Nonhuman Others: The Jerusalem Talmud on Animal Ethics

Posted On Apr 19, 2021 / 5781 | Monday Webinar The Other in Jewish Text and Tradition

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Part of our series “The ‘Other’ in Jewish Text and Tradition”

This session is generously sponsored by Dale Atkins-Rosen and Robert Rosen.

When we think of others, we often think of human others—those different from ourselves. Yet we live in a world populated by a multitude of other animals that we interact with in a variety of roles such as companions, laborers, helpers, and food.

What does the Jewish tradition tell us about how we ought to treat and behave toward these animals that fill our world? Through a close reading of a narrative in the Jerusalem Talmud, we will uncover how one may use animals as workers, or for the sake of human needs, while also treating them as subjects, noticing and caring for their sufferings. This, according to the Talmud, is the ideal ethical stance for how to behave towards nonhumans. 


We live in a time of such polarization—political, racial, economic, religious—that the gaps between us sometimes feel insurmountable. But this is not a new condition for Jews, either within or outside of the Jewish community. This webinar series will explore those gaps between “us” and “the other”: Israelites and other ancient peoples; men and women in the Bible and Talmud; Jews by birth and Jews by choice; the founders of Hasidim and their opponents; Israelis and Palestinians; and more. 

From the ancient Near East to the American civil rights movement; from medieval philosophers to contemporary Jewish educators: how have Jews related to those we define as “other,” and how have we marginalized sub-groups within the Jewish community? What is our obligation to those we perceive as different? How have Jews challenged communal norms from within? JTS scholars guide us in an intellectual journey through Jewish history and text to understand how these gaps have been understood and, at times, bridged.

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