Ask The Rabbi

World Wide Wabbit Season

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Hunting, Permissible?

ABubbe@aol.com wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

A friend told me they were amazed to learn that there is a Jewish law against hunting. I could not explain this to them properly. Is there a law? Where is it? I realize the Kashruth implications, but what are the other implications and sources for this? Thank you. I will pass your answer on to him as well as gain knowledge myself.

Dear ABubbe@aol.com,

The source of the prohibition against hunting can be found in the Responsa Nodeh B'eyehudah (tinyuna Yoreh Deah #10).

He rules that if hunting is done for pleasure (one is not interested in eating the meat), there are three prohibitions that exist:

  1. One is prohibited to cause suffering to animals. This is learned from the positive commandment that one should help unload a load from an animal (Exodus 23:5).

  2. One is not permitted to destroy anything in this world if no benefit is derived from the destruction (Devarim 20:19).

  3. Hunting was one of the characteristics of Esau and Nimrod, who were hunters. Jews who are the children of Jacob should not follow the ways of Esau and Nimrod who lacked mercy to all humans and animals. We should emulate the ways of Jacob and G-d and try to follow a life of good traits.Jews have never been known to be hunters. Here are several reasons why.
The Torah commands us to alleviate pain from a suffering animal. This is derived from the verse "If you see your enemy's donkey buckling under its load - and you're tempted not to help him - you must help him unload it." From here we see the commandment to help a suffering animal.

All the more so is it forbidden to actively inflict pain. The Torah wants us to act with mercy, not cultivate cruelty as a character trait.

Besides the pain, killing animals purely for sport is an act of wasteful destruction. Such an act is forbidden by the verse "Do not destroy."

In context, the verse says "When you besiege a city many days to make war upon it, do not destroy its trees...." Even in times of war and bloodshed, when one's lower instincts are likely to emerge, the Torah commands us to keep a higher standard of behavior, not to destroy for destruction's sake.

Hunting can be dangerous. Every year, people die in hunting accidents. I even read about someone who shot a huge elk on a cliff above him, and the elk fell on him!

Two people in the Torah are described as 'hunters': Nimrod and Esau. Although they started with animals, their obsession for hunting led ultimately to a career of 'head-hunting.' They became notorious for their deceit and cruelty towards humans.

We - the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - should not follow the ways of these people who lacked mercy towards humans and animals. We should emulate the ways of our righteous fathers and mothers who strove to fill their lives with noble character traits.

    Sources:
  • Exodus 23:5
  • Deutoronomy, 20:19
  • Rema, Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 272:9
  • Responsa Noda B'Yehudah, Tinyana, Yoreh Deah #10
  • Aruch Hashulchan 272:2
  • Sefer HaChinuch Deut. 20:19

 
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