Animals in Rabbinic Judaism and other Fact-Filled Jewish Articles

Here are links to a bunch of fact-filled encyclopedia articles that we wrote about ancient rabbis and various Jewish topics.
Macmillan Dictionary of Biblical Judaism (65 entries):

Abadim (tractate); Academy on High; Aha b. Rav; Aha of Shabha; Animals, Treatment of in Rabbinic Judaism; Balsam; Batlan; Beard and Shaving; Beggars and Begging; Birkat David; Birkat Geulah; Birkat Ha'aretz; Birkat Hahodesh; Birkat Haminim; Birkat Hamishpat; Birkat Hanehenim; Birkat Hashanim; Birkat Hashir; Birkat Hatov Vehametiv; Birkat Hatzadikim; Birkat Hazan; Birkat Hatanim; Birkat Yerushalaim; Evil eye, in Rabbinic Judaism; Fables, Rabbinic; Flogging; Gambling; Heqdesh; Jeremiah b. Abba; Lease, Rabbinic law of; Listes; Martyrs, ten; Me`ilah; Medicine, Talmudic; Mekilta of R. Simeon b. Yohai; Men of the Great Assembly; Mezuzah (tractate); Money lending; Monogamy and polygamy; Nations, the seventy; New Moon; Noahides; Oil, use in Rabbinic Period; Partnership; Property, Rabbinic law for lost; Qal vehomer; Sale, Talmudic law of; Sefer Torah (tractate); She'iltot; Shofarot; Sick, visiting; Simeon Hatimni; Simeon b. Shetah; Simeon b. Yohai; Takkanah; Tefillin (tractate); Triennial Cycle; Tzitzit (tractate); Wills; Wine; Zaddiq; 'Abot (tractate); 'Asmakta'; 'Ona'ah; 'Ones. NY, 1996

Beruryah ," "Joshua ben Hananiah," "Judah bar Ilai," "Meir," "Simeon bar Yohai," "Simeon ben Gamaliel," "Tarfon," "Yose ben Halafta." Articles for The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. M. Eliade, The Free Press, Macmillan: New York, December, 1986.
Here is one example:

Animals, Treatment of in Rabbinic Judaism, The rabbis did not approve of hunting for sport and considered it an expression of a base instinct. The prohibition of cruelty to animals is basic to the rabbinic concept of civilization. One of the seven commandments of the children of Noah that governs the conduct of all humans prohibits eating a limb or flesh from a living animal. Some rabbis taught that animal flesh may be eaten only in response to an overpowering need. Others encouraged vegetarianism.

Rabbinic rules generally prohibit inflicting unnecessary pain on all animals. They require that a person feed his animals before he eats and must have feed for his animals before he purchases them. Rabbinic homilies extol kindness to animals as a great virtue. The greatest leaders of Israel, Moses and David, were both compassionate shepherds of flocks before they assumed their positions of greatness. One story tells how R. Judah the Prince suffered pain for thirteen years because he did not aid a calf that was to be slaughtered. He was relieved of suffering only after showing compassion for kittens. There is little evidence that the rabbis attributed to animals the possession of a soul, subjection to reward and punishment, or life after death.

The rabbinic attitude toward domestic animals was positive. They considered the sheep dog a reliable pet and they discouraged dwelling in a city that lacked a barking dog. Some however considered the dog an unruly and immodest animal. They make reference to the contention that is common between cats and dogs and cats and mice and of the association of cats with magic. Common folklore about other domesticated animals appears in the literature, including sheep, goats, oxen, swine, horses, and asses. The fox, wolf, weasel, and lion are wild animals commonly referred to in rabbinic legend. The eagle, vulture and falcon are mentioned from among the birds of prey. The raven and dove often take on symbolic significance in rabbinic interpretation. The rabbis preached also that a person may learn ethical behavior from observing the animal kingdom.

A main concern to rabbis was the identification and preparation of the animals that were permitted for consumption. Humane and hygienic preparation of food were primary factors in many of the regulations legislated by the rabbis. To qualify as kosher an animal, bird or fish had to belong to an acceptable species and be without disease or defect. Beasts and fowl had to be slaughtered and their blood removed by salting and washing. The rules of kosher slaughter require that a trained shochet rapidly and without interruption cut through the major portion of the windpipe and esophagus of a beast in order to inflict the least possible pain on the animal and to insure the efficient drainage of its blood. The Talmud's tractate Hullin is the major source of information pertaining to these rabbinic issues. It discusses procedures for slaughtering and animal according to the requirements of rabbinic law; diseases and deficiencies which render an animal "treif", i.e. non-kosher; a talmudic discourse on veterinary pathology; classification of animals, birds, fish, insects, as clean or unclean; a talmudic taxonomy of natural species; laws regarding an animal foetus; fractures in animals and birds; the biblical injunction against killing an animal and its young on the same day; the ritual for covering the blood of an animal after slaughtering; food taboos; forbidden cuts of meat; the injunction against eating an animal's sciatic nerve; mixtures of forbidden meats with permitted cuts; general theoretical discussion of the doubtful status of an object; neutralization of a banned food substance in a mixture with permitted substances; the prohibition of mixing milk and meat; meal regulations; preparation of some animal organs for consumption; rules regarding the uncleanness of the carcass of an animal which dies; rules regarding gifts to the Priests from animals (taxes); various cuts of meat and shearings of sheep which go the Priests; the biblical law of sending the mother bird away from the nest before taking the young. Interspersed throughout the tractate's discussions and analyses of these subjects are a variety of theological and moral excurses, biblical exegeses, etiologies of dietary practices, mythic tales, historical legends and homilies.

Rabbinic sources distinguished domesticated from wild beasts. The latter were not valid for sacrifice, their fats were prohibited and one was obligated to cover with dust the blood that spurted out at the time of their slaughter. An animal that died was unclean as carrion and prohibited for consumption. A dead reptile was singled out as a generative source of uncleanness.

The rabbinic notion of the messianic age includes the defeat of the mythic beast Leviathan, a banquet served from its flesh, and a sukkah made from its luminescent skin.
//repost from 1/07//

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