uh ... no.Just when I had some faith in the system.

Disagreeing with a High Court ruling and the adopted practice of a growing number of European countries, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv [apparently one of the most preeminent halachic authorities living] ruled there is no halachic restriction against force-feeding geese for foie gras.

This is after MK Moshe Gafni (Degel Hatorah) voted against Israeli foie gras production in the Knesset Education Committee, arguing that it contradicted the Jewish law prohibiting cruelty to animals.

For those who may not know “foie gras producers force-feed newborn geese with high-caloric food by inserting a tube into the esophagus, resulting in the swelling of the liver. The process lasts about three months, after which the geese, who have a life expectancy of about 60 years in their natural habitat, are slaughtered.”

I’m no PETA lover, but I am a Jew who takes the prohibition of tsaar baalei chaim (cruelty to animals) seriously. However, I understand that few laws in Judasim are ever black and white.

The article explains

Halacha permits causing animals to suffer if, as a result, there is some tangible benefit to man. That is why animals may be slaughtered, used for plowing or for carrying heavy loads.

However, writes Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe, Even Ha’ezer IV 92), not all benefits enjoyed by man justify causing suffering to animals. Based on this distinction, Feinstein prohibits raising calves for veal.

for example.

However, Rabbi Elyashiv rules that “the enlarged liver resulting from forced-feeding practices is a tangible benefit to man and justifies animal suffering.”

Tangible benefit to man and justifies animal suffering? Who is he kidding? Listen, if foie gras was to be fed to starving children, maybe, if it was going to be bartered for peace in the Middle East, sure, but as it stands, the “tangible benefit” is for the rich man with a sadistic an expensive appetite, and one that we, as Jews, can clearly do with out.

The law prohibiting unnecessary cruelty to animals is no less divine than the law prohibiting idolatry.

Religion, according to Heschel, is designed to make man more sensitive; to other beings, to the world around him, to a sense of time, to awe and wonder. That’s when it is being done right. If this Rabbi and leader can say with a clear conscience that unnecessary pain to animals is fine because he likes foie gras on his Shabbat table, then something has clearly gone wrong.

When will we get it together to realize that those laws between people and people and those between us and the world around us are to be taken just as seriously than those laws between us and God?

Another thing Heschel wrote that has stayed with me is “in the bible, callousness is the root of all sin”. Here’s to a more sensitized Jewish nation.

About the author

Laya Millman


  • Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that R’ Ovadia Yosef declared foie gras “unkosher” years ago, a ruling that would have some weight at least in the religious sephardi community in Israel. As the article also pointed out, R. Moshe Feinstein declared it unkosher to raise calves for veal, so clearly, the traditionalists are capable of some “progressive” thinking on these issues.

  • Kosher or not, I never understood why someone would want to eat the organ that filters poisons from the blood.


    • So you’re okay with eating the flesh that actually absorbs the poisons?

  • Harry Knows Things ® for sure, but he doesn’t know how to spell in French, which may or may not be a good thing. Anyway, it’s Foie Gras.

  • I hate to say this but Elyashiv is a quack. A charlatan.
    He supposedly has vast knowlege in gemara and uses his influence to create restriction where its not necessary and eliminate restriction where it is.

    He started the whole bugs in the water thing. He started the whole sheitel scam. As far as I’m concerned, that guys word on what to do is about as good as wearing a helmet when jumping off the Empire State Building. The way I see it, the more restrictions he makes he seems holier in the eyes of the Ultra Frum community and they think hes a scholar because he is so ‘medakdek’ on everything he does. Bullshit.

    Anyone who considers himself to be a talmid chacham and says that force feeding geese is not a violation of tzaar baalei chaim is full of it, and I’m pretty sure Elyashiv is just that. Full of it.

  • Spelled incorrectly? Oh my! You should hear my French pronunciation. Anyway, whether it is spelled incorrectly or not, it’s delicious. Especially at Avazi which convinientlyhas locations throughout Israel!

  • Yo why is that hater Iron Shiek playing on the radio blog on the sidebar…? I’m just sayin’.

  • Its interesting that noone has anything to say about my little rant. Could it e that everyone agrees/disagrees with me?

    Nah. Most likey noone really gives a crap about this guy anyway.

  • Whenever Halacha appears, I can’t help myself but enter into the fray.

    Whether Rabbi Elyashiv is a quack or not, the Torah states: Make for yourself a Rav. In other words, we have an obligation to have a Rabbi, a Rabbinic advisor. It does not say, “Find the Rabbi with whom you disagree with the most, then denigrate him and his followers.” So lets not gang up on this old zaidy. Instead, find a respectable halachic authority, someone with Torah knowledge who you can respect, and MAKE him your Rabbi (Rav). Then ask him what he thinks about foie gras, veal, oral sex, shaitels, bugs, and Keeping Kosher for Passover. Then, and this is the hardest part, try to follow what he teaches.

    The Yetzer Hara loves to distract us from real service of G-d, by creating what seem like extremely important distractions. You cannot imagine the amount of joy the Yetzer Hara is having at our expense.

  • but Rabbi Yonah, what about “Justice, Justice, shall you pursue”? and the pursuit of justice is not always in simply doing what is right for you and saying nothing about anything else going on.

    “our lives being to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” (MLK jr.)


  • Yonah, Wouldn’t it bother you if a Rav went around telling people chicken is treif and people actually believed him?

    There is no excuse for misleading people.
    Eliashiv is entitled to his opinion. But to tell people that one thing
    is okay when its not and then to tell them something is not okay when it is, is just plain wrong.

    A man with influence should use it to make people respect the torah he studies. I dont know which torah hes studying, but last I checked, tzaar baalei chaim is NOT respect for the torah.

  • Rav Yonah, Muffti wants to know exactly what yetzer hara is. He tried to look it up but found some rather confusing things said about it. It characterizes the childish, pre barmitzvah state of a man? It is the inclination towards property, pleasure or security? The way you put it makes it sound as though yetzer hara is a semi-demonic intelligent force that acts in the way the christians think that Satan acts.

  • progressive thinking is great but only when it applies to all the incidents. if we’re going to talk about the treifness of foie gras and veal then what about the uneccesary torture of poultry by removing their beaks and feet? oh wait, what about cattle that live in pens only to be slaughtered in a non-kosher manner yet still receive hasgacha? the list goes on and on.

  • Just a point.

    There is a fine line between becoming a PETA nutcase and caring about tzaar baalei chaim. As much as I stand for the idea that animals shouldn’t be tortured, I also believe that animals were created in this world for us. Mankind. To enjoy whatever it is they produce and provide.

    But this has nothing to do with Eliashiv’s tomfoolery anyway.

  • formerphilly (or anyone): could you point me to an article discussing non kosher meat receiving kosher certification?

  • Fake foie gras:

    package of frozen green beans
    1 yellow onion, diced
    1/2 cup walnuts
    dash lemon juice or white wine
    2 Tablespoons mayo
    handful of fresh Italian parsley
    dash kosher salt
    pepper to taste

    Microwave green beans to death, about 5-7 minutes on high until they start to turn dark green. Meanwhile, sautee the onion in a little olive oil in a skillet until transparent, about 5 minutes. Toss into the food processor with everything else and grind to a fine paste.

    Let cool in the fridge and eat with crackers or as a sandwich spread.

    The geese thank you.

  • The yetzer hara definitely gets personified in our tradition. That is not to say that we think of it as an independent, intelligent being. The closest thing to the yetzer hara in our American experience is the little devil on the shoulder that appeared in cartoons. It is that side of all of us that wants to do the easy thing, the selfish thing, the unfriendly thing, etc. Sure, Judaism has Satan. It is a Hebrew word, after all. But, again, we don’t so much think of the Satan as a powerful being as in the Christian tradition. Instead, Satan is the personified idea of the recording our misdeeds and the “testing” of our faith, whatever that means.

    Anyway. I agree with Rabbi Yonah. Look, I don’t agree with a significant amount of Rabbi Elyashiv’s opinions. But, he is a very, very learned man, and deserves respect from even those of us who don’t accept him as our ultimate authority. And can anyone…anyone on here claim to have the halakhic knowledge that he has? So, where exactly do I, or “D”, get off acting like we know that his rulings are wrong.

    Plus, he never said that the force-feeding of geese doesn’t violate tzaar baalei chayyim. He simple said that the halakha holds that in cases where humans can benefit, the principle of not causing pain to animals is pushed aside. That’s the halakha. The real argument, and the most obvious way for us to argue with his decision, is in the claim that humans really gain anything from making foie gras.

  • Fineline, I hear your point, although I must say that in todays world, rabbinical authority has become a popular enterprise. Anyone any their grandmother’s uncle can grab smicha and say hes a rabbi, and a rabbi with influence can corrupt. “..absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These pious followers would jump Niagra Falls if Eliashiv said so. I personally have faith in no man. Only faith in G-d.

    Today, being a rabbi has become a business. Isn’t it a little strange that Eliashiv said the only filter that could remove bugs from the water properly were ones with a hashgacha on it? LOTS of money was made on those filters, and the “shaitel hashgacha” made some good loot too.

    I don’t know how Eliashiv could profit from saying foie gras is okay, but I do know that today, an honest rabbi who cares only about others is a rare thing.

  • On another note, take a look at the Chaim Berlin money laundering scam. A yeshiva laundering money for the mob and having the rabbi say its okay because the money being made from the laundering was going to tzedaka.

    Its not uncommon to find a well known posek saying people should do one thing so money could be made for a yeshiva or some other organization.

  • Dear “D”, If that is your real name…
    I actually got my smicha in a cracker jack box. I have of course started the Rabbi Kiruv Ponzi Scheme where I earn Olam Haba Credits For Souls Saved. I then cash these Olam Haba Points in with unethical rich folks who need those points. This provides me with a life of luxury, mansions, swiss bank accounts and the like. My HashGacha biz, Circle R, is doing a robust trade, on every single item sold in the USA. We’re listed on Nasdaq as “TREF” have lots of other crackerjack Rabbis working for us, and while they are out getting more accounts, they are also saving souls that filter into the Soul Ponzi Scheme. Coupled with a new Herbalife-Circle R-Kabbalah Centre venture, we should have revenue in the billions by summers end. So go ahead, Pimp my tzedaka!

  • fineline wrote: he never said that the force-feeding of geese doesn’t violate tzaar baalei chayyim. He simple said that the halakha holds that in cases where humans can benefit, the principle of not causing pain to animals is pushed aside. That’s the halakha.

    now, i’m no yeshiva bochur, but doesn’t a law that is deorayta (directly from the written Torah) have a bit more weight than a halacha that is derabanan (from subsequent rabbinical teaching). Tzaar baalei chayyim is deorayta. It is qualified by the halachic provision of benefiting man, which itself is kept in check by having a certain standards of that benefit.

    If I find great pleasure in watching cock fights, is that “benefiting” me enough to ignore tzaar baalei chayyim? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein made it clear that it causing an animal to suffer must be justified. This is why he ruled against veal because a nice tender steak does not justify the conditions calves must live in to get it.

    It seems that foie gras should clearly fall into the same category.

  • Laya–

    I perfectly agree that foie gras should fall into the same catagory as veal. And Feinstein’s logic applies perfectly well to this situation. I don’t know that R’ Elyashiv would have reached these conclusions about veal, either. His standards of benefit are clearly different. On the other hand, Israel illegalized crocodile wrestling for entertainment with lawmakers quoting tzaar baalei chayim as the reason, so entertainment may not be considered enough benefit to justify.

    As for your halakhic question. I think that the human-benefit loophole in tzaar baalei chayim is not so much considered to be rabbinic law as it is rabbinic understanding of the Torah law itself.

  • Oh, and “D”–

    Congratulations. Due to your hyper-cynical view of the rabbinic establishment, you have now qualified to be…a Karaite. Enjoy your cold food this Shabbat.

  • I don’t know where you people live so I’m not goign to make any judgements on you. Fineline, you know as well as I do that letely there have been alotta bad apples coming up in the rabbi barrel.
    Especially in Brooklyn.

    Can you blame me for being so skeptical?

    I’m not saying all rabbis are evil and not to be trusted, but you have to admit that there is a likelyhood of some remote corruption on the line. Whatever I say is about specific individuals. I hold many rabbis in the highest regard, its the exposed quacks that I have a quam with. At least give me that.

  • I live on a goose farm.

    D, I have to agree that there are some rabbis who embarrass the profession. Fortunately there are others who do alright.

  • You “have faith in God, but not in man.”!? God said we should have faith in Rabbis! You have no faith in God, you have faith in youself. You’re a dog. No, you don’t deserve such a compliment. You’re worse than a dog.
    How dare you accuse someone of being a charlatan? Do you know psak? Do you know that the Rambam said that we “should not care about the animals pain.” Tsar balei chaim is for a different reason–a reason which, according to R’ Elyashiv, does not apply when there is human gain. In fact, R Elyashiv is not the first one who has come up with this idea. It’s mentionned in the shulchan aruch. Rather, he applied it to this case.
    Do you know what the gemara sais about those who speak about mevasa talmid chochom? According to r’moshe fienstien it is “the greatest sin.” Clearly, you don’t have a chelek in olam haba. Clearly, you don’t care. Clearly, neither do I.
    But I must give mussar:
    You do know that pretty soon you will die. Yes, you will die. First you will get old, sick, and die. When you will be old, you will regret the waste you have made of your life. You will regret the blogs where you souded so smart and cute. But by then it will be too late. By then you will be left alone, to die.
    And then you will cry: “Why, why was I so foolish? Why was I not afriad to do “the greatest sin?” But by then it will be too late.
    So what should you do now? Listen to that cry. Listen to your own future cry. Listen and react. Listen and repent.
    Stop being a dog. Stop being a horse. Stop being a toad. Stop being a fish. Stop being an antelope. Be a man. Repent.

  • Whoa, that was a bit confusing. And aggressive.

    Did I understand that correctly? Are you saying, Abe, that the greatest sin is to criticize rabbis or learned Jews?

  • It is the greatest sin to humiliate rabbis. You know the gemara, don’t you? One is required to “fear” (respect) rabbis as much as God. This was deduced from an otherwise superflues word– “ES hashem elokecha tira” THE hashem your G-d you shall fear.

  • Uh Abe? What about humility? And embarassing and cursing someone in public? What does Judaism say about that. Tell me cuz I wanna know …

  • Your right. I regret my comments. But the gemara’s I qouted are true.
    What bothers me most, I’ll tell you the truth, is not the totaly ireligous. They know why they are living. They are living for today. They know that they have nothing to look foward to. Only the conctant cycle of seeking pleasure. But the fellow I was talking to is in real pickle. He thinks he has something to look foward to. He believes. He prays. He studies Talmud. What he doesn’t realize, however, is that the Talmud sais that HE HAS NOTHING TO LOOK FOWARD TO. If he would only know this, he would repent. He lacks knowledge, not will. I am here only to inform.

  • Abe, rabbis are people. They are human beings. They are liable to make mistakes and errors in judgement. Some of them do amoral or unethical things. When they do, they deserve criticism and people should not be afraid just because someone, self-servingly, once declared that criticizing them is disallowed or, heaven forbid, punishable by some sort of eternal cosmic punishment.

  • Yep, the Muffti and his irreligious bunch have it pretty damned easy! Burn on the rest y’all!

  • Don’t you realize that I don’t believe in the sages because they tell me to believe in them. I belive in them because the Torah clearly – yes, clearly – sais that we are required to follow their words. If they do things that we perceive are imoral, than there are two options. 1) They repented. The Talmud sais that if one sees a talmud chachom sin then in can be asumed – and rightfuly so – that he has repented. 2) WE ARE IMORAL. Who are we to judge with our twisted logic and hedonistic hearts what is right and wrong!? We must follow those who aren’t twised or hedonists: The Rabbis. They will decide, as the Torah dictates, what and who is right or wrong. Not us.
    In a debate between astro-physicists can you decide who is right? Or can you decide if he has contradicted himself? No, because you don’t understand a millionth of what he knows. The same is with Torah sages. They know Torah; we don’t. Period.

  • Is that all? I hope so. I don’t enjoy debating. I enjoy the smell, the loyalty of my Gemara. “Without Torah my toy, I would be lost in my [emotional] poverty.” (David) We must understands that all we have, all that we can look foward to, all that we aspire to, and all that can inspire us, is a page. God’s knowledge written on a page. That’s all we have. That all that there is.
    We will all know this sooner or later. Later, however, is too late. By then we’ll be dead. By then we’ll have only one thing: Regret.