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From the Desk - Kosher Giraffes

Shalom Friends!

I hope this email finds you well. It seems like Winter had a false start and I hope everyone is managing to stay warm!

This Shabbat, we invite you to join us at our Shabbat Kiddush Program where I will be tackling the question: Was Jacob right to take Esau’s blessing? The Shabbat Kiddush Program is a new initiative inspired by our mission as a centre of Jewish living and learning. After our Shabbat service, we invite you to join us for a sit-down Kiddush. The central feature of this program will not be the food, but rather the opportunity to celebrate Shabbat together as a community and to engage with an interesting topic. If anyone has any question that they would like to see tackled in a future Shabbat Kiddush Program, please let me know.

Most of you will have heard about Canada’s recent vote at the United Nations. The previous Canadian policy was to oppose UN motions against Israel based on a recognition that the UN had been hijacked to advance an agenda of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel. Regardless of the substance of any particular resolution, Canada decided that it would not lend energy to that charade. However, on November 19th, Canada reversed this policy and sided with dictatorships like North Korea in voting in favour of an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations. Over the weekend, Canada’s Ambassador to the UN was boasting on Twitter about this vote reversal, claiming that Canada has rediscovered its voice. It is very important that we raise a voice of protest against this failure to stand up to the immoral and dangerous demonization of Israel. Please join me in telling the Prime Minister about your objection to this change of policy. Thanks for your support and wishing you all Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami

What’s the Deal with… Kosher Giraffes? A few weeks ago at a Beth Ora seuda shlisheet, we got on to the topic of giraffes. It was claimed that giraffes are Kosher but that we don’t eat them because it’s too difficult to determine the halachic requirements for where exactly on the neck the giraffe needs to be slaughtered. This view is very widespread. Let’s see if it’s correct. Firstly, are giraffes technically Kosher? To be Kosher, a mammal must have split hooves and must chew the cud. The giraffe indeed fills these criteria! In fact, the Torah mentions the zemer as one of ten types of Kosher animals. According to the biblical commentators Saadia Gaon and Radak and the Talmudic commentator Rabbenu Yona, the zemer is none other than the giraffe! Nevertheless, there is a view (which we have been learning about at seuda shlisheet) that for an animal to be Kosher it must not only have the physical criteria but there must also be a continuous tradition that Jews actually eat the animal. In truth, most authorities say that this only applies to birds but there are some Ashkenazi authorities who apply this to animals as well. Now, let’s turn to the question of whether we know where on the neck to slaughter the giraffe (shechita). In fact, the Talmud indicates that the entire neck is valid for shechita. Hence, for a giraffe, the valid region for slaughter would be close to six feet! Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky quotes a Kashrut expert who once quipped that “anyone who does not know where to shecht a giraffe either knows nothing about the laws of schechitah or could not hit the side of a barn with a baseball!” We see from this that there is very little if any halachic problem with eating giraffe. So, why don’t we see it on the menu at Bennys or served by Blossom caterers? One answer is the expense! When Rabbi Zivotofsky asked Rabbi Yosef Kafich, a leading rabbi and scholar in the Yemenite community, if there are any halachic impediments to shechting giraffe, his tongue-in-cheek response was that the only problem might be that “at $10,000 per kilo, it would be ba’al tashchit (a waste)!” A second reason was given by Dr. Yigal Horowitz, the chief vet at the Safar Park in Ramat Gan. After it was confirmed that giraffes are indeed Kosher, Horowitz said this did not mean there would suddenly be a surge of demand of giraffe products in Israel. “This does not mean that tomorrow we are going to drink giraffe milk or eat soup made from giraffe necks. After all, this is an animal in danger of extinction.” Finally, I have seen it claimed that slaughtering an animal of that size is no easy chore, particularly when you consider that one kick of a giraffe can kill a lion!

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