itself a serious conflict between Jewish values and current practice that should impel Jews to seriously consider a plant-based diet. Combined, they make an urgently compelling case for the Jewish community to address these issues.

Thank you very much for your consideration of these issues and my question, and I look forward to your response. I would be happy to send you a complimentary copy of my book “Judaism and Vegetarianism” and some related material, if you send me your mailing address.

Kol tuv v’shalom,

Richard (Schwartz)
President (Jewish Vegetarians of North America)

2. Roberta Kalechofsky’s New Book on Animal-Issues

Forwarded message:

[Roberta is a long-time JVNA advisor. She founded and now is president of Jews for Animal Rights (JAR) and Micah Publications (a major publisher of books on Jewish teachings on vegetarianism and animal issues, and other topics.]

[I am very backed-up on my reading, but I hope to later send out a special newsletter devoted to book reviews. If you would like to submit an objective review of a vegetarian-related book, please do so. Thanks.]

Below is a description of Roberta’s book:

Job Enters A Pain Clinic & Other Stories

Roberta Kalechofsky

Publishing Date: Dec. 26, 2005
5-1/2 X 8-1/2
214 pages

Roberta Kalechofsky’s seventh work of fiction is dedicated to Amos, a Yerkes laboratory chimpanzee. Kalechofsky has been an animal rights activist for over twenty years and her anti-vivisection stance is brilliantly articulated in this collection of twelve stories.Grim stories, such as “Meditation on an Animal,” which describes a primate who self-mutilates in protest against her painful experiments, are balanced by humorous stories, such “Mary, Mary,” inspired by the Nobel Prize Winners Semen Bank: Clara H (her name remains anonymous to protect the guilty) has a high I.Q., and accepts artificial insemination to protect her I.Q. lineage, but succumbs to ordinary female angst at motherhood and anger at men. In “Lady Death,” a“retired” ballerina conceives of a way to have art--and technology--make death seductive. Grim or humorous, bodily pain, medical technology and death, wittily conceived or with the pathos of the lyrical “Myra is Dying” are the prevalent themes.

Some stories are based on true events. Such is “My Poor Prisoner,” the story of the 1930s Berlin cabaret poet, Eric Muhsam, and his imprisonment in Oranienberg in 1934, where the Nazis tortured a chimpanzee in order to drive Muhsam to suicide. Or the story set in Ravensbruck, the women’s concentration camp in the Nazi regime, where women of all backgrounds were sent: Jews, Communists, women who had been in the French underground, prostitutes, women who had committed “race defilement.” Ms. Kalechofsky’s fictional genius creates Magda, the beautiful but passive Aryan; Fonya, the bitter, dark-souled Jewish communist; Katerina, the “Russian ice princess”; and Resi, the defiant prostitute, who are thrown together by their selection for the hypothermia experiments, and by the fate of a modernity shaped by technology.

The pain clinic Kalechofsky’s modern Job enters is modernity, its artificial atmosphere, and its omnipresent concern with disease and health. This modern Job suffers from an undiagnosable back problem and spends his days in a perpetual round of massages, jacuzzi treatments, acupuncture, and the pursuit of a pill to eliminate his pain. This is Job’s grand subject---as in the Bible and today. He runs a website, which gets thousands of hits a week from similar sufferers. The story, as Cynthia Ozick remarked, is Kafkaesque, a witty “nightmare vision.” Job’s wife is “Everywoman” married to an irascible sufferer.

3. Very Challenging Article re Potentially Catstrophic Consequences of Global Warming

[This article shows once again very powerfully why our efforts to get vegetarianism and increased environmental activism onto the Jewish and other agendas.]

Published on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 by
Hotter, Faster, Worser
by John Atcheson

Over the past several months, the normally restrained voice of science has taken on a distinct note of panic when it comes to global warming.

How did we go from debating the "uncertainty" behind climate science to near hysterical warnings from normally sober scientists about irrevocable and catastrophic consequences? Two reasons.

First, there hasn’t been any real uncertainty in the scientific community for more than a decade. An unholy alliance of key fossil fuel corporations and conservative politicians have waged a sophisticated and well-funded misinformation campaign to create doubt and controversy in the face of nearly universal scientific consensus. In this, they were aided and abetted by a press which loved controversy more than truth, and by the Bush administration, which has systematically tried to distort the science and silence and intimidate government scientists who sought to speak out on global warming.

But the second reason is that the scientific community failed to adequately anticipate and model several positive feedback loops that profoundly amplify the rate and extent of human-induced climate change. And in the case of global warming, positive feedback loops can have some very negative consequences. The plain fact is, we are fast approaching and perhaps well past several tipping points which would make global warming irreversible.

In an editorial in the Baltimore Sun on December 15th, 2004 this author outlined one such tipping point: a self-reinforcing feedback loop in which higher temperatures caused methane, a powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas (GHG) to escape from ice-like structures called clathrates, which raised the temperature which caused more methane to be released and so on. Even though there was strong evidence that this mechanism had contributed to at least two extreme warming events in the geologic past, the scientific community hadn’t yet focused on methane ices in 2004. Even among the few pessimists who had, we believed or hoped that we had a decade or so before anything like it began happening again.

We were wrong.

In August of 2005 a team of scientists from Oxford and Tomsk University in Russia announced that a massive Siberian peat bog the size of Germany and France combined was melting, releasing billions of tons of methane as it did.

The last time it got warm enough to set off this feedback loop was 55 million years ago in a period known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or PETM, when increased volcanic activity released enough GHGs to trigger a series of self-reinforcing methane burps. The resulting warming caused massive die-offs and it took more than a 100,000

years for the earth to recover.

It looks like we’re on the verge of triggering a far worse event. At a recent meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences in St. Louis, James Zachos, foremost expert on the PETM reported that greenhouse gasses are accumulating in the atmosphere at thirty times the speed with which they did during the PETM.

We may have just witnessed the first salvo in what could prove to be an irreversible trip to hell on earth.

There are other positive feedback loops we’ve failed to anticipate. For example, the heat wave in Europe that killed 35,000 people in 2003 also damaged European woodlands, causing them to release more carbon dioxide, the main GHG, than they sequester, exactly the opposite of the
assumptions built into our models, which treat forests as sponges that sop up excess carbon.

The same thing is happening to a number of other ecosystems that our models and scientists have treated as carbon sinks. The Amazon rainforest, the boreal forests (one of the largest terrestrial carbon sinks in the planet), and soils in temperate areas are all releasing more carbon than they are absorbing, due to global warming-induced droughts, diseases, pest activty, and metabolic changes. In short, many of the things we treat as carbon sponges in our models aren’t sopping up excess carbon; they’re being wrung out and releasing extra carbon.

The polar ice cap is also melting far faster than models predict, setting off another feedback loop. Less ice means more open water, which absorbs more heat which means less ice, and so on.

Even worse, we’ve substantially underestimated the rate at which continental glaciers are melting.

Climate change models predicted that it would take more than 1,000 years for Greenland’s ice sheet to melt. But at the AAAS meeting in St. Louis, NASA’s Eric Rignot outlined the results of a study that shows Greenland’s ice cover is breaking apart and flowing into the sea at rates far in excess of anything scientists predicted, and it’s accelerating each year. If (or when) Greenland’s ice cover melts, it will raise sea levels by 21 feet, enough to inundate nearly every sea port in America.

In the Antarctic seas, another potentially devastating feedback loop is taking place. Populations of krill have plummeted by 80% in the last few years due to loss of sea ice. Krill are the single most important species in the marine food chain, and they also extract massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. No one predicted their demise, but the ramifications for both global warming and the health of marine ecosystems are disastrous. This, too, will likely feed on itself, as less krill means more carbon stays in the atmosphere, which means warmer seas, which means less ice, which means less krill and so on in a massive negative spiral.

One of our preeminent planetary scientists, James Lovelock, believes that in the not too distant future humans will be restricted to a relatively few breeding pairs in Antarctica. It would be comfortable to dismiss Professor Lovelock as a doom and gloom crazy, but that would be a mistake. A little over a year ago at the conclusion of a global conference in Exeter England on Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, scientists warned that if we allowed atmospheric concentrations of GHG to exceed 400 ppm, we could trigger serious and irreversible consequences. We passed that milestone in 2005 with little notice and no fanfare.

The scientific uncertainty in global warming isn’t about whether it’s occurring or whether it’s caused by human activity, or even if it will "cost" us too much to deal with it now. That’s all been settled. Scientists are now debating whether it’s too late to prevent planetary devastation, or whether we have yet a small window to forestall the worst effects of global warming.

Our children may forgive us the debts we’re passing on to them, they may forgive us if terrorism persists, they may forgive us for waging war instead of pursuing peace, they may even forgive us for squandering the opportunity to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. But they will spit on our bones and curse our names if we pass on a world that is barely habitable when it was in our power to prevent it.

And they will be right to do so.

John Atcheson's writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, as well as in several wonk ournals. Email to: atchman@comcast.net

5. Recent Reviews of “101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian” by Pamela Rice

Reviews by:

* William Harris, M.D., The Island Vegetarian, the newsletter of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii: "Pamela writes cogently and with an underlying passion for her subject, and while she admits it's a negative one, her personal attitude is positive with a hope that things will get better."

* Lisa Giddens-White (Amazon.com post): "Be prepared, this is no ordinary book on vegetarianism. It is truly a gift to society. Unapologetic and direct, yet still light and conversational. A treasured resource to be referred to again and again."

Complete reviews follow:
The following review appeared in The Island Vegetarian, the newsletter of the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii, Quarter One, 2006

101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian
by Pamela Rice
Paperback: 253 pages
Publisher: Lantern Books
SBN: 1590560752

Pam Rice is the chief cook and bottle washer for the VivaVegie Society (New York City), which has an actual physical office where veggies can comfortably hang out by appointment. The mailing address is P.O. Box 294 Prince Street Station, New York, NY 10012-0005 and the phone number is 212-242-0011, just in case you're going there anytime soon.

Pam founded the group in 1991. By day she's a writer, but her true avocation is the assembly of an accurate and exhaustive list of references supporting vegetarianism, for which she gets paid-guess what-nothing. The 101 Reasons, plus a lot more, is accessible for free at her VivaVegie website, but this book puts it all in a portable format. The book gives solid documentation with 28 pages of references, about 50 to a page, so something like 1400 in all. Mostly the articles are from reliable media sources like AP, The New York Times, and Guardian with a sprinkling of EPA, The Meating Place, and USDA documents thrown in. Some of the citations are accompanied by URLs, but not all, and for the benefit of readers too lazy to dig in a library, of which your humble correspondent is a splendid example, more would have been welcome.

Not that the book itself is a dry read. Pamela writes cogently and with an underlying passion for her subject, and while she admits it's a negative one, her personal attitude is positive with a hope that things will get better. She has always been good at tracking the spoor of the USDA and its financial bailouts for the meat and dairy industries, and in Chapter 44 she details 10 separate and flagrant categories, wryly suggesting we need "a separation of meat and state." "It is high time that those who choose meat pay the true cost of their predilection" (i.e., cut out the subsidies, already).

6. Former President Bush Speechwriter Blasts Factory Farming

Forwarded message from Dawnwatch:

Matthew Scully has a beautiful op-ed in the Sunday, February 19, Arizona Republic. It is written specifically in support of a ballot measure that would ban sow gestation and veal crates in that state, but it reads as a strong indictment of factory farming. It is on line at and I will paste the article below, encouraging people to read the whole piece and forward it widely. Supportive letters, particularly needed from those in Arizona, should be submitted here.

Here is Scully's piece:

A sunless hell
Confronting the cruel facts of factory-farmed meat

Matthew Scully
Special for the Republic

Arizona voters will be asked this fall to weigh in on a ballot measure called the Humane Treatment of Farm Animals Act, which is now in the signature-gathering stage but, by November, is certain to be one of our livelier election-year debates.

The initiative, modeled on a reform passed by Florida voters, would prohibit the factory-farming practice of confining pigs and veal calves in crates so small that the animals cannot even turn around or extend their limbs.

Factory farming, in general, is no one's favorite subject, and the details here are particularly unpleasant to think about: masses of creatures enduring lives of unrelieved confinement and deprivation. But if you're in need of reasons to sign the petitions and vote for the initiative, they are easy to find, and our discomfort with the subject is a good place to start.

Known in the trade as "intensive confinement" or "mass confinement," it sounds pretty rough. And as we're seeing already, pork producers and the PR firms in their hire do not take well to criticism of what they regard as "standard practice."

Just this month, the industry's allies in the Arizona Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment to bar the public from passing any laws promoting the humane treatment of farm animals, effective Jan. 1, 2006. Nice to have a fallback position: Even if the humane-farming initiative passes by vote of the people, as industry lobbyists apparently fear it will, they plan to nullify the law retroactively.

Basically, pork producers figured out some years ago that if they packed the maximum number of pigs into the minimum amount of space, if they pinned the creatures down into fit-to-size iron crates above slatted floors and carved out giant "lagoons" to contain the manure - if they turned the "farm," in short, into a sunless hell of metal and concrete - it made everything so much more efficient. An obvious cost-saver, and from the industry's standpoint, that should settle the matter.

Veal, by definition, is the product of a sick, anemic, deliberately malnourished calf, a newborn dragged away from his mother in the first hours of life. Veal calves are dealt the harshest of punishments for the least essential of meats. And if you think people can get too sentimental about animals, try listening sometime to chefs and gourmands going on about the "velvety smooth succulence" of their favorite fare.

"Cost-saver" in industrial livestock agriculture may usually be taken to mean "moral shortcut." For all of its "science-based" pretensions, factory farming is really just an elaborate, endless series of evasions from the most elementary duties of honest animal husbandry. Man, the rationalizing creature, can justify just about anything when there is money in sight. It's only easier when your victims are so completely out of sight and unable to speak for themselves.

Over the years, one miserly deprivation led to another, ever harsher methods were applied to force costs lower and lower, and so on until the animals ceased to be understood as living creatures at all. Pigs, for example, aren't even "raised" anymore, a term that once conveyed some human attention and care. These days, in America's 395,000-kills-per-day pork industry, pigs are "grown," crowded together by the hundreds in the automated, scientifically based intensive-confinement facilities formerly known as barns.

Unlike the old ways

To the factory farmer, in contrast to the traditional farmer with his sense of honor and obligation, the animals are "production units," and accorded all the sympathy that term suggests. As conservative commentator Fred Barnes put it in the Wall Street Journal, "On the old family farms, pigs and cattle and chickens were raised for food, but they were free for a time; they mated, raised piglets, calves and chicks and were protected by the farmers . . . . They had a life. On industrial farms, they don't."


The complete article can be found here.
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. To unsubscribe, go to http://www.dawnwatch.com/cgi-bin/dada/dawnwatch_unsubscribe.cgi If you forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts please leave DawnWatch in the title and include this tag line.)

7. Report From JVNA Advisor David Cantor on Activities of His Group “Responsible Policies for Animals” (RPA)

Dear Responsible Policies for Animals Members & Friends,

I hope 2006 has started well for you and continues to bring good health, rewarding efforts for nonhuman animals, ecosystems and the humans who will benefit as well, and stamina to keep up the fight.

A few brief items of interest:
1. I will enjoy seeing you on Sunday, March 19th, if you can come to Philadelphia’s Singapore restaurant for an excellent plants-only Chinese meal and a screening of the video Earthlings. If you are among Responsible Policies for Animals’ (RPA’s) many members who live too far away for attending to be practical, please let your Philadelphia-area acquaintances know of the event.

Earthlings, a 95-minute documentary narrated by actor Joaquin Phoenix, uses hidden cameras to reveal daily activities of large animal-exploiting industries and discusses interconnections among humans, ecosystems, nonhuman animals, and the human economy. It is likely to add to the knowledge we use to educate about nonhuman animals’ need of legal rights – the goal of the animal rights movement and RPA’s work. RPA will have an exhibit and give out free literature. I will speak briefly, as will other activists, after the screening.
- Time: 1:00 P.M.
- Place: 1029 Race Street
- To sign up: Send $12 per person to Hugs for Puppies, P.O. Box 23819, Philadelphia, PA 19143. Please bring friends, family members, anyone who may be interested. (This is a Great American Meatout event – a portion of the proceeds will go to the Farm Animal Reform Movement.)

2. For an animal rights presentation on nutrition & the mind that I will give on Thursday, March 15th, to an “alternative” health organization, please let me know of any relevant research findings you might have discovered in your reading. In addition to what has long been known about links between flesh, milk & egg consumption & stroke and between “beef” & spongiform encephalopathies resembling “mad cow disease” in humans, much has been published in recent years on possible flesh, milk & egg connections to Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions directly affecting the brain.

Information and theories also exist on attitudes, energy levels, behavior, and other mind-related aspects of diet. And of special interest: widely held misconceptions about human evolution, anatomy & physiology, a “food chain,” a “Great Chain of Being,” and other mental habits that perpetuate animal exploitation. In other words, we’ll explore effects on the mind and brain from inside and from outside.

3. RPA recently began the phase of its (your) 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign in which we inform our land-grant universities’ (LGUs’) boards of trustees / regents about the four mailings we’ve sent to the presidents of the 50 states’ main LGUs and urge the boards to address the “animal science” problem.

Having contacted the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committee chairmen & ranking members about the “animal science” problem, we are also proceeding with state legislatures’ agriculture committees. The 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign to eliminate “animal science” from these large & influential institutions will take long-term perseverance. If you would like to participate in this historic program – at your own pace, with RPA’s information and guidance – just let me know.The animals need people in every state (especially a state of determination!) to help end unconscionable, false teachings that harm billions and perpetuate needless slaughter and other atrocities.

The flesh, milk & egg industries and other powerful and well-funded agribusiness agencies & organizations of course oppose the 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign – they obtain billions of dollars’ worth of training, research, promotions, and other services from our LGUs’ “animal science” programs. The industries should be paying all costs themselves. Because our LGUs serve the industries, even dedicated vegans pay for cruelly produced pseudo-foods they think they are boycotting. Just one of many unjustifiable private-interest subsidies – but it’s the very worst one, IMHO!

Thanks for your work and support! Keep well!
Best wishes,
David Cantor
Executive Director
Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc.
P.O. Box 891
Glenside, PA 19038

Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc., a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit organization, shows influential people how to establish responsible policies for animals that are also responsible policies for people and ecosystems. RPA also shows animal rights advocates how to avoid the “welfare” trap and how to promote animal rights without resorting to antisocial behavior. RPA’s 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign aims to end our land-grant universities’ support of the flesh, milk, and egg industries. Its This Land Is Their Land campaign aims to protect wildlife by ending intentional killing and destructive land-use practices. RPA does not identify its supporters without express permission. Donations to RPA are tax deductible as allowed by law and may be made at the above address or website.

8. Update on Foie Gras Ban in Israel

Forwarded message:

Forced feeding of geese must end by mid-April
All 57,000 force fed geese must be slaughtered.
Shmuel Dekalo and Gadi Golan
22 Feb 0614:47

The High Court of Justice today ruled that the forced feeding of geese must end by mid-April, and that all 57,000 geese force fed to produce foie gras must be slaughtered. In their ruling, Judges Ayala Procaccia, Edna Arbel and Salim Joubran criticized the authorities for not carrying out a March 2005 High Court of Justice judgement on the matter.

Today’s ruling states that the state failed in its law enforcement duty to fulfill final court rulings, by issuing regulations banning the forced feeding of geese only seven months after the stipulated deadline. Procaccia therefore ordered Attorney General Menachem (Meni) Mazuz, the minister of agriculture, Israel Police, Ministry of Agriculture department of veterinary services and animal health, and the director for the prevention of cruelty to animals to pay NIS 30,000 court costs.

Geese Growers Association secretary Hai Benyamini slammed today’s ruling. He directed his anger and resentment towards the authorities, which hastily and cynically rendered 16 families unemployed by driving them into starvation and bankruptcy.

The High Court of Justice today ruled on two appeals, one by Let the Animals Live and Anonymous for Animal Rights, and a second by 75 farmers and others. The appeals were filed after the High Court of Justice ruled on August 11, 2003 that the forced feeding of geese was illegal because of the suffering it caused the animals.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on February 22, 2006

9. Help Stop Seal Slaughter in Canada

Forwarded message from the Humane Society of the U.S.:

Hi Richard,

In just a few weeks, the largest commercial slaughter of marine mammals is set to begin on the ice off Canada's East Coast. By the end of the hunt, it's predicted that more than 300,000 seals will be clubbed or shot to death by Canadian fishermen seeking to pick up a few extra dollars by selling their fur.

Almost all of these seals will be babies - some as young as 12 days old. Take action!

Last year, The Humane Society of the United States documented the carnage firsthand and what they saw was shocking: Most of these baby seals were cut open while they were conscious and still struggling.

While most Canadians surveyed are against the hunt, the Canadian government and fishing industry refuse to end it.

But this year, there is new hope on the ice. Canada recently elected a new prime minister. With enough public support, there's a good chance they may end this terrible hunt forever.

Tell Canada's new Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, that you do not support the annual slaughter of seals for their fur. Join The Humane Society of the United States in fighting to end the seal hunt now and forever by signing the petition!

It's time to stop this horrific cruelty against Canada's seals...Are you with me?

10. Help End the Slaughter of Dolphins

In a message dated 2/26/06 12:57:42 AM, hello@ipsodixit.com writes:

Hello and kind regards to you. Dear friends can you help me?
After discovering The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's call for help, i Am preparing a global challenge to put an END to the annual mass murder of Dolphins and small Whales by fishermen from the town of Taiji, Wakayama, Japan.

Absolutely Need all the help we can get. Intend to contact every group
And concerned person we can find. Also need to circulate as many copies of the Petition demanding that the Japanese government stop this slaughter.

The aim of the challenge is to bring as much media pressure to bear on The Japanese government as we can possibly muster.

Can you help in any way? Advice and suggestions will be well received.
Thank you.
Kind regards

And KAtsina
Manchester, England

11. Connection Between Bird Flu and Factory Farming

Article forwarded by JVNA advisor Dab Brook:

Factory Farms Blamed for Spread of Bird Flu
Published on Sunday, February 26, 2006 by the lndependent/UK
by Geoffrey Lean

Factory farming and the international poultry trade are largely responsible
for the spread of bird flu, and wild birds are being unfairly blamed for the
disease, a new report says.

The report says the deadly H5N1 virus developed inside intensive poultry units in Asia and has proliferated through exports of live birds and the use of chicken droppings as fertiliser. Its publication by Grain, an agricultural pressure group, follows an announcement that the virus has been found in a turkey farm in eastern France. Though the farm was close to where two infected wild ducks were found, all its 11,000 turkeys were kept indoors with no contact with wild birds.

Dissident scientists accept that the flu began in wild birds, but say it developed in the cramped conditions of Asian factory farms. Research published in the official journal of the US National Academy of Sciences blames the poultry trade for the virus spreading from China to Vietnam. BirdLife , a charity, says the virus's spread across Russia last summer - widely attributed to migrating birds - took place when birds were moulting and unable to fly. It adds that an outbreak in Nigeria took place on a factory farm far from migratory routes.

C 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Other Resources:




12. Worldwatch Institute Connects Factory Farming to Many Current Threats

Forwarded message from JVNA advisors and authors Pamela Rice and Lewis Regenstein Pamela Rice

Worldwatch slams meat factory concept

Pradipta Mukherjee / Kolkata
February 22, 2006
Business Standard (India)

Since the latest outbreak of avian flu in Southeast Asia in 2003, public health officials, farmers, veterinarians, government officials and the media have referred to the threat as a 'natural' disaster.

However, avian flu, mad cow disease, and other emerging diseases that affect humans from animals are symptoms of a larger change taking place in agriculture - the spread of factory farming.

An article in the latest release from the Worldwatch Institute, titled 'Happier meals: Rethinking the global meat industry', research associate Danielle Nierenberg describes how factory farms are breaking the cycle between small farmers, their animals, and the environment, with collateral damage to human health and local communities.

Over the last half century, the human appetite for meat, milk and eggs, has soared in both industrial countries as well as developing countries. Globalised trade and media, lower meat prices, and urbanization have helped make diets that are high in animal protein a near-universal aspiration.

The article admits one benefit: the world price of beef per 100 kg has fallen by roughly 25 per cent of its value 30 years ago.

From the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, meat consumption in developing countries grew by 70 million tons, nearly triple the rise in ndustrial countries.

Industrial systems today generate 74 per cent of the world's poultry products, 50 per cent of all pork, 43 per cent of beef, and 68 per cent of eggs.

While industrial countries dominate productions, it is in developing nations where livestock producers are rapidly expanding and intensifying their production systems.

Today, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, account for more than 40 per cent of world's meat production, up from 30 per cent in 1990.

The greatest rise in industrial animal operations is occurring near urban areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where high population densities and weak public health, occupational and environmental standards are exacerbating the impacts of these farms.

The number of four-footed livestock on Earth at any given moment has increased 38 per cent since 1961, from 3.1 billion to more than 4.3 billion, while the global fowl population has quadrupled since 1961, from 4.2 billion to 17.8 billion birds.

Although India is thought of as a predominantly vegetarian country, especially because of Hindu beliefs in the sacredness of cows, production of non-beef animal products is growing rapidly. For example, India now ranks fifth in the world in both broiler and egg production.

Much of this production is occurring in large factory farms near densely populated cities, exacerbating concerns about health and environmental risks.

Addressing the ill-effects of factory farming will require a different approach to the way animals are raised.

Positive initiative include educating consumers about the benefits of organic and grass-fed livestock and of vegan and vegetarian diets, supporting small-scale livestock productions, encouraging producers to adopt alternative production methods, and improving occupational and welfare standards for both animals and industry workers.

In response to intensifying consumer demands and other factors, several food companies and international policymaking and funding institutions are exploring new approaches to the business of food.

In the United States, two major food companies have introduced more comprehensive animal welfare standards in the past decade.

In 2001, the World Bank reversed its previous commitment to fund large-scale livestock projects in developing nations, acknowledging that there was a significant danger of crowding out smaller farmers, eroding the environment, and threatening food safety and security.

In June 2005, the 167 member countries of the World Organisation for Animal Health unanimously adopted voluntary standards for the humane transportation and slaughter of animals.

13. Israeli Site Features Biblical Plants

Forwarded Message from Naot Kedumim (an Israeli group that runs a natural area that has many trails along which one can observe many trees and plants that are discussed in the Bible):

Dear Friends,

The current issue of Neot Kedumim News is now available on our website. I'm sure you will find it enjoyable and informative. Please note the information about the upcoming Benefit Concert. We have many supporters who have donated to the concert, even though they will not be able to attend. Some have taken out ads or greetings ($100 for a quarter page--2 free tickets; $150 for a half page--4 free tickets; $200 for a full page--4 free tickets. Some have asked to have their names listed in the concert program book at $50--no free tickets). Those who cannot attend have asked that their tickets be donated by AFNK to people who could use them. We are using these donated tickets to bring a group of local seniors to the concert.

If you have any questions about the Benefit Concert, how to construct your ad or greeting, or how to donate, please email me at ptobenfeld@hotmail.com.

To access the newsletter, simply go to our website at www.n-k.org.il and follow the publications link.


Paula Tobenfeld, President, American Friends of Neot Kedumim

14. Another Report Re the Increasing Potential of Catastrophic Global Warming Effects

Forwarded message from Insnet News Serviceinfo@insnet.org

2006-02-27 - New Zealand
Climate change forecast getting worse

For the past 12 months, merchants of doom have enjoyed a permanent rush hour. At every turn, it seems, another eminent scientist is warning of looming disaster. Professor James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory, says rising seas will one day engulf London. Not only that, but the Arctic circle will be premium real estate for those wretched bands of humans who survive the coming floods and lethally hot weather.

His advice? It's too late for timid measures. We need to quickly build nuclear power plants to avoid putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Lovelock's views are provocative. The cynics would also add that such views won't hurt sales of his book, The Revenge of Gaia.

But in recent months, a cascade of new scientific evidence on climate change has made even mainstream scientists increasingly concerned about what lies ahead.

One is Dr David Wratt, leader of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research's national climate centre.

"Over the past few months in particular, knowledgeable scientists have got more concerned that there might not be just a gradual bit of warming, but there could be some more substantial and worrying things happen," he says.

So what are they worrying about, and should we be worried too?

Among the public, many believe the main scientific debate is whether climate change is for real.

After all, American President George Bush is reluctant to address climate change, so perhaps there is something to what the skeptics say.

But for scientists, the caravan moved on some time ago. Now the most urgent question is not whether climate change is real, but how serious and rapid it will be, and whether it will soon be too late to do anything to stop it.

To get a sense of mainstream scientific opinion, most governments look to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which distills the views of 1300 of the world's top experts.

Each country, including the United States, sends its best and brightest to contribute. Wratt is a star contributor. He sits on the inner circle of the IPCC as one of eight members of the working group that pulls together the report on the current scientific knowledge on climate change.

The last IPCC report, in 2001, concluded humans were indeed changing the climate. And it laid out a series of best estimates on what those changes might be.

Under these forecasts, the outlook for New Zealand a century from now doesn't look unbearable. The sea level is due to rise anywhere between 9cm and 88cm, but our location in the middle of the ocean is expected to take some of the edge off temperature rises. Our temperature is expected to rise around 2C.

The west of the country is expected to get wetter, the east will get drier and more drought-prone. We will be hit by more extreme weather, more storm damage, more erosion, more floods and stronger westerly winds.

We will have new warm weather pests and weeds to contend with.

But on the upside, warmer temperatures and more frost-free days should lift agricultural production in many parts of the country.

So far, so manageable. New Zealand certainly isn't expected to suffer the spreading deserts problems facing Australia under the same IPCC forecasts.

But where New Zealand scientists are watching the international debate closely is the risk of a more dangerous and rapid climate change.

One of Australia's respected senior climate scientists, retired Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientist Dr Barrie Pittock, was worried scientists had not been frank enough about the fact the outlook on climate change now included the possibility of calamitous change.

"My concern is there's a range of uncertainty in most aspects of climate change. The skeptics tend to look at the low end of the range and say maybe nothing's going to happen, or only very little things.

"But if you're taking a risk management approach then you've got to also look at the danger of something at the high end happening.

"That's the basic problem, and the one most scientists have shied away from because they don't want to sound alarmist," said Pittock, author of Climate Change: Turning Up the Heat.

Stirring up that debate internationally is Nasa climate scientist James Hansen, who was famously gagged by the Bush administration over his views on climate change. Press staff at Nasa tried to prevent reporters speaking to Hansen after a December lecture in which he said time was running out to prevent runaway climate change.

"I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself," he said.

Hansen said the world was nearing a tipping point that would lead to sea level rises of 25m over coming centuries, the result of melting of most of the ice from Greenland and West Antarctica, as well as a portion of East Antarctica.


15. How Animal-Based Diets Contribute to Water Shortages and Coming Food Shortages/Please Write

Forwarded message from JVNA advisor and author Pam Rice:

Dear Richard: Here is an article from The Economist that accounts for something environmental vegetarians have been warning people about since the 1980s. It's really quite terrifying what it's saying about something in our own national back yard, and it's essentially all because of our nation's meat-based diet. As per typical, the article blames the livestock "operations," which are the immediate cause of the problem, not the meat eating behind those operation, and so leaves your average meat eater off the hook. in the popular mind, car driving is linked to global warming, yet meat eating is not associated with water shortages. The media need to hear from the vegetarian community on this. Time to send letters to the editor - in general, yes, to The Economist, at letters@economist.com .
- Pamela R.

[EXCERPT: ... a boom in cattle and pig operations has stretched [the
water] supply to the limits. ... cheap subsidised water has spurred
people (and farmers in particular) to overuse it.]


also posted at:

The Great Plains: Turning off the taps
Feb 9th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Amid all the other problems a growing need for new pipelines

THERE was a time when clean, sweet water bubbled up from wells in Hull. But like other Iowan towns, Hull's shallow aquifers left its water supply vulnerable to contamination. Pesticides and fertiliser leaked from local farms, raising sulphate levels in the well water and wreaking havoc on newcomers' digestive systems. Ten years ago, Hull capped its wells and turned to its neighbours for clean water. Now a boom in cattle and pig operations has stretched that supply to the limits. Without a new source of clean water, the town's future prosperity is doubtful.

Hull may be a harbinger of a drier future on the northern Plains. The town is one of many in the area whose groundwater has been contaminated by farm chemicals. Hull is one of 15 towns and five rural water systems, including South Dakota's biggest city, Sioux Falls, that have hitched their futures to the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System (LCRWS), a big new pipeline, which in theory will pump 45m gallons a day from the Missouri river to about 200,000 people thinly spread out across South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

Dennis Healy, the boss of the Lincoln-Pipestone Rural Water System in south-western Minnesota, calls the LCRWS, which is due to open in 2018, "our only viable option for a future water source". The towns and water systems that will benefit from the LCRWS have agreed to bear 10% of the project's estimated $420m price tag, and Sioux Falls has agreed to pay even more. But much of the rest is supposed to come from the federal government. Getting the cash is a priority for the region's senators.

For most of the last century the federal government was eager to help farmers turn the semi-arid northern plains into arable farmland. But that support has waned, along with the rural population. Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota already receive almost $3 billion in agricultural subsidies. Last year, Congress rather grumpily agreed to hand over half the $35m the LCRWS's backers wanted. This year, George Bush's budget offers $21m-$6m more than the project got last year but well below the requested $53m.

Without full funding, completion will be delayed several years, leaving many towns high and dry. Last year, Sioux Falls nearly tripled its requested stake in the project, from 10m gallons a day to 27m gallons. The city grew by 20% between 1990 and 2000. But city officials say water shortages may crimp growth as soon as 2012.

The story is much the same in the northern Plains states. North Dakota is revisiting a huge, 40-year-old project called the Garrison Diversion to deal with water shortages in the Red River Valley. The LCRWS is one of 13 water projects proposed or under development in the northern plains that seek federal money to redistribute water.

But is the answer really to lay new pipes? Natural-resource experts point out that cheap subsidized water has spurred people (and farmers in particular) to overuse it. Tom Power, an economist at the University of Montana, says projects like the LCRWS are "nuts. The last thing you want is federal subsidies for the consumption of resources, especially given the [water] scarcity we face across the West."

From this perspective, the long-term future is not more federal money, but less, to force farmers to start trading water with the towns. Those creaking pipes may yet be the beginning of a water revolution.

** Fair Use Notice **
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

February 20, 2006

2/20/06 Special JVNA Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This special Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter is devoted to tza’ar ba’alei chayim, the Torah mandate not to cause pain to living creatures. We are greatly indebted to frequent contributor Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen for his wonderful, well-researched set of articles that are the basis for this newsletter. We look forward to his further articles on Jewish teachings on animals which we plan to include in another special JVNA newsletter.

For further information on this topic, please see the section on animals at my collection of articles at JewishVeg.com/schwartz and Rabbi David Sears’ collection of articles.

This newsletter contains the following items:

Yosef Hakohen’s Articles:

1. The Prohibition Against Cruelty To Animals

2. The Grievance of the Donkey

3. Relieving the Animal's Load

4. The Animal's Right to Eat!

5. The Mitzvah to Emulate the Divine Compassion

6. When Animals Take Priority: Part One

7. When Animals Take Priority: Part Two

8. Sabbath Rest for the Animals

9. Don't Force Different Species to Work Together

10. The Torah's Protest Against Inhumane Slaughter of Animals

11. The Jewish Aversion to Hunting for Sport

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. The Prohibition Against Cruelty To Animals

Dear Friends,

In the upcoming letters of this series, we will discuss "tzaar baalei chayim" - the Torah's prohibition against cruelty to living creatures; moreover, we will also discuss how the principle of this prohibition is expressed in several "mitzvos" – Divine mandates of the Torah. In this letter, we will discuss a mitzvah given to all humankind which expresses this principle.

According to our tradition, this universal mitzvah is included in the universal moral code, which is the spiritual legacy of all the peoples of the earth. This moral code has seven basic precepts which are known as the "Seven Mitzvos of the Children of Noah." The Talmud (Sanhedrin 56b) states that this code was first taught to humanity at the very dawn of human history, beginning with Adam and Eve; however, this code was reaffirmed during the generation of Noah, after the great flood, and it therefore became known as the "Seven Mitzvos of the Children of Noah."

The Seventh Mitzvah is the prohibition against severing a limb or flesh from a living animal, and Maimonides writes in his Mishneh Torah that this seventh mitzvah was given to humanity in the generation of Noah, after the great flood, when human beings were given Divine permission to eat meat (Hilchos Melachim 9:1). According to our tradition, the source for this universal mitzvah is found in the following passage:

"Every moving thing that lives shall be yours for food; as with the herbal greenery have I given you all these. But flesh; with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat" (Genesis 9:3,4).

"But flesh with its soul" - Rashi explains: "He forbade them to eat a limb which was detached from a living animal; as if to say, all the while that its soul is still in it, you shall not eat the flesh."

"Its blood" - Rashi adds that the mention of the word "blood" is coming to teach that it is also forbidden to eat blood which is taken from a living animal.

This mitzvah is also one of the 613 mitzvos which were given to the People of Israel. The "Sefer Ha-Chinuch" - a classical work on the Torah's 613 mitzvos - discusses this prohibition, and it states:

"A root principle of this mitzvah is that we should not train our spirit in the quality of cruelty, which is a most reprehensible trait of character. In truth, there is no greater cruelty in the world than when one cuts a limb or flesh from an animal while it is yet alive before him, and he eats it." (Mitzvah 452).

The practice of taking a limb or flesh from a living animal was more common in the ancient world; however, in our modern era, this practice can still be found in certain areas of the earth. We who live in the modern world should not feel so superior to the ancient world, as some of the ways animals are treated on many factory farms are inhumane! This is a topic for a future discussion.

It is written, "The Compassionate and Just One took the human being and placed him in the Garden l'avdah u'leshamrah - to serve it and protect it" (Genesis 2:5). As we discussed previously, the Divine mandate to "serve" the Garden is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah which enable us to improve and elevate the world; moreover, the Divine mandate to "protect" the Garden is a prototype for all the mitzvos of the Torah which prevent us from damaging and degrading the world (Tikunei Zohar 55). The Torah's prohibition against cruelty to living creatures is therefore within the category of "protecting" the world.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings and Comments:

1. The Sefer Ha-Chinuch, in its discussion on mitzvah 416, mentions that the Seven Mitzvos of the Children of Noah are actually seven broad categories which contain many of the 613 specific mitzvos which are incumbent upon the People of Israel. The noted commentator on the Talmud, known as "the Meiri," explains that most of the principles of the Torah are contained within the Seven Mitzvos of the Children of Noah (Commentary to Sanhedrin 59a). These teachings are discussed in greater detail in the Hazon essay on the universal moral code.

There are also sources which indicate that there are additional mitzvos which all human beings are to fulfill, beyond those specifically mentioned within the universal moral code, and the mitzvah of "tzedakah" - sharing our resources with those in need - is cited as an example. For further study, visit the archive (upper section) of our website which has articles on the mitzvah of tzedakah, and see the following articles: "Tzedekah Activists Vs. Sodomites" and "The Mitzvah to be Human."

2. A law of the Torah is known in Hebrew as a "halacha" - a word which is derived from the Hebrew word for walking, "holech." The word "halacha" therefore reminds us that the mitzvos are a path, and each halacha reveals how we are to walk on this path. In the upcoming lessons, we will be discussing various halachos concerning the humane treatment of other creatures, so at the recommendation of Rabbi David Sears, I bought an excellent Hebrew work which discusses these halachos. It is titled, "Nefesh Kol Chai" - The Soul of All Living Things, and the author is Rabbi Eliyahu Shtisman, who lives in Jerusalem. In this work, we find a discussion of various mitzvos and stories in the Torah which express the principle of "tzaar baalei chayim" - the prohibition against cruelty to living creatures; however, there are differing opinions as to which of these mitzvos or stories is the primary source of this principle.

3. The Torah gives the leading sages of the High Court the right to enact halachos in order to reinforce or protect Torah teachings and mitzvos. A halacha enacted by these leading sages is often referred to as a "mitzvah d'rabanan" – a rabbinic mitzvah. The Talmud discusses whether the prohibition of tzaar baalei chayim is a rabbinic mitzvah or whether it is actually a mitzvah of the Torah. As the work Nefesh Kol Chai points out, most of the great authorities on halacha conclude that tzaar baalei chayim is a mitzvah of the Torah. For information in English on this subject, see "The Vision of Eden" by Rabbi David Sears (pages 63-66).

4. As Rabbi Sears points out in "The Vision of Eden," the Torah path encourages sensitivity to the feelings of other living creatures beyond the strict requirement of the halacha, and in a future letter, we will cite some examples.

Hazon – Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon

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2. The Grievance of the Donkey

Dear Friends,

I was born on Shabbos, the 14th of Tamuz. The story that I am about to share with you is part of the "parsha" - Torah portion - which was read on the Shabbos of my birth. I was a bit too young to go to synagogue that day, but I did manage to hear the following story read in the synagogue when I got older:
Introduction: When the People of Israel were journeying through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, the King of Moab hired the Gentile prophet, Balaam, to curse this people who had been liberated from the slavery of Egypt. The King of Moab sent messengers to Balaam, and the Torah then tells the following amazing story which reveals both the justice and the compassion of the Creator of all life:

Balaam arose in the morning and saddled his she-donkey and went with the officers of Moab. The wrath of the Just One flared because he was going, and an angel of the Compassionate One stood on the road to impede him. He was riding on his she-donkey and his two young men were with him. The she-donkey saw the angel of the Compassionate One standing on the road with his sword drawn in his hand, so the she-donkey turned away from the road and went into the field; then Balaam struck the she-donkey to turn it back onto the road. (Numbers 22:21-23)

The Torah mentions that the she-donkey tried to move away from the angel three times, and on each occasion, Balaam hit the donkey, for he did not see the angel. The Torah then states:

The Compassionate One opened the mouth of the she-donkey and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you that you struck me these three times?

Balaam said to the she-donkey, "Because you mocked me! If there was a sword in my hand I would kill you right now."

The she-donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your she-donkey that you have ridden all your life until this day? Have I been accustomed to do such a thing to you?

He said, "No."

Then the Compassionate One uncovered Balaam's eyes and he saw the angel of the Compassionate One standing on the road with his sword drawn in his hand. He (Balaam) bowed his head and prostrated himself on his face.

The angel of the Compassionate One said to him. "For what reason did you strike your she-donkey these three times? Behold! I went out to impede, for you hastened on a road to oppose me. The she-donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. Had it not turned away from me, I would now even have killed you and let her live!" (Numbers 22:28-33)
The Compassionate One gave the she-donkey the ability to express her grievance. She had never behaved this way before; thus, Balaam should have realized that if she turned away three times, there must have been a good reason. There was therefore no need for him to strike her. According to the following teaching from Midrash Hagadol (22:32), the above story is the primary source in the Torah for the prohibition against "tzaar baalei chayim" – causing needless suffering to living creatures:

"Rabbi Yochanan said that the prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim is a Torah prohibition, as it is written, 'For what reason did you strike your she-donkey these three times?' " (Cited in "Nefesh Kol Chai")

Maimonides writes in "The Guide to the Perplexed" (3:17) that the prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim is a Torah prohibition, and like the above Midrash, he quotes the following rebuke, "For what reason did you strike your she-donkey these three times?"

Rabbi Yehudah HeChassid, a contemporary of Maimonides, writes that we can learn the following lesson from the story of Balaam and his donkey:

"For every act by which a person needlessly causes pain to his friend, he shall be punished. This applies even if he needlessly causes pain to an animal. For example, if he overloads an animal and then, when it does not move, beats it - in the future he will be called to judgement before the Heavenly court, because inflicting cruelty upon animals is a Torah prohibition. Thus, concerning Balaam it is written, 'For what reason did you strike your she-donkey?' And in response to his having declared, 'If there was a sword in my hand I would kill you right now,' he himself was (later) killed by the sword." (Sefer Chassidim, section 666)

The Torah later states, "And Balaam son of Beor they slew by the sword." (Numbers 31:8). As the Sefer Chassidim pointed out, the one who would have needlessly killed his donkey by the sword was killed by the sword. Why, however, was Balaam, who did not receive the Torah at Mt. Sinai and who was unfamiliar with its prohibition against cruelty to animals, being held responsible for his cruel behavior? The halachic work "Nefesh Kol Chai" discusses several possible reasons which are mentioned in halachic literature. One possible reason is because the Torah's prohibition against cruelty to animals is also part of the universal moral code – the Seven Mitzvos of the Children of Noah. (This was discussed in our previous letter.)

Another possible reason can be found in a teaching of Rabbi Nissim Gaon, a noted sage of the 11th century. He writes in his introduction to the Talmud that all human beings in every generation have an obligation to fulfill any mitzvah of the Torah which is suggested by "reason and the understanding of the heart." The mitzvah to avoid cruelty to other living creatures can be viewed as a mitzvah which is suggested by "the understanding of the heart," and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch elaborates on this idea:

"Compassion is the feeling of empathy which the pain of one being of itself awakens in another; and the higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned are they to re-echo the note of suffering which, like a voice from heaven, penetrates the heart, bringing to all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal God. And as for the human being, 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...so that if nothing else, the very nature of his heart must teach him that he is required above everything else to feel himself the brother of all beings, and to recognize the claim of all beings to his love and beneficence." (Horeb, chapter 17).

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
Hazon - Our Universal Vision: www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/

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3. Relieving the Animal's Load

"If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying under its load, you shall not permit yourself to leave it to him; instead, you shall let all else go and hasten to his aid." (Exodus 23:5)

Dear Friend,

The above mitzvah enables us to help both a human being and an animal. It requires us to overcome our negative feelings towards a person who hates us by helping him to remove the heavy burden from his suffering animal. It is a topic for a different discussion, but this kind deed can actually help to eliminate the enmity between the two individuals.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary on the above verse, explains that the mitzvah to remove the burden from the suffering animal is an indication that avoiding "tzaar baalei chayim" – needless suffering to living creatures - is a Torah obligation; thus, this act of kindness towards the animal is part of the "Halacha" - the steps on the Torah path. Rabbi Hirsch writes:

"The Halacha regards the unloading of the animal as a duty not only to one's fellow human being in trouble, but also to the suffering animal, for tzaar baalei chayim is a Torah prohibition."

In fact, Rashi, in his commentary on the Talmud (Shabbos 128b), refers to the mitzvah to unload the animal as a primary source for the Torah's prohibition of tzaar baalei chayim.

Rabbi Hirsch discusses this Torah prohibition in his classical work on the mitzvos known as "Horeb" (Chapter 60), and he writes:

"There are probably no creatures that require more the protective Divine word against the presumption of the human being than the animals, which like the human being, have sensations and instincts, but whose body and powers are nevertheless subservient to the human being. In relationship to them the human being 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 beating as the human being. Thus the human being becomes the torturer of the animal soul, which has been subjected to him only for the fulfillment of humane and wise purposes."

A mitzvah is a Divine mandate which also contains a Divine teaching. Rabbi Hirsch therefore discusses the following teaching of "Hashem" - the Compassionate One - which is contained in the above mitzvah:

"Behold! Here you are faced with Hashem's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on an animal, but to help and, when you can, lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering even through no fault of yours. As the Oral Law explains, to release an animal of its burden is not only a duty of love towards the distressed owner of the animal; it is above all a duty towards the suffering animal. Even without the owner, or where the latter has himself caused the collapse of the animal by overburdening, yes, even if he wants to sit down passively by the side of the fallen animal, you have an obligation towards the animal to release it of its burden (Choshen Mishpat 272).

As the above teachings indicate, the Torah's concern for tzaar baalei chaim requires that when we encounter a suffering animal, we should strive to alleviate its suffering. Rabbi Hirsch adds:

"It goes without saying, therefore, that you may hurt the animal and strain its powers only for sensible human purposes, and then only in the least painful manner. You may not burden the animal which serves you with excessive loads, you many not make it work constantly without rest, or deny it the fodder it needs."

In our next letter, with the help of Hashem, we will discuss a related mitzvah which reminds us not to deny an animal the food it needs.


Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. The Talmud states that the mitzvah to unload the animal applies whether its owner is an Israelite or a Gentile. (Bava Metziah 32b)

2. Rabbi Hirsch stresses the importance of educating children about the prohibition of tzaar baalei chayim, and he writes:

"Above all, those to whom the care of young minds has been entrusted, see to it that they respect both the smallest and the largest animal as beings, which like the human being, have been summoned to the joy of life and have been granted sensitivity. And do not forget that the boy, who, in crude joy, finds delight in the convulsions of an injured beetle or the anxiety of a suffering animal will soon also be dumb towards human pain." (Horeb, chapter 60)

3. The purpose of this series is to give us a survery of Torah teachings, stories, and "halachos" - the requirements of the Torah path – regarding our relationship to other creatures. This series should not be used; however, as a source for final decisions in matters of halacha, especially since complicated situations can arise which involve conflicting Torah obligations. For such purposes, one should consult a qualified halachic authority.

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4. The Animal's Right to Eat!

"You shall not muzzle an ox when it is threshing." (Deuteronomy 25:4)

Dear Friends,

We are not allowed to prevent an animal from eating from the produce while it is working. As Rashi states in his commentary on the above verse, the ox is cited because it is a common example; however, the law applies to any working animal. The Raavad, a halachic authority of the 12th century, views this verse as a source of the prohibition "tzaar baalei chayim" – causing needless suffering to living creatures. (Commentary on Bava Metzia 32b, cited in "Nefesh Kol Chai" by Rabbi Yitzchak Eliyahu Shtisman)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a halachic authority of the 19th century, indicates that the above verse is one of the sources for the Torah prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim (Horeb, 60). And he writes:

"God demands, as its right, that the animal which works in the cultivation of the field may be allowed to eat of the fruits undisturbed, at the time when it is working there….The law applies to threshing, the bearing of burdens, or any other work. This prohibition gives the animal which helps you in taking possession of the fruits of the earth, a right upon the fruits during its service; and you sin against it by whichever means you prevent it from eating, even if it be calling to it, or indirectly instilling fear, or thirst, or by unnecessary separation from the fruits. You may only prevent the animal from eating if the fruits might harm it (Chosen Mishpat 338)."

All people who work with animals must therefore be very careful that the animals not be deprived of the food they need. According to the Ohr HaChayim, a noted biblical commentator and kabbalist, an example of this concern can be found in a Torah story about a journey of our father Yaacov (Jacob). When Yaacov arrived in the land of the easterners, where the relatives of his mother lived, he encountered a group of shepherds with their flocks, and the shepherds were standing around a well. Yaacov said to them, My brothers, Where are you from?" (Genesis 29:4). The shepherds replied that they are from Charan. Since this was where Yaacov's relatives lived, he asked the shepherds if they knew the family. He then said to them:

"Look, the day is yet young! It is not yet time to bring the livestock in; water the sheep and then go pasture them." (Genesis 29:7)

The sheep were not being given water from the well; moreover, the day was still young, and the sheep were not being given the right to graze in the pasture. Yaacov was therefore concerned about tzaar baalei chayim, explains the Ohr HaChayim, and this was why he raised the issue with the shepherds. In fact, animal rights activists can learn from Yaacov how to raise the issue of tzaar baal chayim with others in a positive way. For example, before Yaacov challenged them regarding their behavior, he addressed them as, "My brothers." The Netziv, a noted sage and biblical commentator of the late 19th century, writes: "Yaacov taught his tongue to speak words of love and friendship, therefore he called these shepherds that he never met before 'brothers'." Before he challenged them about their behavior, Yaacov spoke words of love and friendship. One does not have to be a psychologist to realize that when we challenge others from a place of love, we increase the chances that our words will be heard.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

A Related Story:

The persecuted and poor Jews of Eastern Europe often supplemented their meager income by having some chickens and even a cow or a goat in their yard. The accomplished Talmud scholar, Rabbi Isaac Rosensweig, was one of these poor Jews who tried to make a living by raising chickens. After the German army invaded his village in World War II, Rabbi Isaac was deported to the death camps. The German soldiers laughed when he cried out beseechingly from the window of the death train, "Go to my house and give the chickens food and water, for they have not touched food and water for a whole day!" Then Rabbi Isaac noticed his comrade, Rabbi Moshe Yudah Tziltz, who had not yet been summoned by the authorities, standing at distance. With a loud cry, he called out to him, "Afflicting animals is forbidden by the halacha! Give the chickens food and water!" (This story appears in, "The Vision of Eden - Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism" by David Sears.)

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5. The Mitzvah to Emulate the Divine Compassion

"And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9).

"The Compassionate One is good to all, and His compassion is on all His works" (Psalm 145:9)

Dear Friends,

As human beings created in the Divine image, we have the potential to emulate the Divine ways; moreover, there is a mitzvah which calls upon us to develop this potential to the best of our human ability - the mitzvah to walk in His ways. Maimonides, in his explanation of this mitzvah, cites the following teaching of our sages:

"Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, is called Compassionate, so should you be compassionate; just as He is called Gracious, so should you be gracious; just as He is called Righteous, so should you be righteous; just as He is called Chasid - the One Who does lovingkindness - so should you be a chasid." (Book of Mitzvos, #8 – based on the Sifri, Deuteronomy 11:22)

According to a classical work on the mitzvos known as "Sefer Charedim" (4:1), the prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim is actually a branch of the mitzvah to walk in the ways of the Compassionate One, for the Divine benevolence and compassion extends to all creatures, as it is written (Psalm 145:9), "The Compassionate One is good to all, and His compassion is on all His works." (Cited in "Nefesh Kol Chai")

We are to emulate the Divine benevolence and love to all creatures. This spiritual consciousness is the legacy which we received from our forefathers and foremothers, and the following story can serve as an example:

After his wife, Sarah, had passed away, Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to Charan where his relatives lived, in order to find a suitable wife for Avraham's son, Yitzchak (Isaac). Eliezer arrived in Charan, and he caused the camels to kneel down outside the city, opposite a well of water, at the time of evening - a time when the young women who usually draw the water come out. Eliezer remembered how Avraham and Sarah taught people to emulate the Divine love and compassion; thus, he understood that the wife for Isaac would have to be a loving and compassionate person. He therefore offered the following prayer to the Compassionate One:

"O Compassionate One, God of my master Avraham, may you so arrange it for me this day, and do lovingkindness to my master Avraham. See, I stand here by the spring of water and the daughters of the townspeople come out to draw the water. Let it be that the maiden to whom I say, 'Please tip your jug so I may drink,' and who replies, 'Drink, and I will also give water to your camels' - her will you have chosen for your servant, for Yitzchak; and may I know through her that you have done lovingkindness with my master." (Genesis 24:12-14)

"Her will you have chosen" – Rashi explains: "She is fitting for him in that she performs acts of lovingkindness, and she is therefore worthy to enter the household of Avraham."

Rabbi Elie Munk, in his biblical commentary known as "The Call of the Torah," makes the following observation regarding the test of character that Eliezer chose: He would only ask for water for himself; however, she would offer to also give water to the camels; thus, her extension of lovingkindness to the animals would be further proof of her goodness.

And so it happened. The young Rivkah (Rebecca) approached the well, and Eliezer asked her for some water. She gave him some water, and she then drew water for all of his camels! When Eliezer later asked her if there was a place in her father's house to stay, she replied, "There is even plenty of straw and feed with us, as well as a place to lodge" (Genesis 24:25). Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary on this verse, writes:

"Here too, Rivkah's fine qualities stand out. She is attentive to the needs of the animals, whose thirst she has just quenched. Once they have had their fill of water, they should be fed. Her sensitivity towards the animals is still activated and animated."

She took responsibility for the welfare of these animals as if they were her own, and her behavior, explains Rabbi Hirsch, is in the spirit of the following verse: "A righteous person understands the feelings of his animals" (Proverbs 12:10).

Rivkah was emulating the ways of the Compassionate One, as it is written, "He gives nourishment to all flesh, for His lovingkindness endures forever" (Psalm 136:25). As the classical commentator, Radak, explains, the nurturing of the Compassionate One extends to "each and every creature."

Many centuries later, when Rivkah's descendants, the People of Israel, would be exiled from the Land of Israel, many of them would settle in countries in Europe which had a colder climate than they were used to. The halachic work "Nefesh Kol Chai" mentions that the activists among the People of Israel would make sure to feed the birds during the freezing weather, when due to the snow, the normal supply of food for the birds was not available.

The stories about the sages who led the People of Israel during the painful exile reveal that these spiritual leaders stressed the importance of emulating the Divine compassion for all creatures, and the following story – told by a disciple of a great Chassidic Rebbe – can serve as an example:

Once our holy master, the Stropkover Rebbe (R. Avraham Shalom Halberstam, 1857-1940) visited the city of Ujhely, Hungary, staying in the home of Rabbi Lemel Schvartz. In the morning, after a long night of Torah study, the Rebbe asked R. Lemel's son, R. Mordechai, for some grain to feed the chickens and geese. The Rebbe explained: "One should emulate the Creator, Whose 'mercy is upon all His works.' It is an especially great mitzvah to show compassion to the creatures of the Holy One, Blessed be He. By doing so, one also elicits God's kindness, causing it to shine upon Israel.

"Another benefit of feeding animals is that it strengthens one's compassion. By doing so the first thing in the morning, it becomes easier to show compassion throughout the day."

Thus did our master conduct himself, feeding the birds a number of times during his stay. (Cited in "The Vision of Eden")


Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch was a noted sage and biblical commentator of the 19th century, and we have cited some of his teachings in this series. He and his family lived in Germany, which had cold, snowy winters; thus, Rabbi Hirsch's wife would put food on her window sill every morning for the sparrows who gathered there. After her passing, Rabbi Hirsch continued this practice until his last days. When he was on his final sickbed, he told his sons not to forget to take care of the birds. ("Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch" by Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Klugman - ArtScroll)

A "yahrtzeit" is the anniversary of someone's passing, and I am writing this letter on the eve of the "yahrtzeit" of Rabbi Hirsch – the 27th of Teves, which begins on Thursday evening, January 26th. It is therefore fitting to conclude this letter with a teaching from Rabbi Hirsch regarding the mitzvah to emulate the Divine ways:

"Love is the activity which seeks unasked the welfare and benefit of others. It was love which God desired to be your highest mission, your mark of perfection, and as an example which should constantly spur you to further progress He set before you not a human being...He set Himself before you as a model and said: 'Follow after Me in love.' " (Horeb, Chapter 72)

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See Below)

Related Teachings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch:

His first published work, ''The Nineteen Letters,'' serves as an excellent introduction to the Torah's universal vision. It was written in the form of letters to a young Jewish intellectual who was alienated from his spiritual roots. In this work, he writes:

"Everything bestowed upon you - mind, body, fellowman, material goods, other creatures, every talent and every power - all are merely means to action, to further and to safeguard everything. With love and with justice! The earth was not created as a gift to you - you have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God's earth, and everything on it as God's creation, as your fellow creature, to be respected, loved and helped to attain its purpose according to God's Will." (Letter Four)

Rabbi Hirsch also states that ''Judaism, correctly conceived and conveyed, constitutes a bond of love and justice encompassing all creatures'' (Letter Nineteen). "The Nineteen Letters" is published by Feldheim: www.feldheim.com . For information on the ArtScroll biography, "Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch" by Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Klugman, visit: http://www.artscroll.com/linker/hazon/ASIN/RSRP.)

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6. When Animals Take Priority: Part One

Dear Friends,

The Talmud records that Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav: "In all creation there is nothing that lacks a divinely-appointed purpose" (Shabbos 77b). All forms of life serve the unifying Divine purpose, and the Divine plan entitles each creature to receive what it needs in order to fulfill its purpose within creation. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes in his commentary on the Torah (Genesis 15:8), this Divine plan is called "tzedek" - one of the biblical terms for justice; moreover, the benevolent deeds which fulfill this plan are called "tzedakah." Our sages therefore describe the Creator's nurturing of all life in the following manner:

"He does tzedekah and nourishes, supports, and sustains all who come into the world and all that He created." (Tanna Devei Eliyahu 17:8)

A person who strives to live according to the Torah's principle of tzedek in all areas of his existence is called a "tzadik." In this spirit, King Solomon wrote, "A tzadik understands the feelings of his animals" (Proverbs 12:10). The Malbim, a noted 19th century biblical commentator, explains that the tzadik understands the nature of his animal, and he gives the animal its food in its proper time and according to the amount it needs. He also makes sure to fulfill the mitzvah to feed one's animal before one feeds oneself. For the tzadik, writes the Malbim, lives according to the following code: "The tzadik acts according to the laws of tzedek; not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with his own animal."

The Malbim mentioned the mitzvah to feed our animals before we feed ourselves. In the following passage, the Talmud states that a source for this mitzvah can be found in the Divine statement which mentions the feeding of animals "before" the feeding of human beings:

"Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rav: A person is forbidden to eat before he gives food to his animal, as it states (Deut. 11:15): 'I will give grass in your fields for your cattle,' and it then concludes, 'and you shall eat and be satisfied.' " (Brochos 40b)

Based on the above teaching, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, an abridged code of halacha, states: "One who owns animals or fowl that depend upon him for their sustenance is forbidden to eat anything until he feeds them (42:1).

The work "Nefesh Kol Chai" is an anthology of various halachos (including differing halachic opinions) regarding our treatment of other creatures, and it discusses the following question: What if a person has animals that are able to find food on their own? The "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites sources which indicate that although the minimum requirement of the halacha does not require that one feed these animals before one's self in such a case, it is nevertheless praiseworthy to do so. The Hebrew word "chesed" refers to overflowing love, and going beyond the requirement of the halacha in such a situation, states the "Nefesh Kol Chai," is a "midas chassidus" - acting in the spirit of love. According to Jewish tradition, a "chassid" is a person who understands the spirit of each mitzvah, as well as the goal of the Torah path; thus, the chassid lovingly desires to go beyond the minimum requirement of the halacha in life-affirming ways which do not cause harm to himself or others.

To delay feeding a hungry animal which depends on us causes suffering to the animal; thus, "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites sources which indicate that the mitzvah of feeding our animals before we feed ourselves enables us to avoid violating the Torah prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim. In addition, it enables us to also fulfill the mitzvah to emulate the Divine compassion.


Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Related Teachings:

1. "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites sources which indicate that if we are thirsty, we are permitted to drink in order to quench our thirst before giving water to our animals. The permission to drink first only applies if we are genuinely thirsty. It does not apply if we merely want to drink for pleasure. Satisfying the thirst of our animals takes priority over our drinking for pleasure!
Although there is a halachic opinion which states that just as we must feed our animals first, so too, we must give them drink first, Rabbi Yitzchak Eliyahu Shtisman, the author of "Nefesh Kol Chai," told me that the main halachic view is that we are permitted to drink first, if we are thirsty.

2. Why does the halacha, which requires that we feed our animals before ourselves, allow us to drink before we give water to the animals? "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites several reasons. One of the reasons is that when it comes to food, it is usually easier for a human being to fast than an animal; however, when it comes to thirst, it is usually easier for an animal to delay drinking than for a human being. (In fact, there are certain species of animals which can go without water for a very long period.) Another suggested reason is that if a person sits down to eat, there is a possibility he can get so involved with eating that he may forget to feed his animal, which is another reason why feeding the animal takes priority; however, when it comes to drinking water, there is less danger that a person will get so involved in drinking water that he will forget to give drink to his animals. (According to this reason, the permission to drink first does not apply to intoxicating beverages which could cause a person to forget his obligation to his animals.)

3. The Sefer Chassidim (531) is one of the sources which states that we are permitted to drink something in order to quench our thirst before giving water to our animals. As a source for this halacha, he cites a story about our righteous mother, Rivkah: After a long journey, Avraham's servant, Eliezer, arrived at the well of her village, and the young Rivkah first gave drink to the weary and thirsty Eliezer, before giving drink to his animals (Genesis 24:11-21). Another source is the following Divine statement to Moshe, our Teacher: "Give drink to the congregation and to their animals" (Numbers 20:8). Moshe was told to give water to the people "before" the animals.

4. If a delay in eating would cause a definite or even a possible danger to a person's life, he or she should eat first and then feed the animal. What if a delay in eating poses no danger, but would cause some suffering to the person? Can this person eat something first in order to alleviate the stress "before” feeding the animal? "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites differing halachic views on this issue.

5. The above information is for study purposes and is not meant to serve as a final source of halachic decisions. If you have practical halachic questions, please ask a halachic authority.

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7. When Animals Take Priority: Part 2

This letter contains some teachings from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, which were cited in "The Vision of Eden" and which I later studied in the original source, "Ein Rayah":

Dear Friends,

We have begun a discussion on the mitzvah to feed our animals before we feed ourselves. This mitzvah is based on the following verse where the Compassionate One promises that there will be food for the animals before promising that we, the People of Israel, will have enough food:

"I shall provide grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be satisfied." (Deuteronomy 11:15)

In the previous letter, we mentioned the following reasons for the mitzvah to feed our hungry animals before we sit down to eat:

1. It prevents us from violating the Torah's prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim. (A related reason is that sitting down to a meal may also cause us to forget about feeding our animals.)

2. It enables us to fulfill the mitzvah to emulate the compassionate Divine ways, especially since the Compassionate One promised that there will be food for the animals before promising that there will be food for us.

In this letter, we shall discuss some additional reasons for this mitzvah, and we will begin with excerpts from some teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook:

"Aside from enjoining us to recognize our obligation of active concern for the welfare of all creatures, according to the lofty station of this holy directive, it is required as an act of justice, since by means of the animal, the human being brings forth bread from the earth, and 'abundant blessing from the power of the ox' (Proverbs 14:4). Given this, the one that does the work (the animal) deserves priority in benefiting from his labors. In addition, this teaches that the human being must not exploit animals – not only because of compassion, but also because of the justice of showing gratitude; for if not for the animal, the human being would not gain the necessities of life. Therefore, because one is compelled and obligated to feed his animal before eating, his consciousness is raised to know that his obligation to be concerned for animals is not only loving piety and altruism, but an obligation of integrity, righteousness, and justice." (Ein Ayah, Berachos, Vol 2, chap 6, p. 180)

In the modern western world – especially in urban areas - many people have animals in their possession for the purpose of companionship. They are deriving some benefit from their pets; thus, feeding their pets first would be what Rabbi Kook calls, "the justice of showing gratitude."

Since we are discussing the theme of gratitude, I will mention an ancient custom of our people during the winter season which expresses our gratitude towards the birds for a benefit which we received from them on our journey to Mount Sinai: There is a winter Shabbos when we read the Torah portion that includes the song which we sung after we crossed the sea, when we were saved from the Egyptian army that was chasing after us in order to enslave us again. This is a joyous song of deliverance, and it also alludes to the future age of universal redemption when all people will accept the sovereignty of the Compassionate One; thus, the song concludes with the words, "The Compassionate One shall reign for all eternity" (Exodus 15:18). The Shabbos when we chant the Torah portion which includes this song is known as the "Shabbos of Song"; moreover, there is a special custom associated with this Shabbos which involves the birds. I will describe the custom as it is practiced in my community of Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem. Before sunset on Friday, we put out food for the wild birds. "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites halachic sources which state that the reason for this custom is because the birds also sung a special song when we were delivered at the sea! We therefore express our appreciation to the birds for singing their song by giving them food just before the arrival of the Shabbos of Song; moreover, this custom reminds us of the great joy of the Song at the Sea (Aruch Ha-Shulchan).

This year, the Shabbos of Song began at sunset on Friday, February10th.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. Jewish tradition encourages us to have gratitude to everything in creation, and we discussed this idea in a previous letter, which was titled, "Gratitude to the River." A copy is available upon request.

2. Rabbi Kook also discusses another reason for the mitzvah to feed our animals before we feed ourselves. He points out that a human being who lacks food temporarily can quiet the distress of his soul by pursuing various forms of spiritual gratification. The soul of the hungry animal does not have this option.

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8. Sabbath Rest for the Animals:

"Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it. Six days shall you labor and accomplish all your work; but the Seventh Day is a Shabbos to the Compassionate One, your God. On it you shall not perform any kind of work - not you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maidservant, or your animal; nor the stranger within your gates." (Exodus 20:8-10).

Dear Friends,

There is a mitzvah – Divine mandate - not to cause our animals to do work on Shabbos. The book "Nefesh Kol Chai" cites some halachic sources which state that this mitzvah is connected to the Torah's prohibition against "tzaar baalei Chayim" - causing needless suffering to living creatures. Why, however, should causing our animals to work on Shabbos be a form of tzaar baalei chayim? After all, does not the Torah give us permission to cause them to work under humane conditions during the six days of the week? If so, then why can't we cause them to do some work on Shabbos under humane conditions? The beginning of the answer to this question can be found in the following verse which serves as another source for this mitzvah:

"Six days shall you do your tasks, and on the seventh day you shall cease, so that your ox and your donkey 'yanuach' - will have restful contentment" (Exodus 23:12).

The Hebrew word "yanuach" is related to the word "menuchah" - restful contentment. According to a midrashic commentary known as the "Mechilta," the word "yanuach" is therefore teaching us that in addition to resting from physical work on Shabbos, our animals are also free to go into the fields and graze without being disturbed. The classical commentator, Rashi, cites this teaching of the Mechilta, and a noted commentator on Rashi offers the following explanation: "On Shabbos, our animals are to have contentment of the heart" (Be'ar Yitzchak, cited by Sha'arei Aharon).

In this spirit, "Nefesh Kol Chai" states in the name of the Ohr Somayach that on the Holy Shabbos, the Torah wants animals "to have contentment and pleasure." This is the mandate of Hashem – the Compassionate One.

Regarding this mandate, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:

"On the Seventh Day, the human being refrains from exercising his own rule over any of Hashem's creatures and humbly subordinates himself and his world to the Creator. While he observes the Shabbos, the Shabbos teaches him to respect every other creature alongside himself, as all are equal before Hashem, and all are His children. This dismantling of the human being's rule over all creatures is one of the objectives of the Shabbos - the day on which the human being shows homage to Hashem - so that the animals who work and bear burdens should have rest from working for the human being." (Commentary to Exodus 23:12)

Yes, during the week, we have limited dominion over the animals in our possession, which includes the right to have them work for us under humane conditions. This right, however, is taken away from us on Shabbos, as the animals are given the right to rest during the entire Shabbos and to experience contentment of the heart. As a result, any attempt to force them to work on Shabbos is considered to be needless suffering - tzaar baalei chayim!

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:
1. There is an ancient story about a non-Jewish man living in the Land of Israel who became inspired to accept the Torah after witnessing how a cow that once belonged to a Jewish man would not work on Shabbos. This convert later became a Torah sage. The story appears in the archive on our website (lower section), and the following is a direct link:

2. As the custodians of the earth and its creatures (Genesis 2:15), human beings only have a limited form of dominion. We discussed this issue in a previous letter of this series titled, "The Limits of Human Dominion," and it appears in the archive on our website (lower section). The following is a direct link: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/publicat/hazon/tzedaka/limits.htm

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9. Don't Force Different Species to Work Together

"You shall not plow with an ox and the donkey together." (Deut. 22:10)

Dear Friends,

The classical commentator, Rashi, writes that the ox and donkey mentioned in the above verse are to serve as examples, for "the same is true for any two species in the world." This mitzvah therefore prohibits us from forcing two different species to work together in any way.

The Sefer Ha-Chinuch is a classical work on the Torah's 613 mitzvos. The author of this work suggests that a major reason for this particular mitzvah is to avoid tzaar baalei chayim, which is a Torah prohibition. The Sefer Ha-Chinuch writes:

"It is known that the various species of animals and fowl have great anxiety in dwelling with others not of their kind, and all the more certainly to do work with them" (Mitzvah 550).

The author of the Sefer Ha-Chinuch adds that each wise-hearted person can learn from this mitzvah the following insight regarding human beings: One should not appoint two human beings to work together if they would experience a clash, due to their being radically different in nature and/or differing in their conduct.

This mitzvah and other mitzvos related to tzaar baalei chayim reveal the practical approach of the Torah path. The Torah does not rely on vague, general statements, such as, "Be Compassionate!" The mitzvos of the Torah make us more aware of how we can be compassionate to other human beings and to other creatures on a practical level in various areas of our existence. In addition, each mitzvah that we fulfill elevates us. In this spirit, the Sefer Ha-Chinuch wrote:

"Every human being is influenced by his actions. For this reason, the sages, of blessed memory, said: 'The Holy One, Blessed be He, wished to make the people of Israel meritorious; therefore, He gave them abundant teachings and a multitude of mitzvos.' " (Sefer Ha-Chinuch, Mitzvah 16)

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch mentions the following related laws in Horeb (chapter 57):
"You must not allow one task to be done together by animals of two species. You may not allow them to carry the smallest thing together, even if it be only the seed. Therefore you may not even use the voice in order to drive forward animals of differing species that are yoked together. You may not sit in a wagon which is drawn by animals of differing species. (Yorah Deah 297b)

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10. The Torah's Protest Against Inhumane Slaughter of Animals

"For centuries, it was not uncommon practice in Europe to torture animals before slaughter, beating them with knotted ropes and even skinning them alive, in the belief that this would improve the flavor of the meat." (Diane Ackerman, "A Natural History of the Senses," page 147 – This was cited in "The Vision of Eden" which also cites other examples of cruel slaughter of animals in other parts of the world.

The classical Kabbalistic work, "The Palm Tree of Devorah" by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero states: "One should not uproot plants unless they are needed or kill animals unless they are needed. And one should choose a humane manner of death for them using a carefully inspected knife, in order to be as compassionate as possible" (chapter 3). The humane manner of death he is referring to is the Torah's mitzvah of "shechitah" - the taking of the animal's life through a carefully designed method which is very quick and which is designed to avoid tzaar baalei chayim - causing needless suffering to living creatures.

The Sefer Ha-Chinuch, a classical work on the mitzvos states: "The reason for shechitah being done at the throat and with an inspected knife is in order not to cause needless suffering to living creatures (Mitzvah 451).

Dear Friends,

A number of years ago, an elderly rabbi in my Jerusalem synagogue - a Holocaust survivor - told me the following story: He grew up in a rural area of Czechoslovakia among non-Jewish peasants, and when a Christian holiday was approaching, the peasants would gather pigs and slowly torture them to death with an inserted, twisting knife in each pig, as they had a tradition that this slow process improved the flavor of the meat. The howling of the suffering pigs could be heard at a great distance; thus, on the days of the slaughter, the Jewish families in the area would stay in their homes and close their windows, as they could not bear to hear the cries of the suffering pigs. These Jewish families abhorred such cruelty; moreover, their own tradition has a number of mitzvos which require them to avoid or alleviate tzaar baalei chayim.

The Ramban, in his commentary on Genesis 1:29, explains that the carefully designed method of shechitah enables us to avoid tzaar baalei chayim. The Ramban adds that the prohibition of tzaar baalei chayim is ordained by the Torah; thus, we recite the following blessing before shechitah:

"Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Sovereign of the universe, Who has commanded us regarding shechitah."

A leading sage and halachic authority known as the Chasam Sofer, explains the words of the Ramban in the following manner: When we take an animal's life for food, we say a blessing of thanksgiving for the mitzvah which requires us to do this in a compassionate manner. (Chasam Sofer, Responsa, Orach Chayim 54 – cited in the notes of the ArtScroll edition of the Ramban's commentary)

More information on shechitah is available in "The Vision of Eden" – a book by Rabbi David Sears which presents a Torah perspective on animal welfare and vegetarianism. This book also cites scientific studies which indicate that shechitah is the most humane method of killing animals.

Dr. Temple Grandin is an expert on animal welfare who is greatly respected in animals rights circles, and although she has been very critical of some of the modern methods of treating animals just before slaughter, she respects the guiding principles of the ancient method of shechitah. A Jerusalem Report article about her views by David Cohen states:

"An occasional meat-eater herself ('I need the protein'), Grandin has no problem with the guiding principles of kosher slaughter, which dictate that the cattle be killed with a sharp knife, causing a quick death with no pain. Properly administered, she has written, any slaughter plant is 'much gentler than nature,' where animals die from starvation, predators, or exposure." (Jerusalem Report, June 13, 2005)

The Jerusalem Report also mentions that when Dr. Grandin, who is not Jewish, was holding an animal that was undergoing shechitah in a restraint chute that she helped design, she said, "I felt an overwhelming sense of peacefulness, as if God had touched me through the sacredness of the ancient ritual" (Ibid).

The source for the mitzvah of shechitah is found in the following words:

"You may slaughter from your cattle and your flocks that Hashem has given you, in the way I have commanded you" (Deuteronomy 12:21).

The verse states that Hashem commanded us to slaughter the animal in a specific way, but the instructions on how to do this procedure are not mentioned within the text, for they are part of the Oral Torah – the Divine explanations which were given to Moses and which Moses taught to the People of Israel. As "The Vision of Eden" states: "The instructions to which the verse alludes to were taught to the entire nation of Israel by Moses at Mount Sinai, and have been preserved through an unbroken chain of transmission down to the present day." This serves as an example of how we need the Oral Torah in order to fully understand the Written Torah.

The Torah gives human beings limited dominion over the earth and its creatures; thus, human beings are permitted to use the earth, its plants, and its creatures for their needs; however, this use must be in accordance with the guidelines of the Torah which are designed to prevent needless exploitation of the earth, and to prevent needless suffering to other creatures.

The People of Israel were also commanded to further limit this dominion on "Shabbos" – the Sacred Seventh Day. For example, we cannot plow or harvest on Shabbos; in fact, we cannot take a leaf off a tree. In addition, we cannot cause our animals to work on Shabbos, as they are to experience restful contentment on this sacred day. It is also forbidden to take the life of any creature on Shabbos, unless that creature is posing a life-threatening danger. For the observance of Shabbos is one of the ways in which we proclaim to the world the following message:

"To the Compassionate One belongs the earth and its creatures, the inhabited land and those who dwell in it" (Psalm 24:1 – Targum).

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings and Comments:

1. Regarding human dominion, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes: "His mission is not to make them all entirely subservient to him. The earth and its creatures may have aspects that are beyond the sphere of his control, and in these respects they serve their own purpose." (Commentary on Gen. 1:26)

2. In "The Vision of Eden," Rabbi David Sears writes: "The humane handling of livestock immediately prior to slaughter is also required by halacha. For example, an animal should not be slaughtered in the sight of another animal, and restraining the animal should be done as carefully as possible." As Rabbi Sears reminds us, Jewish tradition requires that the "shochet" – the one performing the act of shechitah – be a person of good moral character who reveres Hashem, and who has demonstrated mastery over all the relevant laws and procedures of shechitah.

3. Rabbi Sears also discusses the methods used in modern factory farming – a system which began in the United States – and he explains why some of these methods are not in harmony with the teachings of our own tradition. As Rabbi Sears points out, the Jewish people did not invent this vast system, nor do we control it. And I would like to point out that we are not the main consumers, as we are only a tiny fraction of one percent of the world's population, and in the United States, we are slightly less than 3% of the population. Nevertheless, most of us are connected to modern society and its food industry, and we therefore need to be aware of the problems; moreover, we should support solutions or alternatives that are in harmony with the teachings of our Torah.

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11. The Jewish Aversion to Hunting for Sport

[Due to lack of space, I plan to include this article with Yosef Hakohen’s next series of articles on the proper treatment of animals.]

At this stage of our series regarding our relationship to other creatures, we are discussing various examples of how the Torah prohibits "tzaar baalei chayim" – causing needless suffering to living creatures. Maimonides, in his discussion of this Torah prohibition, writes: "We should not kill animals for the purpose of practicing cruelty or for the purpose of sport" (Guide to the Perplexed 3:17).

Dear Friends,

We shall begin our discussion on the practice of hunting for sport with the following excerpt from "The Vision of Eden" by Rabbi David Sears:

"Where the wall paintings and bas-reliefs of ancient Assyria and Egypt extol the drama of the hunt, the Torah associates such pursuits exclusively with villains such as Nimrod and Esau. Not only is hunting for sport forbidden; to the Jewish mind, it is almost unthinkable." (Page 62).

Rabbi Sears later cites Rabbi Yechezkel Landau, the noted authority on Torah law, who writes: "Throughout the Torah, we find the sport of hunting imputed only to Nimrod and Esau. This is not the way of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Noda B'Yehudah, Yoreh Deah, no. 10)

When I was growing up in New York City during the 1950's and 60's, hunting was a popular American sport, but not among American Jews. Most American Jews, despite their lack of a proper Torah education, still maintained the traditional Jewish aversion to hunting for sport.

During the early 80's, I attended a staff conference at a kosher Jewish hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York State, and the owner was an elderly Orthodox Jewish man. Although hunting was a popular sport in his region among the non-Jews, he told us with pride that he did not allow hunting on his large hotel estate; thus, the entire estate had become a refuge for wild animals and birds, as they sensed that they were safe there.

A study of Jewish history reveals that Jewish communities did not engage in recreational activities which involve cruelty to human beings or other creatures. For example, activities such as "bull fights" or "animal fights" were unknown in Jewish communities. As Rabbi David Sears writes:

"When Roman citizens flocked to attend animal fights in the Colosseum, such gruesome entertainments were unheard of among the Jews. According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 18b), animal fights epitomize the 'dwelling place of scorners' so vehemently decried by the Book of Psalms (1:1).

In the following passage, the historian Josephus describes how King Herod, who ruled the Jewish state towards the end of the Second Temple period, upset the Jewish people by bringing in Roman sports which involved animal fights:

“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.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews.)

The Jewish people were known for their devotion to the study of Torah – the Divine Teachings; however, due to the process of assimilation, many Jewish men and women in the modern world have not studied their own spiritual tradition. They are therefore unaware of most of the teachings and mitzvos of the Torah for which our people had "so great a veneration." In fact, even those Jewish men and women who are more traditional can be influenced by the surrounding non-Jewish culture. We therefore need to be on guard not to adopt any attitudes and practices from other cultures which are not in harmony with the teachings of Torah – "The Tree of Life" (Proverbs 3:18). In this spirit, we need to be aware of another reason why hunting for sport is not a Jewish form of recreation. For there is a mitzvah in the Torah which prohibits us from needlessly destroying any creature or object within creation, and the following teaching reminds us of this mitzvah: "One should not uproot plants unless they are needed or kill animals unless they are needed" (The Palm Tree of Devorah, chap. 3).

According to our tradition, the source for this mitzvah can be found in Deuteronomy 20:19; however, a full discussion of this verse and the various aspects of this mitzvah would require a separate series of articles. For the purpose of our discussion, I would like to cite the following comments of the "Sefer Ha-Chinuch" regarding the reason for this mitzvah:

"It is in order to train our spirits to love what is good and beneficial and to cling to it; as a result, the good will cling to us, and we will be distant from every evil thing and from every matter of destructiveness. This is the way of the loving people of piety and the conscientiously observant; they love shalom and are happy at the good fortune of people, and they bring them closer to the Torah. They will not (needlessly) destroy even a mustard seed in the world, and they are distressed at any ruination and spoilage that they see; moreover, if they are able to do any rescuing, they will save anything from destruction with all their power." (Mitzvah 529)

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Comments:

In previous series, we discussed how our sages would praise non-Jewish individuals or non-Jewish communities that excelled in a particular character trait which was in harmony with our own spiritual tradition. It is therefore relevant to mention that Native Americans have a tradition to take only what they need and to avoid needless destruction; thus, they will take the life of an animal for food and other needs, but not for sport. I have a friend who is rooted in her own Jewish tradition, and who has also engaged in dialogues with Native American spiritual teachers. Some of them have become familiar with certain Torah teachings and laws, and they told her that they identify with the ecological awareness of the Torah, and how the Torah stresses that we should only take from the earth and its creatures what we need.

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