Several canonical works of Modern Jewish literature, written in Hebrew and Yiddish at the turn of the twentieth century, distinctly depict an anti-slaughter stance. Jewish approach to animal slaughter has been largely ambivalent, from the biblical creation story in Genesis 1, where human nutrition was limited to plants only, to various restrictions on the practices of killing and consuming animals—in many cases, due to the religious obligation to care for animals (tza‘ar ba‘ale hayyim). In this article, I seek to critically analyze three literary works, in which the anti-slaughter stance is voiced by children protagonists: Mordecai Ze’ev Feierberg’s “The Calf” (“ha-’Egel,” 1899), Mendele Mocher Seforim’s “The Calf” (“Dos Kelbl,” 1902), and Sholem Aleichem’s Motl the Cantor’s Son (Motl Peyse dem khazns, 1907). These stories will be examined in the light of the religious ambivalence toward animal slaughter and contextualized within relevant socio-historical conditions.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Naama Harel