“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
This article was originally published in the Florida Jewish Journal, May 20th, 2019.
Last week I bought an arsenal of guns, and I am now a hunter.
I have three long barrel single action pump stock weapons and in just one week I have six confirmed kills and love the hunt.
My weapons are salt guns which were purchased on the internet (no background check needed). I have one Yellow Bug-A-Salt 2.0 gun and two 3.0 Black Fly Editions weapons with optional laser sights.
These guns are designed to kill mosquitos and are very lethal to insects of all types.
When discharged, the weapons spray a salt shot (Kosher salt seems to work best) that takes down the victim mid-air by ripping off its wings. When hit, the mosquito falls to the ground writhing in what appears to be pain and later dies.
Things went south when they watched a particularly bloody and gruesome insect kill and then questioned the ethics (and waste of time) of what I was doing.
Try as I may, I couldn’t explain the pleasure mosquito hunting gave me. So I retreated into legal techno-babble and cited my Constitutional right to hunt.
Actually, I know bug hunting is not a Constitutionally protected right and the Second Amendment has no such protection for hunters. Unfortunately, so does my wife who immediately rejected my arguments.
My daughter was next to criticize and said that at religious school the rabbi taught that there is a spark of divinity in every living organism and that it is immoral to kill even the smallest creature without reason.
I was astonished; I never knew my daughter listened in synagogue, or could quote the rabbi. But, to my amazement, at least once in her long and undistinguished religious school career, something the rabbi said stuck and she was now using it against me.
My daughter also knew that some Talmudic rabbi (she didn’t know which one) said that every creature is a precious life that cannot be taken merely for the excitement of sport.
Further, when animal life is taken, such as for food, she said Jews are supposed to ensure that the death is as painless and quick as possible.
Then she gleefully charged me with sadism because I enjoyed watching mosquitoes dying slowly. My wife quickly agreed.
Next, they tried to disarm me by hiding my salt guns where I couldn’t find them.
I quickly gathered the guns and retreated to my office where I Googled the ethics of Jews hunting animals (and even insects) for sport.
The results were distressing.
One website quoted a 16th Century Kabbalist stating that it is spiritually insensitive to kill even an ant for no reason.
Some websites said that that biblically speaking, people that protected animals were preferable to people who hunted them. They pointed out that Jacob, Moses and King David were all shepherds (good people) while Nimrod and Esau were hunters (bad people).
The website “Jewish Practice” stated that “…if one is killing animals for sport, he is cruelly depriving the animal from realizing its ultimate potential…”
And, the Orthodox Union stated “…it is necessary to acknowledge that Jewish tradition has a very poor regard for [the hunting] pastime.”
Even the liberal Tablet gave me no support where Andrew Berns wrote that a 250-year-old Hebrew encyclopedia of Jewish law said that “those who hunt for ‘fun and games’ are like ‘madmen scattering flaming arrows of death…'”
Defeated, I reluctantly entered into family gun control negotiations.
I pleaded to keep my salt guns, but they were still put on the top shelf of a closet where I can’t reach them.
y family decided that I did not have a right to bear arms in the house, even if such arms were a salt gun, and that “
My family chided me and said that I should have known that Jews were not supposed to be hunters and that there are few, if any, exceptions to this rule.
Now I have more questions than answers.
Can someone be a good Jew and kill animals (including fish) for fun? Is it ever okay to kill animals for entertainment? What should we think about Jewish politicians who protect hunter’s gun rights? And, are we obligated to speak up about the gun rights of hunters, or is it okay to simply be silent?