The Animal Kingdom in Jewish Thought
The Animal Kingdom in Jewish Thought addresses several areas of life in which the animal world plays a dominant role, all of which are steeped in Jewish law, custom, and tradition. Shlomo Toperoff presents a detailed study of sixty-five different species of animals, all found in the Bible and reviewed in alphabetical order.
The first chapter begins by enumerating the laws of the Sabbath and Festivals as they relate to animals. The reader will learn that the Sabbath, the weekly day of rest, applies not only to human beings but also to the beasts of the field. The rabbis of the Talmud discuss extensively the degree to which the laws of the Sabbath may be violated for the purpose of rescuing an animal in danger. From feeding an animal on the Sabbath to putting a fish back into its tank, Jewish law displays a distinct sensitivity to the animal and its dependence upon man for its well-being.
Animal welfare, a long-held concern of animal activists and pet owners, finds its roots in the Bible and in Jewish tradition, where mankind is warned not to hurt even the smallest of insects.
Naming a newborn child after certain animals is a long-standing Jewish tradition. Toperoff provides an extensive list of biblical characters who have been named after animals.
After discussing the various sources of post-talmudic literature that cover animal issues, from the Kuzari to Maimonides to Rav Kook, Toperoff dedicates an entire chapter to Perek Shirah, a small book by an unknown author, probably written in the tenth century, which has three parts: heaven and earth, plants, and animals. All three share one common aim: they all owe their allegiance to their Creator and sing songs of praise unto Him.
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