Ask the Rabbi: 31/07/14

Ask the Rabbi: 31/07/14

This week’s Ask the Rabbi examines animal testing, dating apps and non-kosher pet food…

Rabbi Reuben Livingstone
Rabbi Reuben Livingstone

With Rabbi Reuben Livingstone

  • Animal testing is upsetting me

Dear Rabbi

As part of my undergraduate degree third-year project, I am required to carry out animal testing on rats. I feel uncomfortable about the task and wondered what the Jewish view is?


Dear Andrew,

There are indeed concerns when one is inflicting pain on any living thing – as we are prohibited by the Torah from doing this (in Hebrew the concept is referred to as tsaar ba’alei chaim). When this is done in order to benefit humankind via research then it may be permitted as long as there is genuine necessity and no wanton pain is inflicted.

  • Disagree with your definition

Dear Rabbi

As a Sephardi I found your answer to Dina (Jewish News 17 July) incorrect and slightly offensive. The word Seph-arad of course means Spain, while Ashkenaz means Germany.

In Rabbinic texts however the terms are always used simply as a differential between those who follow the original Spanish Halachic Authorities ie Rif, Rambam and later the Shulchan Aruch, while Ashkenaz refers to those who followed the Baalei Tosafot, the Rosh and later the Rama. It has never been used as a term of origin differentiation in Rabbinic writings, as clearly neither Germany nor Spain is a majority on either side.

The term Mizrahi is a slightly offensive, newly-found expression made up in modern Israel, termed by those wishing to make such a differential and was also taken up as a result of the Ashkenaz misappropriation of the phrase Nusach Sepharad for their own prayer books to have to find something else to write for an actual Sephardi prayer book!


Dear David,

Thank you for your comments, which highlight some interesting points. My answer was addressed to a more general colloquial appreciation of these terms as opposed to addressing the specific references in halachic literature. Certainly, in addition to describing the particular school of Jewish legal scholarship followed, the terms Ashkenaz and Sepharad also very plainly came to connote broad geographical and cultural origins. 

Having heard the term ‘Eidot HaMizrach’ (Congregations of the East, ie Mizrachim used by the late Rav Ovadya Yosef, of blessed memory, to refer to communities from North Africa (and the wider Middle East), it is hard to view this term as a pejorative rather than a useful descriptive. Indeed, your point regarding the adoption of ‘Nusach Sepharad’ by Ashkenazim seems to support the use of finer definitions over looser ones.

  • Non-kosher pet food

Dear Rabbi

Is it permitted to purchase and keep non-kosher pet food in one’s house?


Dear Lorraine

There is no issue as long as this type of pet food is kept apart and clearly designated only for use by animals. Milk/meat mixtures, however, cannot be benefited from in this way and should not be kept or used.

  • Is an app the place to date?

Dear Rabbi

The new phone app “JSwipe” seems to be the emerging dating craze in Jewish circles. It is easy and convenient. However, do you think this is an appropriate way to meet potential Jewish partners?


Dear Lisa

I’m not very familiar with JSwipe, but am aware of the obvious fact that, increasingly, Jewish people use the internet [and mobile apps] to find life partners. Unless you happen to be in a community where the traditional shidduch system prevails, meeting online seems to be a pragmatic approach. In that sense, as long as appropriate safeguards are in place, I see no issue in it.

Apparently, a feature of JSwipe is to put all the religious information upfront: Jewish affiliation and kosher preferences are the top two categories. That is useful and creates a vital transparency early, as opposed to too late!

  • So upset about unkosher meat

Dear Rabbi

My son accidentally ate meat which was not kosher at a friend’s party. One week later he’s still upset with himself. How can I reassure him?


Dear Russell

If something is done by mistake, then lessons need to be learned – but it is counter-productive to wallow in despair when the priority is to move on. Indeed, the Talmud asserts that one cannot come to proper observance unless mistakes are made from which to learn and become wiser and more experienced in the spiritual pathway of Jewish life. Perhaps you need to reassure your son he has demonstrated sufficient contrition and now it is time to look forward, having learned appropriate lessons.

  • Rabbi Schochet returns to Ask the Rabbi in September


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