There is room for revising the definition of cruelty to animals to meet our times, but with discretion and devoid of political pressure * In the past, force-feeding of animals was not considered cruel and was halachically permissible * Today, counter to modern methods, force-feeding of geese is disputed amongst the poskim * In light of the complexity of the issue, it would have been appropriate to seek a balanced solution as policymakers attempted to do, but the Supreme Court indiscriminately outlawed force-feeding, thus striking a blow to the geese breeding industry * A prayer for a school’s inauguration * The Israel Broadcasting Authority: Another platform of scorn and hatred for the left to exploit, at the expense of the taxpayer
Changes in the Definition of Cruelty to Animals
As we learned in my previous article, a person is permitted to use and afflict animals for the sake of his livelihood. However, animals must not be caused distress systematically with terrible and cruel pain for the sake of making a living – the prohibition of ‘eiver min ha’chai‘ (a limb torn from a live animal) for an example.
I wrote that there is room to argue that together with the rise in man’s standard of living, both morally and economically, the concept of cruelty to animals can also change. And just as in the past certain things were not considered afflictions by man but today are, likewise, there may be things that in the past were not perceived as horrible and cruel pain for animals, but in the future, will be considered as such, and consequently, will be forbidden to be performed systematically for the sake of earning a living. This process can be conducted responsibly, or on the other hand, through violence, threats, and the spreading of lies. If the latter occurs, the rash decisions that policymakers agree to take will then have to be counterbalanced and corrected, or in a worst-case scenario, the “all-knowing” Supreme Court judges will decide. To a certain extent, it seems that this is what happened regarding the force-feeding of geese.
The Fattening of Animals in Halakha
The process of fattening animals does indeed cause them discomfort, however, our Sages regarded it as a tolerable form of distress that could be performed ‘l’chatchila’ (from the outset) for the purpose of earning a living (just as man is also willing to toil and denigrate himself for his livelihood). Thus, we have learned (Tractate Shabbat 155b) that camels were force-fed, i.e., food would be forcefully pushed down their throats to an area in their body where they could not spit it up, so they would be able to walk in the desert for several days without eating. Similarly, calves and roosters would be force-fed in order to fatten them.
It was also customary for geese to be force-fed in order to fatten them, to the point where the geese forgot how to eat on their own without food being forced down their throats, and as a result, the rabbis permitted non-Jews to force-feed them on Shabbat so they would not suffer due to starvation (Responsa, R’ma 79). However, a problem arose that as a result of the food being forced down their throats, their esophagus was wounded, and there was fear that the goose had become ‘treif’ (non-kosher). Some poskim (Jewish law arbiters) permitted geese to be eaten after the esophagus was checked (R’ma, Y.D., 33:9, and several others), while other poskim forbade it, reasoning that the geese could possibly have been made ‘treif’, but when checked, the wound had gone undetected (Bach, and several others).
The Issue of Force-Feeding Geese Today
In the last few generations the process of force-feeding has developed, and instead of being done manually, machines are now used. Additionally, breeders found that in order to enlarge the liver it was advantageous to force-feed the goose corn and curtail its movement, and as a result, they were able to increase the goose’s liver ten times its natural size. Some poskim believe that by doing so, the goose’s suffering is increased because it is fed in larger amounts. In addition, dry corn increases the risk of damaging its esophagus and making it ‘treif‘. Conversely, there are those who believe that this does not cause greater suffering than in the past; not only that but in recent times the method has been refined and breeders began feeding the geese a liquid corn porridge inserted into their stomach with a thin tube, in a way that does not burden them during the force-feeding process, and also reduces the risk of making them ‘treif‘. Still, several poskim argue that increasing the liver to ten times its natural size causes the goose immense suffering and difficulty in breathing and walking. As far as practical halakha is concerned, there are some poskim who are inclined to forbid it because of ‘tzar ba’alei chayim‘ (cruelty to animals) (Rabbi Yaakov Epstein in “Chevel Nachalato” 9:26), while others say it is not forbidden (Rabbi Itai Elitzur in ‘Techumim’ 24; Rabbi Pinchas Toledano, ‘Brit Shalom’, Vol.2, Choshen Mishpat 7). Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel shlita is of the opinion that it is not forbidden, but it is not ‘mehudar’ (not the greatest), and therefore, the kashrut given to goose liver is ‘kosher’ and not ‘glatt’.
In such a situation, it would have been appropriate to set restrictions on the extent of force-feeding, in order to balance human needs with the suffering of the geese, in a way breeders could continue raising and fattening geese. In practice, as a result of the fierce struggles of animal welfare organizations against the geese breeders, a law prohibiting force-feeding of geese was enacted in several countries. In the State of Israel, politicians attempted to regulate an interim plan with geese breeders that would allow force-feeding to continue under more favorable conditions. However, the Supreme Court judges decided to accept the position of the animal welfare organizations and completely prohibited force-feeding of geese in Israel.
In practice, geese have virtually become extinct in the State of Israel, and it is highly doubtful whether the surviving geese and those prevented from being born, are happier today… Apparently, they are oblivious to all this, just as they were oblivious to the terrible suffering that people attributed to them.
A Prayer for the Inauguration of the Har Bracha Schools
On Tuesday we merited inaugurating two new school buildings (one for boys, one for girls) together with Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The schools began six years ago in temporary buildings, and with the grace of God, today there are already over 200 students in each school, all residents of the community. In light of the growing numbers, there are already two classes, both boys and girls, in the first grade, and according to the rate in the kindergartens and day-care centers, in six years the number of students will be more than double.
Here, I must mention that this blessed growth is taking place in all areas of the Samaria Regional Council. This year, there are approximately 800 students in sixth-grade classes, and in the compulsory kindergarten, there are approximately 1,400 students (this, in addition to the students of the local councils, such as Karnei Shomron, Kedumim, and others). However, it should be noted that the main increase in population is in communities located close to the “Green Line”; unique, is the community of Har Bracha, which, despite being located in ‘Gav Ha’Har’ on the frontlines of Jewish settlement – manages to grow as fast.
Instead of delivering a speech I invoked a prayer to God, envisioning the layout of the Holy Temple. In this article, I omitted from the prayer a few sentences referring to Har Bracha, so that the prayer would be suitable for all schools.
“May it be the will of the Lord our God, and the God of our fathers that in the schools we are happy to inaugurate today, boys and girls will be brought up and educated towards faith in the great vision that God intended for His People Israel, to bring blessing to the world by walking in His ways and settling the Land, as it is written: “God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).
May it be the will of our Father in Heaven that the ‘Kodesh Ha’Kodeshim’ (the ‘Holy of Holies’) be symbolized in the schools by the education of the students towards loyalty to the ‘brit‘ (covenant) between God and His People Israel, the study of Torah and the fulfillment of its commandments, and the building of families with love and joy, as expressed in the ‘Luchot HaBrit’ (‘Tablets of the Covenant’), the Torah, and the ‘Cherubim’ in the Holy of Holies.
May it be His will that from this stems education of the world’s various wisdoms and sciences, and participation in ‘yishuvo shel ha’olam’ (development of the world) – each child according to the source of his soul and unique character, as symbolized in the ‘Shulchan’ (‘Table of the Showbread’) and the ‘Menorah’ (the seven-branched candelabra) in the ‘Mikdash‘ (‘Holy’).
May the dear and precious teachers, both male and female, merit educating all their students towards excellence in Torah, good character traits, and good deeds; to educate their students to believe in the talents that God has given them, to teach them to pray and elevate their aspirations and yearnings, until each and every child is privileged to refine his unique talent – as symbolized by the ‘ketoret‘ (incense) on the ‘Mizbayach Ha’zahav‘ (‘Golden Alter’).
May the schools educate towards devotion to Judaism’s sacred values, for these values exist only out of devotion and sacrifice. May the sacrifice be one of a life of devotion, and not in the sanctification of the lives of soldiers and holy settlers killed in the sanctification of God, the Nation, and the Land.
May it be His will that out of loyalty to the Torah, the Nation, and the Land, the students merit developing their talents in the study of foreign languages, in order to realize Israel’s universal vision, as the prophet said: “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of God and serve him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).
May it be God’s will that these schools produce Torah scholars who will illuminate the world, scientists who will reveal the secrets of creation for a blessing, public activists who are dedicated and loyal, and men of valor and action in all spheres of life.
And when the graduates of the schools grow up and become grandparents, and their grandchildren ask them to tell them a little about how they achieved such important ideals in their lives, they will recall how wonderful and productive their time was in their elementary school.
And may we all merit seeing the settling of our cherished Land and the redemption of all its expanses, and the building of the Holy Temple in our days.”
Concerning the Israel Broadcasting Authority
Last Motzei Shabbat, while enjoying a ‘Melaveh Malka’ meal, I listened to the “Hidabroot” radio show, moderated by Kobi Barkai on Reshet Bet. He interviewed the leftist, religious professor Avi Sagi. I listened to the show for about twenty minutes, and that was enough to ruin my pleasurable meal. Sagi vented hatred and contempt for the National-Religious public, its values, and its rabbis. He referred to the words of our teacher and mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah HaKohen Kook in regards to the Holocaust with insensitivity and wickedness, plucking out a few sentences that had been spoken figuratively, from an entire philosophical worldview.
I have never heard a radio show that allowed someone to speak at such length with so much hate, contempt, and slander about another group, with the interviewer all the while addressing his hateful diatribe as praiseworthy truth!
The additional attempt to establish a broadcasting authority at the expense of the public has failed. Aside from the fact that the absolute majority of the presenters, interviewers, and commentators are staunch leftists, they still dare to broadcast such a contemptuous program at the expense of public funds without any response. By the way, apparently it’s impossible to produce a parallel radio program from the right-wing because it’s impossible to find a rational person from the religious public who would express such hatred and contempt for left-wingers!
The mask of “objectivity” and ” neutrality ” behind which the public broadcasting bodies are hiding – at a cost to the taxpayer of nearly NIS 1 billion a year – must be torn away, and then, decisive action must be taken to cancel the Israel Broadcasting Authority and Galei Tzahal (the Army Radio station), so that from here on in, the leftists will have to contend with the need to win over the trust of the public without any monopolies, or public funding. In connection to this, now is the opportunity to recommend Erez Tadmor’s book “Why You Vote for the Right but Receive the Left?” This is an important and incisive book that pierces the heart and provokes reform.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: