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Curriculum for Children
Jewish Humane Education Kit:
Ten Lesson Plans


  

  

  

 
 

Kit Overview

Ten Lesson Plans

Backup Material: Stories from the Bible & from Jewish Tradition

Quotations from the Bible about Kindness to Animals

Judaism & Kindness to Animals: Quiz

Judaism & Kindness to Animals: Quiz Answers & Discussion

 

 


Judaism & Animals

 

 

 

Contents

Lesson I

What kind of character is seen as a model by the Jewish tradition? How is a positive attitude toward animals an important part of this character?

 

Lesson II

What kind of treatment does Judaism require toward animals, given the fact that they feel physical pain?

 

Lesson III

What kind of treatment does Judaism require toward animals, given the fact that they feel emotional pain (deprivation, fear, neglect)?

 

Lesson IV

What kind of treatment does Judaism require toward animals, given the fact that they have parental feelings toward their young?

 

Lesson V

What responsibilities do we have toward the animals in our direct care?

 

Lesson VI

What are some of the other responsibilities we have toward the animals in our care besides feeding them well?

 

Lesson VII

Do we have responsibilities toward animals not directly in our care?

 

Lesson VIII

Do we have responsibilities toward the animal kingdom as a whole?

 

Lesson IX

Why does Judaism require that nonhuman animals be allowed to rest on Shabbat?

 

Lesson X

Did Jews understand the various kinds of animal suffering because they, too, were treated badly for centuries in many societies in the Golah?

 

 

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Lesson I

What kind of character is seen as a model by the Jewish tradition? How is a positive attitude toward animals an important part of this character?

 

Theme:

Jewish tradition embodies the view that good and wise treatment of the animals in our care is so important that it indicates good character and even demonstrates that the person is worthy of being in a position of national responsibility and leadership.

 

Sources:

  1. Story of David the shepherd.

  2. Story of Moses the shepherd. (Both chosen to lead on the basis of how they treated the animals in their care.)

  3. Contrast David and Moses (heroes) with Esau and Nimrod (villains and hunters) — regarded as uncultured. (The Torah described Esau, Jacob's twin brother, as "a wild man." Rashi, the great authoritative Torah commentator, interpreted this to mean: "He loved to hunt beasts.")

  4. Rebecca was chosen to be Isaac's wife because of the kindness she showed to animals.

  5. Story of Rabbi Yitzhak of Pshiskof, "Ha Yehudi."

See Lesson I — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. What kind of leaders were David and Moses? What qualities of leadership made them outstanding?

  2. What leadership qualities could be observed from the way they treated their sheep?

  3. Does the fact that they were chosen as leaders tell us something about the importance Jewish tradition attaches to the kind and wise treatment of animals?

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Lesson II

What kind of treatment does Judaism require toward animals, given the fact that they feel physical pain?

 

Theme:

Judaism recognizes that animals feel physical pain, and we are forbidden to inflict it.

 

Sources:

  1. Story of Balaam beating his donkey and the donkey protesting.

  2. Rabbi Yehuda the Hassid vs. spurring of horses in the Middle Ages and today.

  3. Story of Hassidic Rabbi Velvel stopping the whipping of the horses.

  4. Shulhan Aruch forbids tying animals' legs in a painful manner.

  5. Refer to the Responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein concerning veal calves raised in crates, in which he states that "...it is definitely forbidden to raise calves in such a manner because of the pain that is inflicted on them....it is forbidden to cause them pain for no reason, even if someone may profit from this."

See Lesson II — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. What does the Jewish tradition tell us about whether animals can feel physical pain?

  2. What does the Jewish tradition tell us about causing pain to an animal?

  3. Is putting out poison that causes a slow, painful death to animals in accordance with the Jewish tradition (poison is put out to kill coyotes and other wild animals in the western United States)?

  4. Is raising veal calves in crates so tiny that they cannot move in accordance with Jewish tradition?

  5. What are some ways people abuse animals? (Hitting, teasing, leaving them outside in hot/cold/wet weather without protection, leaving them alone for long periods of time, confining them to small spaces, breeding them in puppy mills for profit.)

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Lesson III

What kind of treatment does Judaism require toward animals, given the fact that they feel emotional pain (deprivation, fear, neglect)?

  

Theme:

Judaism recognizes that animals experience emotional pain, and we are forbidden to inflict it.

 

Sources:

  1. Various laws, including: "Do not plow with an ox and a mule together" and "Do not muzzle a threshing animal."

  2. Story about Rabbi Judah the Prince and the calf.

  3. Story of Noah and the dove who preferred his freedom.

See Lesson III — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. Why do you think the Torah forbid plowing with an ox and a mule together?
    a. Was it because the weaker one couldn't keep up with the stronger? (Ibn Ezra)
    b. Was it because the mule, seeing the ox chew its cud, would think the ox was eating and feel deprived? (Baal HaTurim)

  2. What does it tell you about Judaism that two important Talmudic commentators spent a great deal of time dealing with this question?

  3. Why do you think the Torah forbid muzzling a threshing animal?

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Lesson IV

What kind of treatment does Judaism require toward animals, given the fact that they have parental feelings toward their young?

 

Theme:

Judaism recognizes that animals have parental feelings toward their young and feel emotional pain when their young are harassed, threatened, or hurt. Inflicting such pain is forbidden.

 

Sources:

  1. "Do not boil a baby goat in its mother's milk"

  2. Law of "shiluach haken."

  3. Laws forbidding people to take young away to slaughter in the first week of life, and forbidding killing the offspring and the mother on the same day.

  4. Quotations about the protective eagle and her young, and the bereaved bear.

  5. Quotation from Maimonides, the great Sephardic commentator also known as Rambam, on parental feelings.

See Lesson IV — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. Have you seen instances of a mother animal showing fear for her young or trying to protect them? (cat or dog or wild animal)

  2. How can we be considerate of both domestic/wild animals when they have young to protect? Sometimes even our own companion animals will be upset when we come too close to their babies.

  3. What do you think of children who take away an animal's young (in the case of a cat or dog, before 68 weeks; in the case of a wild animal, taking them at all)?

  4. How would Jewish tradition regard the slaughter of seal pups in the sight of their mothers? (Explain the clubbing of seal pups for fur.)

  5. How would Jewish tradition regard the veal industry, in which newborn calves are forcibly taken away from their mothers?

  6. People who are considerate of the mother bird are promised a "long life," as are people who honor their parents. What does this tell us about the importance Judaism attached to this law?

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Lesson V

What responsibilities do we have toward the animals in our direct care?

 

Theme:

Jewish tradition doesn't just require that we not inflict pain on animals, it requires positive actions toward the animals in our care.

 

Sources:

  1. Several stories about how Noah and his family fed all the animals in their care.

  2. Talmud: a human cannot eat before feeding his/her animal.

  3. Talmud: a human cannot have animals unless he or she is able to take good care of them.

  4. Story of Rabbi Berlin and the hungry fowl on Rosh Hashanah.

See Lesson V — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. Is the requirement to feed animals properly based primarily on self-interest, according to the Jewish tradition?

  2. Why should it matter if the animal is fed after we eat or before we eat? What does it tell us about the Jewish tradition that animals must be fed before we eat?

  3. What is the significance of the fact that both Noah and Joseph were called "tzaddik" because they dedicated themselves to feeding people and animals?

  4. Carriage horses, race horses, and greyhound racing dogs are worked very hard. Frequently, when they become injured, old, or fail to perform well, they are neglected, destroyed, or sold (sometimes as pets, often as animal food). What do you think about people who make their horses or dogs work very hard and don't feed them well because new ones can be cheaply bought if these die? Is it right to do this?

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LESSON VI (extension of theme of LESSON V)

 

What are some of the other responsibilities we have toward the animals in our care besides feeding them well?

 

Theme:

Given that animals feel physical and emotional pain (review Lessons II and III) and that we have responsibilities toward them (review Lesson V) — how should we take care of our companion animals and the animals who help us in our work, according to Jewish tradition?

Note: This lesson is lengthy and may need to be broken up into two lessons, depending on available time.

 

Sources:

  1. "A righteous person understands the soul of his animals."

  2. "A human's animals are his life."

  3. Story of Rabbi Hiya bar Abba who worried about his donkey.

  4. Story of Rabbi Shlomo and Rabbi Ytzhak Elchana, who kept cats and dogs.

  5. Early pioneers in the Galil — rules about treatment of animals in an agricultural society.

For Lesson VI, see Backup Material for Lesson V  (Note: Lesson VI is an extension of Lesson V)

 

Questions for Students:

  1. What do the stories about the Talmudic sage Rabbi Hiya and the Hassidic rabbis tell us about the history of Jews keeping and caring about companion animals?

  2. What responsibilities do we have toward animals in our care that could come under the heading of "knowing an animal's soul"?

  3. Do animals need fresh air, exercise and companionship just like humans?

  4. What special precautions should be taken in hot/cold weather (for example, what precautions to take when leaving an animal in a parked car; the need for protection from sun/snow/rain). Is keeping a dog tied or chained up all day in a hot yard or locked up alone in a small apartment day and night in keeping with the Jewish tradition?

  5. Animals have certain special needs. Is it necessary to learn what the specific needs of your animal are (e.g. straw for rabbits)? Is not taking care of these special needs a violation of the Jewish tradition? Is it a form of neglect? What constitutes animal neglect? Why is neglect another form of abuse?

  6. Is it necessary to take your dog or cat to the vet for rabies and distemper vaccinations or when they are sick? Is it our responsibility to learn the warning signs that an animal is sick?
    Is it our responsibility to have our cats and dogs spayed and neutered to prevent the suffering that results from their overpopulation? Are spaying and neutering a positive act of kindness toward animals?

  7. Whose responsibility is it to make sure pets are well behaved? What can people do to make sure their dogs learn to walk with a leash, become house trained and obey basic safety commands? Why is it important to attend obedience class with your dog? Will both you and your dog be happier if you do this? Should we keep our dogs leashed when we walk them so they won't hurt smaller animals or get hit by a car? Is keeping dogs on leashes a positive act of kindness toward animals?

  8. Should people who can no longer keep their companion animals or who have newborn litters put the animals out on the street? What are some of the things that could happen to the animals on the street (poisoning, starvation, hurt by dogs, hit by cars)? What should you do instead to prevent this problem?

  9. Millions of animals are killed in animal shelters because homes cannot be found for them. If we spayed and neutered our animals, could we eliminate the problems of pet overpopulation such as abandoned, homeless, sick animals, needless death by extreme heat, cold, cars?

For Teenagers:

A discussion on experimentation on animals: Millions of animals are sacrificed in laboratories every year. Several different types of experiments are performed on these animals — cosmetics testing, psychological experiments, and medical experiments. Since animals feel physical pain (Lesson II) and emotional pain (Lesson III), what should be our attitude toward experimentation on animals? In light of the fact that animals feel pain, can we justify using them for medical experiments or product testing (cosmetics, cleaners)? Are there laws that protect animals used in laboratories? What do the laws cover? Are they comprehensive enough? What are some alternatives to using animals available now? Should we be putting our efforts into using the many alternatives that already exist and into finding additional ones? Is it our responsibility to protest when we learn that these things are going on?

 

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Lesson VII

Do we have responsibilities toward animals not directly in our care?

 

Theme:

We also have responsibilities toward animals we encounter, to prevent their pain (law of helping an overburdened donkey), hunger and thirst (Rabbi Leib), abandonment (Rabbi Salanter), and emotional suffering (Rabbi Zusya).

 

Sources:

  1. Law of helping up on overburdened donkey even if it belongs to your "enemy" (Code of Jewish Law).

  2. Relieving animal suffering supercedes rabbinic ordinances related to the Sabbath (Shabbat 128b).

  3. Story of Rabbi Salanter who came late to Kol Nidre in order to return a Gentile's strayed cow.

  4. Story of Rabbi Leib of Sassov who watered merchants' cattle left thirsty in the marketplace.

  5. Story of Rabbi Zusya who freed the caged birds.

See Lesson VII — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. How important is the prevention of animal suffering, according to the Jewish tradition, if Rabbi Salanter delayed getting to Shul on Yom Kippur eve to rescue a lost cow?

  2. Why is it significant that the famous Rabbi Leib didn't mind taking orders from merchants who "took advantage" of him to water their cattle?

  3. If you see a starving, stray animal, what should you do?

  4. Is it our responsibility to reduce the cat and dog overpopulation in humane ways to prevent suffering? (Review question #7 from Lesson VI.)

  5. How can you help the stray animals and the cats, dogs, and other animals in your city or town?

  6. If you see an animal hit by a car, what should you do?

  7. If you see an animal being beaten, neglected, or tortured by an adult or by other children, what should you do?

  8. What should be our attitude when we learn of mistreatment of animals in foreign countries? Do we have a special responsibility to animals in Israel and how can we act on it?

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Lesson VIII

Do we have responsibilities toward the animal kingdom as a whole?

 

Theme:

Jewish tradition includes the mitzvah of "bal tashchit" (do not destroy). Animals are not "hefker" (expendable, lacking in intrinsic value) to be abused with impunity.

 

Sources:

  1. The Talmud requires that a blessing be recited upon seeing a beautiful animal: "Blessed are You our God, Ruler of the Universe, who created beautiful animals in this world."

  2. Story of Rabbi Schneor Zalman of Ladi (author of Tania)

  3. Jonah and Nineveh

  4. The Talmud prohibited association with hunters, based on the statement "not to stand in the path of sinners," (Ps. 1:1).

  5. Maimonides on hunting: "Those who go to hunt (beasts) and kill birds. . .violate the commandment that forbids us from wantonly destroying any part of God's creation."

  6. The Landau response on hunting.

  7. The Talmud forbids spectator sports that involve hurting people or animals: "Whoever sits in a stadium spills blood."

  8. Rabbi Kook on the concept of "stewardship" vs. "dominion" over animals.

See Lesson VIII — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. What does the Jonah story teach us about how the Jewish tradition feels about letting animals be killed without doing anything to prevent it?

  2. Why has hunting not been part of the Jewish tradition? Should hunting be outlawed in Israel, as a Knesset bill once proposed?

  3. Since Jews are not allowed to wear leather on Yom Kippur because you can't ask for compassion if you haven't shown it, and since hunting is considered a cruel sport, should Jews wear furs to shul on Yom Kippur? Should Jews wear fur at all when fake fur is readily available?

  4. Is going to a bullfight (cockfight, dogfight, rodeo — ask your humane society about the cruelties involved in rodeos if you are unfamiliar with them) against Jewish law? Why? Does watching it and not trying to stop it mean you approve of it?

For Teenagers:

  1. There have been many instances of animals being abused in the making of movies. Where you've read that animals have been abused in American and foreign films, should you go to see such movies? Should you boycott them? Should you picket, protest, write letters, or otherwise protest?

  2. As part of our responsibilities to the entire animal kingdom, is it important that we be involved in local/state/national and international conservation efforts? By preserving wilderness areas, are we not also protecting the lives of animals? Who lives there? Some species have very limited territories. Can destroying one forest or river make a species extinct?

  3. Why is it important that humans not destroy the balance of nature and species diversification? God created a natural system that worked and allowed the planet to survive for millions of years. Is it right for us to recklessly undo God's work? Stewardship vs. dominion (Rabbi Kook)

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Lesson IX

Why does Judaism require that nonhuman animals be allowed to rest on Shabbat?

 

Theme:

Shabbat is regarded as a foretaste of the Messianic Age. The Messianic Age will restore the original harmony between human and nonhuman animals. Requiring people to let their nonhuman animals rest on Shabbat creates a consciousness that the Messianic Age will also be one of peace between human and nonhuman animals as well as between nations.

 

Sources:

  1. Various Torah verses about animals resting on Shabbat.

  2. Quotations from Isaiah about Messianic Age.

  3. Rabbi Kook on the Messianic Age restoring the original harmony between humans and animals.

  4. Story of Rabbi Abramtzi.

See Lesson IX — Backup Material

 

Questions for Students:

  1. Why should animals be allowed to rest on Shabbat when they are not required to observe Shabbat?

  2. Does this law mean that animals have some need to rest and should we respect this as a right?

  3. What does the concept of a Messianic Age foresee about what will happen to animals?

  4. How does having a real Shabbat, including letting your domestic animals rest, give us a "foretaste" of the Messianic Age?

For Teenagers:

  1. Since animals are allowed to roam freely on Shabbat and this is seen as a good thing, what should be our attitude toward factory farming, where animals never get to rest or even lie down?

  2. The original creation story envisioned people eating only plant food (Genesis 1:2930). It was only after the emergence from Noah's Ark that people were grudgingly allowed to eat animals. If the Messianic era is seen as restoring the original harmony between humans and animals, does this mean that people will be vegetarians?

  3. One view holds that the laws of Kashruth with all their restrictions were an attempt to make eating meat more difficult and, at a minimum, make people aware of what they were doing. The Kashruth laws require that the shochet inflict a minimum of pain on the animal. Today, however, with shackling and hoisting common practice, various pre-shechita factory methods are completely against the spirit of these laws. Should we be eating kosher meat? Should we be eating meat at all?

  4. Should people begin to be vegetarians as a "foretaste" of the Messianic era, just as they observe Shabbat as a "foretaste" of the Messianic era?

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Lesson X

Did Jews understand the various kinds of animal suffering because they, too, were treated badly for centuries in many societies in the Golah?

 

Theme:

Jews developed, in centuries of living in the Galut (Diaspora), an acute understanding of what it means to be "hefker" (Lesson VIII) — to be hunted, captured, penned up in ghettos, subject to the power of others. Instead of passing on their pain to animals, the ideal is to transfer their understanding and compassion to animals.

 

Sources:

  1. I.B. Singer: "For animals it is an eternal Treblinka."

  2. Quotation from Appelfeld's story equating Jews and fish.

  3. Shalom Aleichem's story "The Pair" about two turkeys.

  4. Rosa Luxemburg and the beaten animals.

(Backup material for Lesson X will be supplied at a later date.)

 

Questions for Students:

  1. What kind of conditions did Jews live under in many societies in the Golah?

  2. How are these conditions and the treatment Jews received similar to the way people have treated animals?

  3. Do you think this is why Jews abhorred hunting, blood sports, and other forms of cruelty to animals?

  4. Is it significant that a Jew, Louis Gompertz, was one of the principle founders of the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in the world, the RSPCA, founded in England in 1832?

  5. Does being a Jew mean being compassionate toward animals?

 

At the conclusion of the ten lessons, review the stories of David and Moses (Lesson I), who were considered heroes in the Jewish tradition, and the importance their treatment of animals had in their being chosen as role models for Jews.

  

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