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The Mussar Movement and Loving Animals

SHMULY YANKLOWITZ: ‘The mass suffering of animals in factory farming is one of the greatest ills of our time. It requires an urgent response that is not only just but loving. Sadly, in many Jewish communities today, a culture pervades that meat consumption is not only a religious fulfillment but a cultural necessity. It is looked down upon to avoid meat consumption as a “holier than thou” attitude. Indeed, as religious Jews have become more politically reactionary in recent years, this ideology has stymied larger efforts for meat reduction in the broader community. Some seem to think that going beyond the norm of meat at every occasion is a violation of the institutions of Judaism itself. We are better than this…

We are concerned for an animal because we are an animal. Human anatomy, biology, and behavior are predictable to that of animals, to the point where in a past life, we were an animal; in a future life, perhaps we will be an animal. We understand the biblical instruction to “love another like yourself” more as “love another because they are yourself”… The work of mussar is to see the gap in our commonalities as the space for our work of empathy, to transcend our needs toward understanding the needs of the other. Indeed, the work of mussar resonates most deeply, when it comes to our obligation toward animals, precisely because of the otherness that emerges alongside our sameness’. SOURCE…


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