In his typically incredible way, our steady contributor, Stanley Siegelman, has unearthed an otherwise obscure item about zoos. In Lithuania, high-ranking Orthodox rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv frowns on the operation of zoos. He even would forbid visiting a zoo. His authority is a 16th-century code of Jewish law that bars the raising of animals for any purpose other than food.
Here is Siegelman’s view of the matter:
Nayes fun Khayes
Oy, hert zikh tsu! Mir hobn nayes
Es hot tsu ton mit vilde khayes!
Der rebe fregt: “Du bist a Jew?”
Az yo, torstu nit geyn in “zoo.”
“M’muz nit kukn oyf baheymes!”
(In English zogt men, “Dat vood shame us!”)
Farvos iz dos farbotn? Zog!
Dos iz a frage! Oy a klog!
Der entfer ligt in heylik bukh
Vos heyst di Shulkhan Orukh
Baheymes zaynen nur tsum esn
(Kom vi in a delicatessen.)
Un nisht tsu shteln oyf “display”?
Dos iz a “rationale”? Oy vey!
Derfar iz der “zoo” a treyfener plats
Azoy goyish vi di “Hottentots.”
A yid vos folgt nit dem bafel
Vet shnel gefinen zikh in “hell”
A Yid vos tut azelkhe zind
Iz take shlekht un beyz — a “fiend.”
Gey nisht zen di malpe “cage”
Oy, tsind nisht on dem rebn’s “rage”
Loyft nit zen a leyb in zoo!
Es past nisht, boychikl, “entre nous.”
Baheymes zaynen nisht far “lookin’”
Zey zaynen nor far “fres” nokh “cookin’.”
News About Jews and Zoos
Attention, please! We have new rules
Pertaining to the “animules”
A rabbi gives this news to Jews:
It’s wrong for Jews to visit zoos.
“A Jew, devout or secular
Should shun a place that has a bar!”
Explain to us, oh reb, at least
This rule concerning man and beast.
For answers, see Shulkhan Arukh
Our sacred text, you there must look
With holiness it is imbued
It stipulates that beasts are food.
They’re meant man’s hunger to allay
They’re not for onerous display
This means a zoo, per se, is “treyf”
And to man’s very soul unsafe.
From this decree there’s no escape!
The Orthodox are going ape!
’twould be a sin, a moral gaff
To gaze upon a caged giraffe!
Gorillas are unfit to view
If they’re confined within a zoo
This edict isn’t worth defyin’
Just to see a locked-up lion.
In short, a beast is not for lookin’
It is, instead, designed for cookin’.