What does Judaism say about hunting big game animals like Cecial the Lion…this might surprise you
There is no verse in the Ten Commandments that reads, “Thou shall not hunt for sport.” Nor, for that matter, does that verse appear in any other part of the Bible.
So what’s so un-Jewish about hunting?
Of the billions of people who have read the Bible, more will remember its stories than its commandments. And it’s quite obvious that, as a book in which every letter is calculated, the stories that the Bible chooses to tell are there for a specific reason. For starters, there are the messages they convey to us through the depiction of their heroes. Even a child can pick up lessons about hospitality from Abraham, or lessons in leadership from Moses.
Then there are the lessons we learn from the bad guys: what not to do and who not to be. Two ignoble characters who appear early on in the Bible are Nimrod and Esau.
Nimrod’s name means “rebellion,”1 referring to the fact that it was he who led his generation to build the Tower of Babel as a revolt against G‑d.2 Nimrod is also the king who threw Abraham into a fiery furnace.3 He is also identified by the Talmud as Amrafel, the king against whom Abraham waged war in order to save his nephew, Lot.4
Then we have Esau, who, as the archetype of evil, mocks the important status that G‑d gives to the firstborn, sells it to his brother Jacob and then seeks to kill him. According to the Talmud, he was an adulterer, a heretic and a murderer, too (one of his first victims being our friend, Nimrod).5
Interestingly enough, there are two people in the entire Bible who are described as hunters. You guessed it: Nimrod and Esau.
Nimrod is described in Genesis 10:9:
He was a mighty hunter before the L‑rd; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the L‑rd.”
Esau is contrasted to his brother Jacob in Genesis 25:27:
And the youths grew up, and Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents.
What does that tell you about the Jewish attitude toward the sport of hunting?6
Of course, Jewish law does permit the slaughter of animals for food, clothing or any other purposeful need (read Judaism and Vegetarianism).7 But this too should not be done with an attitude of cruelty, as is illustrated in the following Talmudic story:
A calf was being taken to the slaughter, when it broke away, hidits head under the robes of Rabbi Judah the Prince (Yehudah Hanassi, referred to throughout the Talmud simply as “Rabbi”), and cried. “Go,” said Rabbi, “for this you were created.” Thereupon they said [in Heaven], “Since he has no pity, let us bring suffering upon him.” [He subsequently suffered from physical pain for thirteen years.]
And [the suffering] departed likewise. How so? One day, Rabbi’s maidservant was sweeping the house; [seeing] some young weasels lying there, she began to sweep them away. “Let them be,” said Rabbi to her; “It is written (Psalms 145:9), ‘His mercies extend to all His creatures.’” Said they [in Heaven], “Since he is compassionate, let us be compassionate to him.”[At which point his physical pain dissipated.]8
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