Issue 23 /
n.1 (2023) Focus Introduction

Created from Animals: Thinking the Human Animal Difference in Jewish and Hebrew Literature

DOI : 10.48248/issn.2037-741X/13900
Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), Studies of animals (donkeys, cats and monkeys), color on
oak wood, 34,2 x 55,5 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Horizontal Relationship

As early as 1838, in his private notebooks, Darwin wrote that he believed true “to consider him [man] created from animals.”1 This notion challenged the prevailing religious views of his time, which posited a distinct and separate origin for humans. Later on, in his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, first published in 1859, he took his readers on a scientific journey into the depths of time, unraveling an unwritten history that encompasses not just humans but also the entire animal kingdom. In a sense, Darwin has constructed a new History of Animals that integrates humans within it, breaking away from the traditional understanding of history as solely belonging to human civilizations. The phrase History of Animals is fragrant with echoes of Aristotle’s teachings, but when applied to Darwin’s scientific endeavor, it encapsulates both the scientific inquiry and the collection of data, reflecting the original meaning of the Greek word istoria. It also signifies the unfolding of linear time during which and animals have evolved. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin did not express himself about humans. He only wrote the following lines in the “Recapitulation and Conclusions” to the work:

Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history. […] When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled.2

In 1859, Darwin remained prudent concerning the involvement of man in the process of evolution like all the other living beings, because the Victorian society of the time was not ready to accept the idea.3 In The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, first published in 1871, he demonstrated that humans are also involved in the larger and longer process of evolution. They had evolved from “a lower form,”4 actually from the Hominidae or great apes, and are thus only a phase of a much complex and general evolution and one limb of a widely branched tree. 

The choice of a quote from Darwin as the title for this collection of articles is motivated by several reasons. Throughout history, many authors, starting from antiquity, have presented arguments, primarily from philosophical and moral perspectives, advocating for the commonality between humans and animals and questioning the ethical implications of killing and consuming them. Aristotle’s denial of reason (logos), reasoning (logismos), thought (dianoia), intellect (nous), and belief (doxa) to animals triggered a philosophical crisis that necessitated expanding the understanding and the content of perception, which in turn risked equating perception with belief. This led to a heated debate about the philosophical definition and boundaries of reason, opinion, and perception in relation to the human-animal difference.5 In this philosophical battleground the skeptics aimed to challenge Aristotle’s doctrines and Stoicism and argued for the presence of some reason in animals, employing a strictly philosophical method and set of arguments that resurfaced during the Renaissance, notably in the works of Michel de Montaigne. 

However, Darwin embarked on a distinct enterprise. In fact, his groundbreaking scientific works repositioned humans within the animal kingdom, highlighting their ancestral connection to the animal world, a lineage that extended far back in time, predating the written history on which our understanding of human existence has traditionally relied. He did so not by resorting to philosophical arguments and reasoning but through modern scientific analysis, examining various forms of evidence. His work served to reposition humans within the animal kingdom, emphasizing their deep ancestral connection to the animal world that stretched back in time long before the advent of written history, which has traditionally been the basis for understanding human existence. Certainly, the concept of humans descending from the great apes implies a shared history with other animals that spans at least two million years. Even better, animals and humans share a common history, and after all, don't they still share that history nowadays? Are not we, the humans, responsible vis à vis of the animals because of the pollution and the climate change that are ravaging the planet we share with them?

We are created from animals. As Derrida states: “L’animal est là avant moi, là près de moi, là devant moi – qui suis après lui.”6 I am quoting the original French to preserve the double meaning of the verb suis as “I am” and “I follow/come after”:

If I am (following) this suite then, I move from “the ends of man,” that is the confines of man, to “the crossing borders” between man and animal. Passing across borders or the ends of man I come to surrender to the animal, to the animal in itself, to the animal in me and the animal at unease with itself.7

It is indeed widely known that Jacques Derrida’s engagement with the subject of animals was sparked by an encounter with his she-cat while he was coming out of the shower. In that moment, he experienced the animal’s gaze, the “insisted gaze of the animal, a benevolent or pitiless gaze, surprised or cognizant.”8 This unexpected exchange of gazes led Derrida to contemplate the concept of the animal as Other, at the same time—in a game of seeing and being seen—it also prompted him to consider the possibility of an alternative perspective, “the point of view of the absolute other.”9 In Derrida’s exploration, he posits an inherent and profound rupture between humans and animals, a rupture characterized by diverse and shifting boundaries. On the other side of this rupture exists a multiplicity of “the living,”10 which he expresses using the term “animot.”11 This term signifies the multitude of non-human living beings, encompassing various species and forms of life beyond the human realm. Still, “being after, being alongside, being near [près] would appear as different modes of being, indeed of being-with. With the animal.”12

Indeed, the study of prehistory continues to reveal new insights about the relationship between humans and animals in early stages of human development. Drawing upon unwritten sources, scholars have made discoveries proving that humans have been with the animals, wich played a crucial role in the cultural and social development during that early stage. It is now recognized that the presence of animals was not merely instrumental for human survival, such as through hunting or domestication, but also influenced the evolution of human language, the development of writing and the expression of religious feelings. These significant developments took place approximately 40000 years before present (BP) during the Upper Paleolithic period. During this time, humans primarily lived as hunters and gatherers, and as they began to engage in more complex cognitive processes, they likely started pondering their own existence and their relationship with the natural world. It is reasonable to suggest that early humans, in their nascent thoughts and reflections, conceived of themselves as part of a horizontal and non-hierarchical relationship with other animals, rather than placing themselves at the apex of a hierarchical structure.

In the following pages, I shall focus on a few examples, which are admittedly drawn from different ages and geographic locations, but they also provide some consistent and coherent facts supporting my argument. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that the interpretive work of unwritten sources leads to conclusions that are far from definitive. I will begin by discussing two interpretations of some cave paintings, which are especially relevant to the topic of human-animal relations and their cultural expression. They date back to the Upper Paleolithic period, approximately between 40000 and 12000 BP, at the end of the Paleolithic age and the beginning of the Neolithic era, coinciding with the extinction of Neanderthals and the emergence of Homo sapiens. 

One possible interpretation of these cave paintings is related to the debate about the origin of language, that remains outside the purposes of this introduction. However, I shall refer to Emmanuel Anati’s understanding of paleolithic art not only as an art, but also as an expression of languages that open up new perspectives in order to outline “logical systems of communication and expression deeply rooted in human mind.”13 It is widely acknowledged that animals are the main subject of this art, but according to Anati there is more:

The analysis of the thematic reveals typologies of figures, signs, and graphemes that constitute the “vocabulary” of prehistoric art. They play the same role as words in a sentence. Isolated signs are rare, just as isolated words are rare in discourse. Sets constructed according to systems of association form the syntax; these are “phrases” composed by grouping or sequencing the graphemes depending on canons that reveal universal characteristics and constant associations, unrelated to ethnic and linguistic boundaries or predating their formation.14

In prehistoric art, Anati identifies three signs, pictograms, ideograms and psychograms; the most widely used pictograms were zoomorphic or anthropo-zoomorphic, also called therianthropes, since paleolithic men were essentially hunters and gatherers and they hunted large animals. Pictograms, as it is well known, convey messages, regardless of a distinctive language. However, it seems possible that the humans who made those paintings already possessed some sort of language and, so to speak, put it in a written form. Furthermore, zoomorphic pictograms were not only the representation of the subjects of the hunt; they also were a representation of “imagined realities” involving “mythological and metaphorical references,”15 drawn in paintings that “can be related to sacred history texts that give evidence about the mysteries at the origin of the intellect.”16

Another possible explanation of the Upper Paleolithic cave paintings derives its main argument from the history of religions and from the neurosciences. At the core of this interpretation there is the fact that Paleolithic art is above all and “from the beginning to the end […] an art of animal forms,”17 and this latter aspect can be explained “by suspecting some form of shamanism.”18 According to this theory, these paintings would be telling the story of a shamanic journey inwards, plunging into the three states of shamanic trance: stage one represents seeing geometric forms; stage two leads to illusioning these forms into objects with culture-specific meaning (religious or emotional); stage three implies plunging into a vortex at whose end are hallucinations with animals, people and so on, coupled with the hallucination of flying or descending into the underworld.19 The shamanic association with animals is a very common third stage of the shamanic trance, because the animal becomes a spirit-animal bestowing powers to heal, or make rain fall; and, more importantly, this spirit-animal makes the communication with “another world” possible.20 The seminal points, allowing the interpretation of Upper Paleolithic cave paintings, deserve to be quoted in full:

First, many images seem to float on the rock face independently of its shape and features. Sometimes the pendant hoofs of animals enhance the appearance of floating because the animals do not seem to be standing on the ground. Secondly, the images of animals are always presented independently of natural surroundings; they are not part of a real landscape of ground, plants. trees, hills, and so forth. It was spirit-animals that mattered, not the world outside the caves. Thirdly. the images were painted or engraved without regard to relative size; for instance, mammoths are sometimes smaller than horses. Lastly, the animals are, for the most part, unrelated to one another: If, say, horses and bison are depicted together, it is not because these species consort; they were placed together for other, non-realistic, reasons […].

These four features are characteristics of the projected hallucinations of the third stage of altered consciousness.21

Thus, the cave paintings tell the story of the shamanic journey inwards and trance, whose third and final stage can include the transformation into a therianthrope. Accordingly, I would like to dwell briefly on one specific therianthrope cave painting: the theriomorph sorcerer/shaman in the cave of Trois frères (Ariège, Pyrenees France), dating back to ca. 14000 BP. This awesome image merges together a male human form with parts of different animals. In several of his books, the cultural historian Joseph Campbell, goes back time and again to the description and interpretation of this very same painting which deserves to be quoted in full. First and foremost, Campbell remarks that the sorcerer towers over the paintings of several animals in the cave of Trois Frères:

Above them all [other animal paintings], predominant – at the far end of the sanctuary, some fifteen feet above the level of the floor, in a craggy, rocky apse – watching, peering at the visitor with penetrating eyes, is the now famous ‘Sorcerer of Trois Frères.’ Presiding impressively over the animals collected there in incredible numbers, he is poised in profile in a dancing movement that is similar, […], to a step in the cakewalk; but the antlered head is turned to face the room. The prickled ears are those of a stag; the round eyes suggest an owl; the full beard descending to the deep animal chest is that of a man, as are likewise the dancing legs; the apparition has the bushily tail of a wolf or wild horse, and the position of the prominent sexual organ, placed beneath the tail, is that of feline species – perhaps a lin. The hands are paws of a bear. The figure is two and a half feet high, fifteen inches across. […]. Moreover, it is the only picture in the whole sanctuary bearing paint – black paint – which gives it an accent stronger than all the rest. 22

There have been many interpretations of this painting, starting from Abbé Breuil, who first studied it and classified it as a sorcerer, later considering it a god or spirit,23 an interpretation Campbell endorses by stating that the sorcerer is “a manifestation of a god.”24 In Campbell’s interpretation, the transformation into an animal, and therefore becoming the Other, implies a way to live in harmony with this Other by de-centering the attention from what is solely human. However, the crucial point is that, if one follows this interpretation, the animals remain the Other, while humans make an intellectual effort “to become linked psychologically to the task of sharing the wilderness with these beings.”25Campbell’s interpretation suggests that humans in the Upper Paleolithic were resorting to sympathetic magic to gain control over their hunting, which assumes a vertical relationship between humans and animals, with humans striving to control animals and harness their power. 

However, the interpretation of this therianthrope painting as the third phase of the shamanic trance could be the clue suggesting that Upper Paleolithic humans placed themselves in a horizontal relationship with animals. If they were indeed performing the shamanic rites to communicate with another world, they must have recognized that their own powers were insufficient, because they “conceived their own humanity as one of the multiple manifestations of the forces in action, on an equal footing with the animals.”26 Not only our ancestors were not the strongest beings of the time; they were also very much aware of the possibility of becoming a prey. To achieve their goals, they needed to attain a state of wholeness; thus, they had to become one with the animals, whom they regarded not only as a source of power, but also as an integral element that completes a whole. Thus, humans were placing themselves in a horizontal relationship with animals, rather than in a hierarchical one. 

This same horizontal relationship possibly persisted in the human approach to animals also after the Upper Paleolithic, namely during the period archaeologists have labeled pre-pottery Neolithic (10000-8000 years BP) in the Fertile Crescent (including roughly contemporary Southern Turkey, northern Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and Syria) and more precisely in Göbekli Tepe (Southeastern Anatolian region, Sanliurfa, Turkey), a site excavated from 1995 by the German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt and dating back to 10000 BP, when humans were still hunters and gatherers. The archaeological excavations brought to light several enclosures consisting of a succession of T-shaped pillars, which were not merely structural components of a building but rather formed the core of the enclosure.27 These pillars showcased many engravings depicting animals, including large felines—possibly lions—bulls, aurochs, gazelles, wild boars, snakes—possibly vipers—foxes, rams, cranes, spiders and possibly even insects—such as the poisonous scolopendra. Additionally, there were some “abstract” H-form pictograms. Schmidt suggests that the site had a primarily religious purpose, possibly serving as a sanctuary, that held immense significance for its builders.28 He has proposed a tentative, yet still not final, interpretation of these T-shaped pillars as anthropomorphic beings, but he remains cautious and refrains from drawing definitive conclusions. In his interpretive effort, he has linked together the T-shaped pillars, the animal engravings, and the abstract symbols. Importantly, he excludes the possibility that these representations were of hunting prey, given that most of the animals depicted on the T-shaped pillars were not typically hunted. Then, he returns to the interpretation of Upper Paleolithic cave paintings as pictograms used in shamanic rituals, for specific purposes and initiation rites. He draws parallels between these cave paintings and the T-shaped pillars adorned with animal engravings at Göbekli Tepe. As a result, he concludes:

The message of the signs and images of Göbekli Tepe, when compared to cave paintings, remains just as obscure to us. Nevertheless, these figures are presented in a highly sophisticated and completely unexpected form until very recently. It is certain that they served as mnemonic devices to transmit knowledge of the utmost importance for the culture of their creators over long periods of time. If that were not the case, they would not have taken such care and effort to execute them as we see them, nor would they have provided them with such impressive monumental structures as places of worship.29

The most captivating interpretive hypothesis Schmidt outlines is primarily based on postulating some sort of continuity between Upper Paleolithic cave art, the art at Göbekli Tepe art and the subsequent cultures:

It is certain that at Göbekli Tepe, the people of the early Neolithic period had not only monumental architecture but also a significant repertoire of symbols and a sophisticated graphic language through which they could formulate messages for their contemporaries and pass them on to future generations. [...].The rich and almost exuberant visual world of the early Neolithic, perhaps still illuminated by the light of campfires from the glacial age, may well have enriched the culture of the following millennia as well – [...] – with motifs drawn from the timeless heritage of humanity.30

When Neolithic people developed their cultural world and expressed their cultural memory31 through pictograms, animals were once again with them, surrounding them, and potentially contributing to make them whole beings for their shamanic rites. The discussion as to when this cultural perspective shifted—was it the discovery of agriculture as so many scholars suggest?—will not be addressed here. I shall, however, conclude this paragraph by quoting and discussing two later and written sources, wich indicate that humans still preserved some fragmented memory of their connection to animals, although by then they looked at such a descent with an uneasy mind. 

The first source is the Gilgamesh Epic, with its earliest identifiable Sumerian texts date back to the mid-third millennium BP.32 I shall here refer to the later Akkadian version (1200-1000 BP) and focus on Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s faithful friend and servant, described as “the wild man brought up by the animals.”33 Enkidu appears to be an original character since Sumerian literature bears no trace of him.34 This is a story that seems to suggest some awareness, if not of a human lineage from animals, at least of an original commonality with them. A goddess created Enkidu to temper Gilgamesh’s uncontrolled energy and strength by becoming his companion in heroic deeds. She molded him from a pinch of clay in the form of a man but with the appearance and behavior of an animal:

All his body is matted with hair,
He is adorned with tresses like a woman:
The locks of his hair grows as thickly as Nissaba’s,
He knows not at all a people nor even a country.
He was clad in a garment like Šakkan’s,
Feeding on grass with the very gazelles. 
Jostling at the water-hole with the herd,
He enjoyed the water with animals.35

Despite being brought into existence and mold by a goddess, Enkidu does not bear any resemblance to the divine image. His body is “matted with hair,”36 concealed beneath a layer of hair, it resembles that of a man but also evokes the likeness of an animal covered in fur. Furthermore, he does not belong to any specific community or nation but resides among the undistinguished wild herd, which means that he also behaves like an animal. To facilitate his transformation into a complete human, a hunter devises a scheme in which Enkidu engages in a sexual encounter with Šamḫat the harlot:

After he was sated with her delights,
He turned his face toward his herd.
The gazelles saw Enkidu and they started running, 
The animals of the wild moved away from his person.
Enkidu had defiled his body so pure,
His legs stood still, though his herd was on the move.
Enkidu was diminished, his running was not as before,
But he had reason, he [was] wide of understanding.
He came back and sat down at the feet of the harlot,
Watching the harlot, (observing) her features.
Then his ears heard what the [harlot] was speaking,
[as the harlot] said to him, to Enkidu:
‘you are handsome, Enkidu, you are just like a god,
Why do you roam the wild with the animals?
Come, I will lead you to Uruk-the- Sheepfold,
To the sacred temple, the dwelling of Anu and Ištar!
Enkidu said to her, to the harlot: 
‘Come Šamhat, take me along
To the sacred temple, the holy dwelling of Anu and Ištar.37

The sexual awakening makes possible Enkidu’s transition from his ambiguous blend of human and animal appearance and behavior to a state of humanity. While he loses some of his physical strength, he gains reason and, for the first time, the reader hears him speak and express a desire to acquaint himself with life in the city of Uruk and its religious customs. Consequently, he embraces the ties of human society and forsakes the company of the wild herd. Furthermore, Šamḫat reveals to him his true nature, proclaiming, “You are just like a god,” thereby instilling in him an awareness of his own humanity that sets him apart from his animalistic nature. From this point forward, the animal nature becomes a potential risk, something to which humans can be drawn back, sometimes in the aftermath of a great traumatism, as it is the case with Gilgamesh himself. In fact, after the death of Enkidu, he becomes acutely aware that the same fate awaits him too. Gripped by a fear of death, Gilgamesh embarks on a journey through the wilderness,38 venturing so far that he is asked: “[(Why is it) your face is burnt [by frost and sunshine,] / [and] you roam the wild [got up like a lion?].”39

In a later biblical source, being drawn back into animality is depicted as a divine punishment, as exemplified in the story of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar found in Daniel 4: 28-33:

27. The king spoke, and said: “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for a royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” 28 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven: “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: the kingdom is departed from thee. 29 And thou shalt be driven from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; thou shalt be made to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee; until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” 30 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar; and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hair was grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. 31 “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever; […]. 33 At the same time mine understanding returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and my splendour returned unto me; and my ministers and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and surpassing greatness was added unto me.”40

In the text of Genesis 1: 26, man is depicted as being created in the image of God, and only God has the power to alter this status, even if temporarily, as a means to punish the sin of arrogance. However, in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, God does not directly transform him into an animal; rather, He pulls him back towards animal nature and behavior, reminiscent of the origins of Enkidu. It is as if the texts of the Gilgamesh Epic and the Bible were preserving some distant and fragmented memory of humanity’s descent from and commonality with animals. In the Gilgamesh Epic, this commonality is portrayed as something that must be left behind and transcended in order to become a part of human society. In the Hebrew Bible this memory has taken on a more unsettling connotation, since reverting to animalistic nature is the result of sin and subsequent divine punishment, something to be strenuously avoided through great spiritual effort.

At this point, humanity and animality have undeniably parted ways. Due to space constraints in this introduction, it is not possible to trace and discuss all the phases and stages of the debate about human-animal difference in Western culture. However, before moving on to presenting the essays published in this issue, it is worth briefly addressing the relatively new field of Human-Animal Studies, also known as Animal Studies. This field offers insights into how it approaches the question of human-animal difference and the fresh perspectives it brings to the table, especially in relation with Jewish Studies and Jewish and Modern Hebrew Literature.

The Reception of Human-Animal Studies in Jewish Studies and in Jewish and Hebrew Literature: An Overview of Current Scholarship

Nowadays, there are multiple definitions of Human-Animal Studies that primarily focus on the interaction between humans and animals, as well as the social and cultural construction of animals41 in the past, present, and potentially the future.42 This field of study, particularly the subfield known as Critical Animal Studies, also examines how the human-animal hierarchy is perpetuated in human relationships, leading to the perpetuation of inequalities.43 Specifically, it explores questions such as how and why animals are represented and conceptualized in diverse ways across different human cultures and societies worldwide, and how they are imagined, experienced, and given significance.44 This intersection is particularly relevant to literary studies. Human-Animal Studies draws upon various disciplines, including sociology, philosophy, history, and literature, to provide depth and understanding to the questions it deals with. As Margo DeMello puts it “HAS scholars are drawn from a wide variety of distinct disciplines (interdisciplinary), and HAS research uses data, theories, and scholarship from a variety of disciplines (multidisciplinary).”45

Two points deserve to be highlighted. Firstly, the field of Human-Animal Studies finds its precursors and maîtres à penser among philosophers and historians who emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. Notable works include Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975) and Tom Regan’s The Case for Animal Rights” (1983, 2004). These influential texts, accompanied by critical contributions from sociology, anthropology, psychology,46 and cultural studies,47 have supported the development of Human-Animal Studies. Thus, the origins of this field can be traced back to philosophical, historical, sociological, and anthropological reflections, that can go together with an enhanced sensitivity for these themes extending to activism for the protection of animal rights.48 These approaches start from the assumption that “being an animal in human society has little to do with biology and almost everything to do with human culture,”49 and that scholars, when attempting to define what is human and what is animal, should aim to deconstruct the societal and cultural construction of animals.50 In the late 1990s and early 2000s, literary disciplines joined the conversation and started exploring the question of animals, with a focus on challenging the distinction between humans and animals and shifting the centrality away from human beings in various ways—such as de-centering the focus to the value of animal being, downplaying human prominence, blurring the boundaries, and questioning the assumptions involved.51

However, moving on to the second point, when it comes to defining what falls within the realm of human and animal, the integration of perspectives from the hard sciences becomes crucial, even within the field of literature. For instance, the advancements in neuroscience studying language development among animals have brought forth new insights. The concept of consilience, which aims to reconnect the humanities and the hard sciences, was proposed by Edward O. Wilson, a myrmecologist and the founder of sociobiology, in the late 1970s. Sociobiology explores the biological foundations of social behavior,52 seeking “to grasp human nature objectively, to explore it to the depths scientifically, and to comprehend its ramifications by cause-and-effect explanations leading from biology into culture.”53 According to this viewpoint, human nature emerges from the interplay between genes and culture. Hence, both the sciences and humanities share a common challenge:

We know that virtually all of human behavior is transmitted by culture. We also know that biology has an important effect on the origin of culture and its transmission. The question remaining is how biology and culture interact, and in particular how they interact across all societies to create the commonalities of human nature. What, in final analysis, joins the deep, mostly genetic history of the species as a whole to the more recent cultural history of its far-flung societies? That, in my opinion, is the nub of the relationship between the two cultures. It can be stated as a problem to be solved, the central problem of the social sciences and humanities, and simultaneously one of the great remaining problems of the natural sciences.54

This approach is not reductionist but interactionist,55 recognizing that “the knowledge of the genes or even the circuitry of the brain alone” cannot fully predict the complexity of human evolution, which “can only be adduced by joining the relevant data of cognitive psychology, the social sciences, and the humanities with those of biology.”56 More recently, Roberto Marchesini, who has a background in veterinary medicine, offers a theoretical definition of Human-Animal Studies as “a significant event within the analysis of human-animal relationships, fully integrated into the exploration of animal alterity initiated by Darwin’s evolutionary theories and continued through research in behavioral and cognitive sciences and animal bioethics.” This definition adds a historical depth to the field, tracing its origins back to the nineteenth century when Darwin published On the Origin of Species. Additionally, as Marchesini emphasizes, Human-Animal Studies is a multidisciplinary field that bridges the natural sciences and humanities.57

The field of Human-Animal Studies (HAS) began to flourish in the late 1970s and 1980s primarily in English-speaking countries and has since gained significant momentum. Many introductions, handbooks, and companions to Human-Animal Studies have been published, showcasing its growth, diversification, and establishment as an academic discipline.58 Today, the field is increasingly recognized worldwide, with dedicated courses and positions available in universities and institutions.59

In Israel, Human-Animal Studies was established in 1996 by Professor Joseph Terkel from the Zoology Department of Tel Aviv University, who founded the Animals & Society Unit with a particular focus on Animal Assisted Therapy and the broader issue of human-animal relations.60 This research unit organized an annual conference and participates in various other conferences, hosting their own panels. They also published an academic journal titled Hayot we-hevrah(Animals and Society) until November 2016. In an article discussing the state of the field in Israel, Hirsch-Matsioulas and other authors highlighted that Israel is a nation with a significant emphasis on veganism and animal rights. However, Human-Animal Studies has not (yet?) fully flourished as an independent discipline within Israeli academia. The Animals and Society Unit, which operated independently, ceased to exist as a separate entity between 2013-2015. It then joined the Israeli Anthropological Association, under whose auspices it continues its work.61

Actually, the Israeli emphasis on veganism and animal rights possibly stems also from tza’ar ba’le hayyim, (literally, animal sorrow or animal suffering), an issue the Jewish tradition has long addressed to condemn cruelty towards animals. This moral imperative has led to appeals for vegetarianism throughout the 20th century.62 Consequently, tza’ar ba’le hayyim can be viewed as a moral concern, paving the way and facilitating the reception and acceptance of perspectives from Human-Animal Studies within the realm of Jewish Studies and Jewish and Hebrew literature. The alignment of these fields with the ethical considerations of animal welfare adds coherence and relevance to the exploration of human-animal relationships. Furthermore, it is important to note that the presence of animals has long been recognized and explored within the field of Jewish Studies, with several significant works that may not strictly align with the methodologies of Human-Animal Studies but nonetheless contribute to the understanding of the human-animal relationship. These works span various disciplines including art history, cultural history, and philosophy.63

As for the intersection of Human-Animal Studies and Jewish Studies, there is a notable publication that deserves attention: Human Beings and Other Animals in Historical Perspective, was published in 2007 by the Animals & Society Unit of the University of Tel Aviv, as previously mentioned.64 This collaborative work delves into the historical perspectives and approaches towards animals in thought, literature, and art. The book is organized into four parts: a comprehensive macro-historical introduction, the treatment of animals in Antiquity (including Greece, Rome, and the Ancient Near East), the examination of animals within monotheistic cultures, including a dedicated article on the Renaissance, and finally, the exploration of human-animal relationships in modern Western culture.

The exploration of otherness and its construction, blurring, and potential rejection establishes a captivating link between Jewish Studies and Human-Animal Studies. This connection arises from the recognition that both fields engage with questions surrounding the boundaries of identity, the categorization of beings, and the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. The study of otherness in Jewish Studies involves examining the ways in which Jewish thought, culture, and literature grapple with notions of difference, marginalization, and alterity. Similarly, Human-Animal Studies explores the complexities of human-animal relationships, the social and cultural construction of animals, and the implications for ethics and social justice. By recognizing the parallels between these two fields, scholars have discovered fruitful avenues for interdisciplinary dialogue and inquiry. They explore how the construction of otherness intersects with the delineation of human and animal identities, challenging established boundaries and inviting critical reflection on the hierarchical relationships between humans and animals. 

Consequently, it is not surprising that many studies in this area explore both themes and employ diverse methodological approaches. From a philosophical perspective, Andrew Benjamin delves into the interplay between the figures of the Jew and the animal in the Western philosophical tradition, examining their relationship to notions of universality.65 Ken Stone demonstrates the relevance of animals and perspectives from Human-Animal Studies in enhancing biblical interpretation. He explores various aspects of animal presence in the Hebrew Bible, including the physicality of animals, domesticated animals with a particular focus on dogs and their liminal status in biblical texts, sacrificial practices, animal ethics, and the conceptualization of wild animals.66 Hannah M. Strømmen draws inspiration from Jacques Derrida, whose exploration of the animal question guides her in examining how the Bible portrays the relationships between humans, animals, and the divine.67

Two recent works have shed light on the anthropocentric nature of Talmudic texts, revealing how they shape and define the relationships between humans and non-humans. The first work focuses specifically on the Babylonian Talmudic tractate Avodah Zarah, examining how it addresses the intricate dynamics between Jews and non-Jews within a Talmudic framework that intertwines human, animal, and spiritual realms. This study reveals how the Talmudic anthropology blurs the boundaries of humanity and explores the interconnectedness of these different categories.68 The second work takes a broader approach, delving into the entirety of the Babylonian Talmud to uncover hidden animal subjectivities embedded within the text. By bringing these overlooked perspectives to light, the study offers fresh insights into the attitudes and approaches of the Rabbis towards animals. It seeks to challenge conventional interpretations and provide a nuanced understanding of the Talmudic engagement with the non-human world.69

The scholarly attention devoted to the presence of animals in Jewish Studies can be acknowledged even prior to the emergence of Human-Animal Studies, and this observation holds even more significance in the field of Jewish and Modern Hebrew Literature. Within this domain, numerous articles and book chapters have been dedicated to exploring the representations and symbolic meanings of animals in literary texts, often taking on metaphorical or allegorical dimensions. Notably, there have been extensive interpretations proposed for two animaux celèbres: Mendele Mokher Sefarim’s mare and Agnon’s dog Balak.

As far as the intersection of the fields of Human-Animal Studies and of Jewish and Hebrew literature is concerned, Noam Pines and Naam Harel have both made a significant contribution,70 with each publishing a monograph on the subject. Noam Pines explores the relations between humans and animals in Jewish literature in his book The Infrahuman—Animality in Modern Jewish Literature. He introduces the concept of “the infrahuman” as a figurative construction that albeit remaining “suspended and unresolved,” highlights the complex interplay between figure and experience in relation to Jewish identity. This construction of the infrahuman extends beyond the Jewish context and is associated with figurative representations of animality, “a theological figure of exclusion from a state of humanity and Christianity alike.”71 Pines examines the works of various authors, including Mendele Mokher Sefarim, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Franz Kafka, Agnon, Paul Celan, and Heinrich Heine, through this interpretive lens. Naama Harel takes a different approach, focusing specifically on Franz Kafka’s animals. She challenges the notion of specific allegorical interpretations and instead employs a zoopoetic approach that critically examines the dynamics between humans and animals and explores the nonhuman animal experience.72 Harel emphasizes Kafka’s species fluidity, which undermines the human/animal binary and creates a liminal space described as “humanimal.”73 These works by Pines and Harel contribute to the broader development of Human-Animal Studies in the context of Jewish and Hebrew literature, expanding our understanding of the intricate relationships between humans and animals and challenging traditional interpretations.

In summary, the intersection of Human-Animal Studies with Jewish Studies and Jewish and Modern Hebrew literature highlights two key aspects: the examination of the otherness of animals in a universal context, challenging anthropocentrism, and the exploration of animal otherness in relation to Jewish otherness. With this in mind, the focus of this collection of articles is to assess the perception of the human-animal difference, or rather the blurred distinction, within Jewish and Hebrew literature.

The Success of the Donkey, the Persistence of the Ants, the Wickedness of the Wolf and the Defenseless Calves

While introducing the essays featured in this issue of Quest, it is evident that at least three of them delve into animals that hold an ancient, extensive, and esteemed literary legacy—the donkey, the ants, and the wolf. These creatures have played a significant role in shaping our understanding of human and animal nature, often portraying humanity in contrast to animality.

As a whole, the essays in this collection exhibit a tendency towards a discourse that combines universality and cultural specificity, with potential for comparative literature analyses. They not only explore the cultural construction and deconstruction of humanity in opposition to animality but also examine the establishment, definition, and subsequent blurring of human and animal spaces, as well as the dynamics of center and periphery, particularly within the Israeli context. I shall present them here in chronological order, commencing with Noam Pines’ exploration of The Merchant of Venice and concluding with Ilanit ben Dor Derimian and Riki Traum Avidan’s essays on Sami Berdugo’s novel Hamor(Donkey, 2019).

Pines’s essay delves into the portrayal of “wolfish” attributes associated with Jewish identity in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, specifically focusing on the character of Shylock. The analysis highlights Shylock’s fluctuation between dog-like, currish, and distinctly wolfish features. Pines argues that by representing Shylock with animalistic qualities, the concept of animality itself becomes unstable, drawing from two different notions of animality rooted in Christian typology and mythical natural history. The intertwining of these ideas carries political, legal, and theological implications. 

Moving on, Mancuso’s article revisits the tza’ar ba’le hayyim (animal suffering) concept, extensively discussed in Jewish tradition, and examines Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Kohen Kook’s writings published between 1903 and 1910 in Germany and Switzerland. Kook proposes that meat consumption should be considered only temporarily permissible, advocating for vegetarianism as a preferred choice that “theurgically” aligns with the prophetic vision of a Messianic age characterized by harmony and coexistence among all living beings. Beyond addressing animal suffering, Kook’s arguments aim to safeguard all creatures from unnecessary exploitation. Mancuso demonstrates the significant influence of Kook’s ideas across various branches of Judaism, as his perspective on Jewish vegetarianism offers a more suitable option for adhering to Jewish teachings and principles. A thematic connection arises between Mancuso’s and Naama Harel’s essays, as Harel explores the theme of animal suffering as well. She analyzes several Jewish literary works from the early twentieth century, including 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 works depict children who, unlike adults burdened with anthropocentric biases, exhibit empathy for animal suffering and take an anti-slaughter stance. Harel highlights how these literary portrayals challenge prevailing anthropocentric perspectives.

Moving forward, Anna Lissa’s essay takes a comparative approach, analyzing Yitzhak Orpaz’s novella Nemalim (Ants, 1968) and Italo Calvino’s novel La formica Argentina (The Argentine Ant, 1952). Lissa highlights the inherent otherness associated with insects, a radical otherness that typically excludes possibilities of empathy and often portrays insects, including ants despite their extensive literary history, as pests. Using a Human-Animal Studies perspective and emphasizing the consilience between humanities and sciences, Lissa explores the blurring of boundaries between humans and ants and its relationship to the blurring of human and animal spaces.

Shifting focus, Ilanit ben Dor Derimian and Riki Traum Avidan offer distinct interpretations of Sami Berdugo’ss novel Donkey. In her essay, Derimian adopts an ecocritical and anthropological viewpoint, examining the various nuances between domestication and wildness. She explores the human-animal distinction and the dynamics of center and periphery in Israel, with the Negev desert representing the periphery. Through the cultural representation of the donkey, Derimian illustrates social change and the reconstruction of local identity. In her essay, Riki Traum Avidan analyzes the donkey as a political metaphor in Berdugo’s novel. She explores the transformation of the donkey from an object to a subject, and argues that the boundaries between the main character and the donkey collapse, liberating a desire for life and affirmation, referred to as “bare life.” Traum interprets the novel as a challenge to fixed boundaries between human and animal, as well as established and fixed sexual identities. The relationship between the main character and the donkey also reflects the problematic dynamics between center and periphery in the Israeli context, with ecological and ecopolitical implications.

In summary, this collection of essays reaffirms the significance of the Human-Animal Studies approach in the realm of Jewish and Modern Hebrew literature. This approach opens up new avenues for interpreting and comprehending both old and contemporary texts, not only as Jewish and Hebrew works but also as contributions to the universal literary heritage. Ultimately, this collection highlights the ongoing relevance of exploring the human-animal dynamic in literature and the interconnectedness of various fields of study.

Finally, as some old manuscripts’ colophons state:
may no harm befall the authors, not today and not ever,
until the donkey ascends the ladder
that Jacob dreamt about.74

*I wish to express my gratitude to those who supported this project. I am especially thankful to Paolo Bernardini, with whom the first idea for this issue was hatched, to Cristiana Facchini, who first appreciated the relevance of the subject, and to Matteo Perissinotto, who has followed the many steps and stages of the preparation of this issue with the greatest competence, care, and kindness. I am also grateful to my colleague Maria Gorea who read the first paragraph of this introduction, provided valuable suggestions, and offered inspiring insights.

1 Paul H. Barrett, et al., eds., Charles Darwin’s Notebooks 1836-1944 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 300.

2 Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published in From so Simple a Beginning: The Fours Great Books of Charles Darwin, ed. Edward O. Wilson (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), 441-766, 759.

3 Edward O. Wilson, “Introduction to The Descent of Man,” in From So Simple a Beginning, ed. Wilson, 765-766, 765.

4 As Darwin himself put it in the title of the first chapter of The Descent of Man

5 Richard Sorabji, Animal Minds and Human Morals: The Origins of the Western Debate (Ithaca-New York: Cornell University Press, 1993), especially chapter 1 “The Crisis: The Denial of Reason to Animals,” 7-16.

6 Jacques Derrida, L’animal que donc je suis (Paris: Galilée, 2006), 28; English translation The Animal That Therefore I Am, ed. Marie-Louise Lallet and trans. David Wills (New York: Fordham University press, 2008). 

7 Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, 3.

8 Ibid., 4. 

9 Ibid., 11.

10 Ibid., 31.

11 Ibid., 41.

12 Ibid., 10.

13 Emmanuel Anati, Aux origines de l’art (Paris: Fayard, 2003), 19 (all the quotes from this book are translated by the Author). Anati’s argument is also supported by analyses of mitochondrial DNA, that date the emergence of the full language faculty to 55000 BP or even to 90000 BP, and by fossils absence-of-evidence and presence-of-evidence arguments. The former date the emergence of language at around 50000 BP and the latter antedating it to 150000-200000 BP, thus including the Neanderthals. Kathleen R. Gibson and Maggie Tallerman, “Introduction to Part II: The Prehistory of the Language: When and Why did Language Evolve?,” in The Oxford Handbook of Language, eds. Gibson and Tellerman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 239-249, 240 and 244-245, and annexed sources; Jessica Serra, Sapiens animalis. Ce que nous partageons avec les animaux (Gennevilliers: Prisma Media, 2023), 11 and annexed sources.

14 Anati, Aux origines de l’art, 338.

15 Ibid., 351.

16 Ibid., 389.

17 Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams, Shamanes de la préhistoire (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1996). English translation, Shamans of Prehistory: Trance and Magic in the Painted Caves, translated by Sophie Hawkes (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998), 41. 

18 Ibid., 81.

19 Ibid. Concerning the three states of shamanic trance, see Chapter 1 “Shamanism,” 11-30. Concerning the succession of interpretations of Paleolithic art, see Ibid., Chapter 3 “One Hundred Years of Searching for Meaning,” 65-79.

20 Ibid., 23. 

21 Ibid., 92.

22 Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology 4 vols. (London: Secker & Warburg 1960), vol. I, 309-310. 

23 Ibid., 310 and annexed sources. 

24 Ibid., 311.

25 Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press 2004 [1st ed. 1949]), 361.

26 Serra, Sapiens animalis, 21 (Translation of the Author).

27 Klaus Schmidt, Sie bauten die ersten Tempel, (München: Verlag C. H. Beck, 2006), French translation by Thérèse Guiot-Houdart, Le premier temple. Göbekli Tepe (Paris: CNRS Editions, 2015), 169 (all the quotes from this book are translated by the Author).

28 Schmidt, Le premier temple, 147 and 158.

29 Ibid., 296.

30 Ibid., 302-303.

31 On resorting to Jan Assman’s idea of cultural memory to interpret Göbekli Tepe monuments, Ibid., 285-287.

32 Accordingly, see Andrew R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic, Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), vol. I, 4-5. 

33 Ibid., 20.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid., 545.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid., 549 and 551.

38 Ibid., 667. 

39 Ibid., 681.

40 English translation The JPS Bible is available at Accessed June 5, 2023. Accordingly, see also Peter Joshua Atkins, The Animalising Affliction of Nebuchdnezzar in Daniel 4 Reading across the Human-Animal Boundary (London: Bloomsbury, 2023), Chapter 3 “The Question of Metamorphosis in the Text of Daniel 4,” 53-108. 

41 Human-Animal studies are “an interdisciplinary field that explores the spaces that animals occupy in human social and cultural worlds and the interactions humans have with them. Central to this field is an exploration of the ways in which animal lives intersect with human societies.” Margo DeMello, Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies (New York-Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2021, [1st ed. 2012]), 4.

42 “Animal Studies engages the many ways that human individuals and cultures are now interacting with and exploring other-than-human animals, in the past have engaged the living beings beyond our own species, and in the future might develop ways of living in a world shared with other animals.” Paul Waldau, Animal Studies: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1.

43 Dawne McCance, Critical Animal Studies: An Introduction (Albany: State University of New York, 2013).

44 Garry Marvin and Susan McHugh, eds., Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (London-New York: Routledge, 2014).

45 DeMello, Animals and Society, 7.

46 Ibid., 7-9 and annexed bibliography. 

47 Annie Potts and Philip Armstrong, “Interbreeding Cultural Studies and Human-Animal Studies,” in Teaching the Animal: Human-Animal Studies across the Disciplines, ed. Margo DeMello (Brooklyn: Lantern Books, 2010), 3-9.

48 DeMello, Animals and Society, 7 and 18. 

49 Ibid., 11. 

50 In DeMello’s formulation: “to unpack the various layers of meaning that we have imposed onto animal bodies and try to see the animal within.” Ibid., 17.

51 Kenneth Shapiro, “Human-Animal Studies: Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Present; Troubling the Future,” Society and Animals 28 (2020): 797-833, 808. 

52 Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology the New Synthesis 25h Anniversary Edition (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 2000 [1st ed. 1975]), 4. 

53 Edward O. Wilson, “Sociobiology at Century’s End,” introduction to Wilson, Sociobiology, v-viii, vii. The introduction has been written in 1999.

54 Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Rand House, 1998), 137. See also Edward O. Wilson, “Foreword from the Scientific Side,” in The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative, eds. Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2005), vii-xi, viii.

55 Wilson, “Sociobiology at the Century’s End,” vi.

56 Ibid., x. 

57 Roberto Marchesini, “Animal Studies,” Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, IX Appendice (2015), accessed June 3, 2023, (Translation of the Author).

58 They have begun to appear from the 2010s and onwards: DeMello, ed., Teaching the Animal; DeMello, Animals and Society; Aaron Gross and Anne Vallely, eds., Animals and the Human Imagination: A Companion to Animal Studies (New York-Chichester-West Sussex: Columbia University Press, 2012); Waldau, Animal Studies; Marvin and McHugh, eds., Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies; Linda Kalof, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017); Lynn Turner, Undine Sellbach, and Ron Broglio, eds., The Edinburgh Companion to Animal Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018); Mieke Roscher, André Krebber, and Brett Mizelle, eds., Handbook of Historical Animals Studies (Berlin-Boston: De Gruyter, 2021); Matthew R. Calarco, Animal Studies: The Key Concepts (London-New York: Routledge, 2021). Concerning the state of the art in France, see the excellent work by Anne Simon, Une bête entre les lignes. Essai de zoopoétique (Marseille: Wildproject, 2021), as well as the website managed by the research team she directs (accessed June 3, 2023) that provides an overall picture of the research activities in French Universities as well as a network of research institutes on the subject. Another seminal publication in French is Emilie Dardenne, Introduction aux études animales (Paris: PUF, 2020, [2nd ed. 2022]). Emilie Dardenne has also conceived and launched a Diplome Universitaire Animaux et societé, at the University Rennes 2 for the academic year 2019-2020, (accessed June 3, 2023). See also Louisa Mackenzie and Stephanie Posthumus, eds., French Thinking about Animals (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2015). In Italy, it is important to mention the following influential works: Giorgio Agamben, L’aperto, l’uomo e l’animale (Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 2002); Roberto Marchesini, Fondamenti di zooantropologia, vol. 1 La zooantropologia teorica (Bologna: Apeiron, 2014), vol. 2 La zooantropologia applicata (Bologna: Oasi Alberto Perdisa, 2005); Roberto Marchesini and Sabrina Tonutti, Manuale di zooantropologia (Roma: Meltemi, 2007).

59 For an overview of the growth of the field with facts and figures until 2010 see Kenneth Shapiro and Margo DeMello, “The State of Human-Animal Studies,” Society and Animals 18, no. 3 (2010): 307-318; Concerning the degree programs offered worldwide see Shapiro, “Human-Animal Studies,” accessed June 5, 2023, Generally speaking, the webpage of the Animals and Society Institute remains a primary instrument of information Accessed June 3, 2023. 

60 For all the facts and figures see Orit Hirsch-Matsioulas, Anat Ben-Yonatan, Limor Chen, Yaara Sadetzki, and Dafna Shir-Vertesh, “Human-Animal Studies in Israel: A Field in the Making,” Society and Animals (2022), 1-20.

61 Hirsch-Matsioulas and others, “Human-Animal Studies in Israel,” 10.

62 Concerning this issue, I refer the reader to two articles published here: Piergabriele Mancuso, “Tza’ar ba’ale hayyim Jewish animal rights advocacy and vegetarianism, from Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Ha-Kohen Kook’s A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace to Jonathan Safran Foer,” and annexed sources, and Naama Harel, “Kids For Calves: Children Against Slaughter in Fin-de-siècle Jewish Literature,” especially pp. 47-49, and annexed sources.

63 See for example Marc Michael Epstein, Dream of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (University Park: Pennsylvania University Press, 1997); Pillip Ackerman-Lieberman, and Rakefet Zalashik, eds., A Jew’s Best Friend? The Image of the Dog throughout Jewish History(Brighton-Portland-Toronto: Sussex Academic Press, 2013); Yaacov Shavit and Yehudah Reinharz, eds., Hamoriyut – Massa‘ be-‘iqvot ha-hamor. Mitologiyah, allegoriyah, mitos we-cliché (The Donkey: A Cultural History. A Journey through Myth, Allegory, Symbol and Cliché) (Jerusalem: The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 2014); Jay Geller, Bestiarium Judaicum: Unnatural Histories of the Jews (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018). As far as Jewish philosophy is concerned, it is impossible not to mention the seminal contributions of Kalman P. Bland. Kalman P. Bland, “Construction of Animals in Medieval Jewish Philosophy,” in New Directions in Jewish Philosophy, eds. Aaron W. Hughes and Elliot R. Wolfson (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010), 175-204; Bland, “Animal Fables and Medieval Jewish Philosophy,” in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Its Literary Forms, eds. Aaron W. Hughes and James T. Robinson (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2019), 8-39; Bland, “Human-animal Dualism in Modernity and Premodern Jewish Thought,” in Light against Darkness; Dualism in Ancient Mediterranean Religion and the Contemporary World, eds. Armin Lange and others (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 277-282; Bland, “Cain, Abel, and Brutism,” in Scriptural Exegesis: The Shapes of Culture and the Religiov us Imagination. Essays in Honour of Michael Fishbane, eds. Deborah A. Green and Laura S. Lieber (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 165-185.

64 Binyamin Arbel, Yosef Terkel and Sofia Menache, eds., Bne adam we-hayyot aherot ba-espeqlariya ha-historit (Human Beings and Other Animals in Historical Perspective) (Jerusalem: Karmel, 2007).

65 Andrew Benjamin, Of Jews and Other Animals (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010). 

66 Ken Stone, Reading the Hebrew Bible with Animal Studies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018).

67 Hannah M. Strømmen, Biblical Animality after Jacques Derrida (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2018). Concerning the Hebrew Bible and Human-Animal studies see also Philip Sherman, “The Hebrew Bible and the Animal Turn,” in Currents in Biblical Research 19, no. 1 (2020): 36-63.

68 Mira Beth Wasserman, Jews, Gentiles, and other Animals: The Talmud after the Humanities (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

69 Beth A. Berkowitz, Animals and Animality in Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

70 Naama Harel, “Antropomorfism bein mada’ le-sifrut” (Anthropomorphism: Between Science and Literature), Animals and Society: The Israeli Journal for the Connection between People and Animals 25 (2003): 88-98; Harel “Shuvan shel ha-hayyot ha-ne’edarot: Astrategiot qeri’ah le-alternativiot be-meshale hayyot” (“The Return of the Absent Animals: Alternative Reading Strategies in Animal Stories”), Animals and Society: The Israeli Journal for the Connection between People and Animals 32 (Winter 2006): 58-66; Harel, “The Animal Voice behind the Animal Fable,” Journal for Critical Animal Studies 7, no. 2 (2009): 9-21.; Harel, “De-allegorizing Kafka’s Ape: Two Animalistic Contexts,” in Kafka’s Creatures: Animals, Hybrids, and Other Fantastic Beings, eds. Marc Lucht and Donna Yarri (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers 2010), 53-66; Harel, “Hemlah ke-lefi ba’le hayyim ba-sifrut ha-tehiyyah” (“Compassion for Animals in the Renaissance of Hebrew Literature”), Hador: The Hebrew Annual of America 5 (2012): 60-70; Harel, “Of Cows and Women: The Animalization of Victimized Women in Devorah Baron’s Fiction,” Prooftexts 37, no. 2 (2019): 243-274; Harel, “Diyoqan ha-rahmaniyyah ke-ne’arah tze’irah: O ha-kelev ha ’ivri ha-rishon” (“A Portrait of a Compassionate Young Girl, or the First Hebrew Dog”), Criticism and Interpretation 46 (2020): 235-252; Noam Pines, “Life in the Valley: Figures of Dehumanization in Heinrich Heine’s Prinzessin Sabbat,” Prooftexts 33, no. 1 (Winter 2013): 25-47; Pines, “The Love of a Dog: Melancholia in David Vogel’s Before the Dark Gate,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 23, no. 2 (2016): 168-190; Pines, “A Radical Advocacy: Suffering Jews and Animals in S.Y. Abramovitsh’s Di kliatshe,” Jewish Social Studies 23, no. 2 (2018): 24-47.

71 Noam Pines, The Infrahuman: Animal Poetics in Modern Jewish Literature (Albany NY: SUNY Press, 2018), xii.

72 Naama Harel, Kafka’s Zoopoetics: Beyond the Human-animal Barrier (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020), 10.

73 Ibid., 13.

74 Accordingly, see Accessed, June 3, 2023.

How to quote this article:
Anna Lissa,
Created from Animals: Thinking the Human Animal Difference in Jewish and Hebrew Literature,
ed. Anna Lissa,
Quest. Issues in Contemporary Jewish History. Journal of the Fondazione CDEC,
n. 23,
n.1 (2023)
DOI: 10.48248/issn.2037-741X/13900