|As reported by , the Temple Institute has received a letter from the animal rights organization "Tnoo Lachayot Lichyot" ("Let the Animals Live") protesting the Temple Institute's intentions to take part in a day long symposium to be held on April 6, (Rosh Chodesh Nisan). Likewise, the group is threatening to take legal action to prevent the participants of the symposium from carrying out an educational demonstration of the Passover sacrifice.
Below is the response of the Temple Institute:
Shalom Reuven Ladiansky, Chairman of "Let the Animals Live,"
We have received your letter stating your concerns, and begin by welcoming this opportunity for dialogue. As you know, the prohibition against "tzar l'ba'alai chaim" cruelty to animals is a Torah based principle. Torah strictly forbids both causing physical pain and/or psychological or emotional anguish to animals. Anyone who transgresses this prohibition is in violation of the trust and responsibility placed in him by G-d.
This trust is first articulated in Genesis 2:15: "God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it." From this we learn that the Torah indeed empowers man to possess mastery over the natural world, but at the same time places upon man the responsibility to guard and protect nature.
The laws of kashrut and shechita (ritual slaughter) require that the slaughter of an animal, whether for personal consumption, or to be used as an offering in the Holy Temple, must be conducted employing certain methods and instruments in such a manner as to guarantee a painless and fear-free demise for the animal. Slaughter that fails to achieve either of these two goals is not kasher.
Concerning the specific case of the Passover lamb offering, one must be aware of the history of the offering, and of the intimacy and defining nature of the offering, in order to fully appreciate its centrality to the Jewish experience. The original Passover offering, commanded by G-d, literally to both mark and to precipitate the birth of the Jewish nation, while still in Egypt, was and remains an iconoclastic and liberating moment whose symbolic import is every bit as relevant today as it was some 3,500 years ago. To discuss the "merits" of the offering out of this context would both be a mockery of Torah and would render even a "detached" study void of meaning.
The Temple offerings, (the Passover offering included), were all conducted in the open light of day. Each animal was slaughtered by a priest properly trained to uphold both the technical requirements as mentioned above, and to also direct his heart toward his Creator and the Creator of the animal under his charge. The Temple Priests were masters of compassion, whose function was to perform their tasks while bearing in mind always the awesome responsibility with which they were trusted: the responsibility of life and death.
It is odious even to compare the Temple offerings to the present state of affairs throughout the world in which millions of cows are slaughtered in massive factories and ground into hamburger each and every day of the week in order to slake the appetite of homo sapiens the world over. It is noteworthy, perhaps, that many strict vegetarians are among those who yearn to perform and participate in the Passover offering and the consuming of the meat as part of the Torah prescribed Seder requirement, simply for the reason that this is what G-d requires of them. There is no conflict between a humane attitude toward all living things, and fulfilling one's privileges and obligations as a Jew to his or her Creator.
Finally, any discussion of the Passover offering would be incomplete if the social/national aspect of the offering is not also contemplated. The Passover offering is an obligation that touches all men, women and children of the Jewish nation. Each individual offering was eaten by groups of as many as thirty people or more. The poor, as is well known from the Passover Hagaddah, were also included. The Passover offering had to be eaten in Jerusalem. To this end, local Jerusalemites threw open their doors and courtyards to accommodate their fellow Jews who came from afar to celebrate. One can only imagine the overwhelming sense of unity and family, on the national level, that enveloped the people. And all this is centered around and made possible through the vehicle of the Passover lamb. This does not cheapen the life of the lamb. On the contrary, one can only marvel at the enabling power vested in this creature of G-d, and be grateful to Him for the life transforming gift He has granted us through the performing of the Passover offering.
Ultimately, the Passover offering remains, as it was that first Passover in Egypt, an expression of profound faith in G-d. By attaching ourselves to G-d we come to realize that it is His will, and not ours, that determines what is right and what is wrong. It is this attachment, and the ability to fulfill His expectations of us that informs the Passover offering with the power to set free. The Jewish compassion for all living things is likewise informed by our relationship with G-d, and is not the product of an anthropocentric humanism.
Reuven, I won't pretend that I have turned you into an advocate for the renewal of the Passover offering by my words above, which, in any case only touch upon the surface of the subject of the Passover offering. But before you press ahead with your plans to call for the upcoming symposium to be prevented from taking place, please allow for the fact that we who long to perform G-d's command and make the Passover offering this year, like you, hold dear, and consider holy, the life of each and every one of G-d's living creatures.
May we soon sit in unity as a people around our Passover offerings, in the homes and courtyards of Jerusalem, in the glow of the Holy Temple.
The meat from the lamb that is to be slaughtered at the symposium, (for educational purposes, not an actual Passover offering), is to be distributed to needy families.