Tza’ar Baalei Chaim – Is It Permitted to Watch a Bullfight? A Responsum of Harav Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l, based on Yechaveh Da’at 3:61
On 3 Marcheshvan, 5774 (October 7, 2013), 850,000 people attended the largest funeral in Israel’s history, mourning the loss of the beloved Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, zt”l. He was a larger than life figure: brilliant, revolutionary, controversial, misunderstood, saintly, and, most of all, beloved.
“Rav Ovadiah” (as most referred to him)’s influence was most felt in the realm of halachah, by great scholars and by simple folk alike. The social and religious revolution he brought about almost single-handedly focused primarily on raising halachic consciousness among Sefardic Jewry. He left behind an oral and written halachic legacy that includes hundreds – maybe thousands – of public lectures to the masses, together with classic works of responsa, engaging the greatest scholars of the Jewish world.
One of those volumes – perhaps unique in the history of the responsa literature – preserves in writing the contents of his very popular weekly radio show, “Asei Lecha Rav” (“Make for Yourself a Rav”), where he addressed halachic topics in a way accessible to a broad audience. This Ner LeElef Thinking Gemara shiur is based on one of the chapters in the third volume of this work, Yechaveh Da’at.
In this shiur we will follow Rav Ovadiah’s teshuvah (responsum) about a slightly offbeat topic – bullfighting. Through his response to an inquiry about whether it is permissible to watch a bullfight, he relates, in general, to how people should properly relate to animals. From this source, we can get a feel for his straightforward style and a taste of the broad range of sources he drew upon (Rav Ovadiah was known to have a photographic memory, and also had immediate access the contents of thousands of volumes in his massive library).