Oz Torah: Hunting – Ask the Rabbi


Q. Is it true that hunting is against Jewish law?

A. Absolutely. We have a duty to emulate God who is tenderly concerned for animals as well as people (Psalm 145:9).

The historian William Lecky wrote,

“Tenderness to animals is one of the most beautiful features of the Old Testament writers”.

credit: pray4zion.org

It is a constant theme in Judaism both in the Bible and in all our later literature.

Hunting down human beings for sport is ethically unthinkable. So is hunting animals. There are only two hunters recorded in the Bible – Nimrod and Esau, and neither has ever been a Jewish role model.

Albert Einstein used to relate a conversation with Walter Rathenau, who was then head of the German Reichstag.

“Rathenau declared,”

reported Einstein,

“that when a Jew says he is going hunting for pleasure, he is telling lies!”

Only two types of hunting are permitted – hunting for food (Lev. 17:13 refers to “hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten”) and hunting down fierce animals that are a threat to human safety – but neither is done for sport.

Possibly there is a question in relation to fishing, but people generally go fishing for food, not for the thrill of the chase or because they get pleasure from seeing the fish suffer.


Q. Surely students learning Torah should be allowed to use the Divine Name instead of a substitute such as “HaShem”?

A. According to the Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayyim 215:14), one may read God’s Name in a Biblical verse: leaving out or changing the Name is like altering the Bible text.

credit: Finkorswim.com

Rav Moshe Feinstein says that though enunciating the Name in a verse is allowed, it is not obligatory (Igg’rot Moshe, Orach Chayyim 2:56) and it is best to use a substitute like “HaShem” or “Elokenu”.

When it comes to prayers the real name must not be used if it is not the time for that prayer. When singing Z’mirot some lines only fit the rhyme and rhythm if one says the real name, though Rav JB Soloveitchik did not say these names.

In studying b’rachot the names should be replaced with substitutes, though one can be lenient with children.


Q. Does Judaism believe that only it offers the true path, or can other faiths can also have elements of truth?

A. Esau and Jacob were brothers and rivals. Their enmity began before their birth and it ruled their lives for many decades.

It was reinforced when Esau sold his birthright to his brother, and compounded when Jacob gained the father’s blessing that was really meant for Esau.

When Esau realised that the blessing was a fait accompli, he cried bitterly to Isaac, “Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me, me too, my father!” (Gen. 27:38).

In a world of many rival religions, each could echo Esau’s question and address it to the Heavenly Father. Does God have only one blessing, only one true religion?

Arnold Toynbee said that all religions are alike seeking to respond to universal spiritual feelings and needs. So why do they disagree on so many things?

Are they all equally valid… or equally invalid?

To claim they are all equally true is to trivialise and erase the things that make them distinctive. To say they are all equally false is to consign them all to the scrap-heap.

We have no choice but to say that each one is right… for its own adherents.

But almost all make the further, dogmatic claim that they alone possess absolute truth and the whole world should and must adopt it.

To bring their views into the democratic market-place of ideas is one thing, but to proselytise coercively is to deny others the right to their own conscience and convictions.

To God we can leave the problem of why He has made us different in faith and commitment. But not everything has to be left to God.

“The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth has He given to the children of men”

, the Psalmist says. There is a heavenly agenda… and an earthly responsibility.

That responsibility works in concentric circles. The innermost circle is particularistic and concerns the internal affairs and dynamics of our own traditions. Beyond it is the outer circle of shared inter-religious challenge in which we all work together.

That challenge insists that instead of, God forbid, fighting one another, we find common cause and fight together to bring spiritual insights to the task of peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all mankind.

Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and held many public roles. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com




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One comment

  1. I hunt, it was a matter of feeding family, and I was taught you did so with respect for the animal which gave up it’s life to ensure yours continued. In thanking both the Creator for the Animal given, and with respect for the animal itself, humans survive. Most Jews live far away in cities, and a thousand generations removed from Hunter/Gatherer existence. And yes, best to have a Shochet, and Herds, and Kosher Kitchens with two dishwashers, one for each, Milk or Meat. But then so many from where I come from are lactose intolerant, so milk is never an issue, it simply is not a part of an adult diet.
    For those who think hunting is a “sport”, the contempt most “necessity” hunters feel for such should be noted.
    I wonder that not all City people keep strict kashruth. It is so much easier to do in that environment.