VA’ERA (Exodus, 6:2-9:35) — “Sorry, PETA, Pig’s Feet Aren’t Kosher!”

[Please note that there is no connection between my defense of AgriProcessors in this article, written in 2005, and more recent issues in which the company has been allegedly involved.  Regardless of the current issues, which I do not defend, I stand by what I wrote in this article.] 

You cannot reason with people who are unreasonable. 

Moses told the king of Egypt, “Let my People go.”  Pharaoh refused.  G-d unleashed a barrage of plagues against the Egyptians to make them comply. 

Pharaoh now wanted to make a deal. 

Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Serve your G-d here in the land.” (Exodus, 8:21) 

Sounds like a reasonable compromise.  However, Moses didn’t go for it. 

Moses responded, “…if we sacrifice the deity of the Egyptians (i.e., lambs) before their very eyes, they’ll stone us!”  (verse 22) 

Moses knew where Pharaoh was coming from.  He was an Egyptian king with Egyptian values.   He despised everything Moses stood for.  The very thought of an Israelite slaughtering a lamb in service of G-d was an anathema to everything he stood for.  But he was willing to compromise.  For now.  If keeping his slaves from leaving Egypt meant tolerating Jews eating lamb chops, he was willing to make the tradeoff.  For now.

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Sounds a little like PETA. 

PETA, (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has taken on the largest Glatt Kosher meat producer in the world and the Orthodox Union (OU) who approves them.  A hidden camera recorded what PETA claims to be abuse of animals.   PETA tells us at its website that “Kosher slaughter, done correctly, is kinder and quicker than standard slaughter methods in the United States.”

An initial reading of PETA’s position on the situation seems reasonable.  PETA isn’t trying to ban Shechita – Kosher slaughter.  Oh, no!  Its only concern is over the fact that “what PETA’s investigator documented at AgriProcessors does not follow OU’s dictates.” 

Just follow OU dictates, says PETA.  Who can argue with that?  In a letter to the OU, PETA requests that the OU “issue an official policy statement on Tzaar Baalei Chayim. “ (Loose translation – “Cruelty to animals”) 

Apparently, PETA accepts Kosher slaughter as a reality.  Just do it right.  It sounds like we’re all on the same page.  Except for one problem.  It’s all a sham. 

Go to PETA’s website.  Keep your eyes open.  Despite PETA’s claim that all it wants is for Kosher slaughter to follow “OU dictates,” its true agenda shows through, loud and clear. 

The people at PETA do not want Kosher slaughter regulated.  They want it ELIMINATED. 

The website that carries the AgriProcessors controversy is called, strangely enough, “GoVeg.com.”  [Follow-up note, written in 2013 — apparently, this website has been shut down.] Doesn’t that say it all? 

Under the heading, “Eating Meat Supports Cruelty,” the website tells us that “Every day, hundreds of animals endure unimaginable cruelty at this AgriProcessors slaughterhouse. Maybe after seeing the fear and pain on the faces of the animals we captured on videotape, you will go vegetarian and persuade family and friends to join you.” 

A spokesman for one Jewish group, quoted at PETA’s website, said in reference to the AgriProcessors video, that “the suffering of these animals during slaughter is sickening.  Death is neither quick nor merciful.”  

If you will go to the OU’s website and read their response, you will see that the critics don’t know what they’re talking about.  Animals move after slaughter!  (The proverbial chicken without a head!)  Those movements are involuntary reactions of muscles and nerves.  (I, for one, have been in a slaughterhouse where I saw a severed cow’s head twitching.  Would PETA perhaps maintain that the cow was still aware and feeling pain?!) 

When so-called “experts” on Kashrus state that the video “should be regarded as a welcome, though unfortunate service to the Jewish community,” they are simply playing into the hands of PETA’s deception. 

I must confess that I, too, was taken in at first.  I found some of the videos at PETA’s various websites to be very disturbing.  Even if we forget about Kashrus concerns, there are some very valid points. Much of what goes on in the meat industry is unconscionable.  KFC should never mistreat chickens, and pigs should never be abused.  I even considered joining PETA’s boycott of Australian wool. 

After further reflection, however, I decided that nothing that PETA says can be relied upon.  

In a letter to the Jewish Press, PETA claims that no experts are “willing to defend the … practices” at AgriProcessors.  The letter quotes Dr. Temple Grandin as calling the video “disgusting.”  However, that letter ignores experts cited by the OU, who actually VISITED the facility, rather than just watching PETA’s movie.  Those experts, including one recommended by Dr. Grandin, found the facility’s practices to be acceptable. 

In view of the fact that PETA was less than honest about AgriProcessors, why should we believe them about everybody else?  Why should we assume that a few repulsive occurrences chronicled at its website represent the norm? How much credibility can we grant to an organization that advocates vegetarianism for cats and dogs??!! 

Let there be no mistake.  PETA is not a rational group of well-meaning citizens concerned about unnecessary cruelty to animals.  They are a radical gang of activists who are out to eventually shut down ALL meat production.  They want to burn your wife’s fur coat and destroy your leather shoes.  And they’ll start by regulating Shechita!

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The king of Egypt knew that he couldn’t prevent Moses from worshiping G-d, so he cut a deal.  “Kill your lambs here in Egypt,” the king said.  Moses, however, knew what the Egyptians really thought.  He knew that they would never accept lamb slaughter. 

The Egyptians had an interesting set of priorities.  According to the Talmud, the king of Egypt used to bathe in Jewish blood.  That was okay.  Just make sure you don’t kill any lambs!  They were, after all, the gods of Egypt.

PETA considers you and me to be no different than animals.  We, as equals of the “other” animals, have no right to eat cows, lambs, and chickens.    That’s why PETA thinks it can get away with calling chicken slaughter a “Holocaust.”  Isn’t it interesting, that if you do an Internet search using the words “Tsunami” and “PETA” you will find NOTHING?  If we are all animals, how about a little aid from PETA to assist the scores of thousands of “two-legged animals” who are suffering so greatly? 

Could it be, perhaps, that PETA doesn’t consider animals and humans to be equals at all?  Perhaps, like the Egyptian lambs, the animals of the world are PETA’s “gods,” to be treated BETTER than humans?  Is that, perhaps, why PETA strenuously objected to Palestinian use of donkey suicide bombers?! [Follow-up, written in 2013.  I originally had a link to PETA’s letter to Arafat.  Apparently, even they realized how ridiculous it was, so they took it down.  I found the letter quoted here.]  (Go ahead, kill as many Jews as you want, but how dare you harm an innocent donkey?—Makes you wonder who the REAL jackass is! :-))

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Our Sages tell us that the reason that the Torah emphasizes that the pig is not Kosher is that it sits on its haunches with its front paws pushed forward.  These “Chazer Fieselach,” pig’s feet, stick out as if to say, “Look at me!  I have split hooves!  I’m kosher!” 

Therefore, the Torah goes out of its way to point out, “NO!  You are NOT Kosher.  You don’t have all the requirements to be Kosher.  You don’t chew your cud.” 

PETA does the same thing.  It cries out against Tzaar Baalei Chayim.  It calls upon the OU to follow Halachah. 

PETA pretends to give a Kosher message.  However, it is clear for all to see that that message is, ironically, “Chazer Treif.”  

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz 

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links. 

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 From the Archives  

“Abracadabra = MC2” (2010) 

“Show me a sign!” challenged the Pharaoh … Moses was prepared. He took his staff and threw it to the floor. The staff miraculously turned into a snake. Surely, this man was for real. 

The Pharaoh laughed in his face. “Do you think you can impress me with simple magic? Anything you can do, my magicians can do better!” 

Sure enough, the Egyptian sorcerers made their own sticks into snakes. “Are you trying to sell straw in Ofarayim?!” (The Egyptian equivalent of bringing coal to Newcastle or rabbis to Monsey. 🙂 ) This was Egypt, the magic capital of the world! … 

Do we believe in magic?!… 

Read more

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THIS is your Life!” (2009) 

Slaves aren’t real people.  They are chattel; they are property.  They can be bought and sold and bartered like animals…

Pharaoh felt the same way about his Israelites.  They were his possessions, to be utilized in the efficient production of bricks for his ambitious building projects.  He was free to do with them as he wanted. He could even kill their children and use their blood for medicinal purposes.  No one was going to take away his Jews… 

Well, almost no one.  Two Levites by the names of Moses and Aaron were making trouble.  The G-d of Israel, they explained, wanted Pharaoh to release the slaves.  Pharaoh had no interest in complying. 

 “Who is G-d that I should listen to His voice to release Israel?  I don’t know G-d, nor will I let Israel go!”  (Exodus, 5:1-2) 

How could chattel have a G-d??  These sub-human life forms known as Hebrews couldn’t have a G-d!  Why should the great Pharaoh follow the dictates of someone who represents the fictional G-d of a primitive cult? 

Pharaoh obviously needed some convincing… 

Read more

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“Let the Pharaoh GO!” (2008) 

…Pharaoh took this god thing pretty seriously.  He even went to great efforts to convince his subjects that he was super-human.  Yes, they fed him the finest foods.  He had the most comfortable royal furniture.  This man who would be a god was a very material fellow.  Every creature comfort known to man was, no doubt, available in the palace.  With one exception… 

Can you picture the scene? 

“Good morning, Your Majesty!”

“Oh, Moses!  Is that you again?  What are you doing here?” 

“I need to speak with you, your Majesty.  Right away.” 

“Not now, Moses.  Come see me at the palace later.” 

“No, Your Majesty.  I really need to speak with you now…” 

“Uhm, not right now, Moses.  I’m kinda busy at the moment…” 

“Oh I’ll be quick, Your Majesty.  I just have to speak with you for a couple of minutes…” 

“FOR A COUPLE OF MINUTES??!! I DON’T HAVE A COUPLE OF MINUTES!!!  PLEASE MOSES, GO AWAY!  NOW!  PLEASE!  … 

Read more

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 “Answering the Call of Puti” (2007) 

In listing the family lines of Moses and Aaron, the Torah tells us: 

Elazar, the son of Aaron, took one of the daughters of Putiel as a wife, and she bore to him Pinchas…  (Exodus, 6:25) 

Who was this Putiel?  It’s not at all clear.  Some commentaries say he was a well-known person in his day.  It seems from other commentaries that he didn’t exist at all; that he was a “composite.” 

The Talmud (Sotah 43a) indicates that the name “Putiel” is a reference to Joseph…As well, it is a reference to Moses’ father-in-law Jethro… 

What’s with the nicknames?  Why doesn’t the Torah simply tell us the man’s name?!!… 

Read more

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“Frog Beaters” (2006) 

Sometimes smart people do things that aren’t so smart. 

…  Our Sages tell us that the Plague of Frogs was a compound miracle.  The swarms of frogs started out with one big frog.  The Egyptians tried to kill it.  Every time they hit a frog, it produced more frogs.  Soon the entire country was inundated with frogs. 

Now let me ask you a simple question.  If a big frog walked into your house, you might try to kill it.  That I understand.  But tell me, if every time you hit it, it produced more frogs, what would you immediately stop doing? 

If the Egyptians saw that their efforts to get rid of the frogs were backfiring, why did they keep hitting the frogs?!… 

Yes, sometimes smart people do things that aren’t so smart… 

Read more.  

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“Sorry, PETA, Pig’s Feet Aren’t Kosher!” (2005) 

… Moses knew where Pharaoh was coming from.  He was an Egyptian king with Egyptian values.   He despised everything Moses stood for.  The very thought of an Israelite slaughtering a lamb in service of G-d was an anathema to everything he stood for.  But he was willing to compromise.  For now.  If keeping his slaves from leaving Egypt meant tolerating Jews eating lamb chops, he was willing to make the tradeoff.  For now. 

Sounds a little like PETA… 

Read more

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“Life Begins … Today!” (2004) 

… In the middle of a discussion of Moses’ “marching orders,” the Torah makes a statement that seems a bit incongruous: 

Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron was eighty-three years old, when they spoke with the Pharaoh.  (Exodus, 7:7) 

…  These men were in their eighties.  They were old!  What were they doing running around back and forth to the palace?  Couldn’t G-d find some younger men to take on this demanding task? … 

Read more.  

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“I Opened the Door…Where’s Eliyahu??” (2002) 

He comes to visit every year.  We pour a cup of wine in his honor, and then welcome his arrival through our open door. 

I refer, of course, to Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet, our annual Seder guest… Actually, at the risk of bursting a very popular balloon … Elijah does NOT join us at each Seder… 

Read more.  

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“Not So Loud, the Bread Can Hear You!” (2001) 

…Imagine the scene.  The Shabbos table is set.  Everyone is hungry, and waiting to say Kiddush and begin the meal.  Dad lifts the cup to say Kiddush… then he sees it…the Challah cover is missing. Dad gets annoyed: “Of all the…what’s the matter with you?!!” he bellows.  “Can’t you remember a simple thing like a Challah cover?!!!!!”… 

Read more.  

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This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2013 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on January 6, 2005 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  

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