Hilchos Monkeys

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Folks – since it is still Adar with two days of Purim around here[1] I just didn’t have the “frame of mind” to prepare a more “normative” post for this week. As such, I thought that I would take this opportunity to share with you some very important halachos concerning monkeys that everyone should know.

I don’t make this stuff up folks! It’s really all there in the sources. Enjoy!

  1. King Solomon had several pet monkeys.[2]
  2. If one’s pet monkey escapes on Shabbat one is permitted to chase after it and recapture it. There is no concern for violating the restrictions of “trapping” or “muktza”.[3]
  3. Although a monkey is not a non-Jew, nevertheless, one is not allowed to have one’s monkey participate in cooking, including putting a pot of food on the fire. Any food prepared by a monkey remains forbidden under the principle of “bishul akum”.[4]
  4. A monkey may not serve as a shochet.[5]
  5. One is permitted to allow one’s monkey to prepare the Eruv Tavshilin.[6]
  6. So too, a monkey may be appointed to serve as one’s shaliach to deliver mishlo’ach manot on Purim.[7]
  7. A monkey that forces itself upon a woman does not disqualify her from marrying a kohen.[8] Yes, this really has happened.[9]
  8. The Midrash says that one who is drunk is comparable to a dancing monkey.[10]
  9. When one comes across a monkey (or elephant) one recites the blessing “Baruch atah….meshaneh habriot”.[11]
  10. There is a Chassidic custom[12]  not to stare at a monkey. This is based on the teaching that the evildoers who built the Tower of Babel were turned into monkeys.[13]
  11. One’s monkey is permitted to pour the water upon one’s hands as required before eating bread[14] (netilat yadayim), though some disagree.[15]
  12. One must always feed one’s monkey before feeding oneself.[16]
  13. Monkeys are disqualified from serving in the Beit Hamikdash in any way.[17]
  14. It seems to be unanimous among the entire spectrum of orthodoxy that a monkey can be honored at a wedding ceremony with the reading of the ketuba.[18]
  15. It is considered inauspicious to dream about monkeys.[19]
  16. There is an opinion that the President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, is actually a monkey.[20] 

[1] https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/02/why-i-observe-two-days-of-purim/

[2] Divrei Hayamim II 9:21.

[3] OC 308:39, 316:12; Mishna Berura 316:57, 328:58; Shaar Hatziun 658:3. The ruling of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilbershtein cited in V’harev Na, V’yakhel.

[4] Shevet Halevi 9:164. See there for more on having your monkeys and other pets help you around the kitchen.

[5] Tosefta, Chullin 1.

[6] Tosefta, Eruvin 2:12; OC 409:8.

[7] Chatam Sofer to Gittin 22b; Piskei Teshuva 148; Chashukei Chemed, Megilla 7a

[8] Masechet Derech Eretz, Arayot, 7.

[9] Yerushalmi, Megilla 4:1.

[10] Tanchuma Noach 12

[11] Berachot 58b, O.C. 225:8

[12] See Tiferet Meshulam p.759, cited in Birurei Chaim 3:19

[13] Sanhedrin 109a, Yalkut Shimoni;Noach

[14] OC 159:12.

[15] Rema, OC 159:12.

[16] Berachot 40a; Gittin 62a.

[17] Zevachim 14a; Menachot 7a, 100b.

[18] First announced by a prominent YU Rosh Yeshiva and later ratified by the Rabbah herself. See: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2004/parsha/rsch_dvorim2.html and http://blogs.jta.org/telegraph/article/2010/03/15/1011127/rabba-sara-speaks

[19] Berachot 57b.

[20] http://www1.albawaba.com/news/israel%E2%80%99s-shas-spiritual-leader-calls-peres-monkey-ben-eliezer-fat-dancing-bear and http://www.bhol-forums.co.il/topic.asp?topic_id=582905&whichpage=&forum_id=771

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com


  1. If your monkey is bad, are you allowed to spank your monkey?

  2. A while back I started some preliminary notes on the permissibility of spanking your kids.

    I guess the same halachos would apply…..


  3. I assume by monkeys the sources are referring to a chimpanzee.

  4. Probably, but its far from certain. A while back I came accross a paper on-line entitled something like “Monkeys in Tanach” (heb.), in which several theories are given.

    Ari Enkin

  5. Glatt some questions

    But is a monkey allowed to read a ketubah? 🙂

  6. Shalom Rosenfeld

    R’ Ari, what about this one?

    ואדני השדה, חיה; רבי יוסי אומר, מטמאות באוהל כאדם

    . (Mishna Kilayim 8:5)

    Tiferes Yisrael says that’s an orangutan.

  7. R’ Shalom

    Thanks for the source!

    Ari Enkin

  8. Shalom Rosenfeld


    R’ Ari, you’re pulling our leg here (or checking who’s awake). That halacha is that if your monkey (or elephant, for that matter) DELIVERED your ERUV TCHUM to the right location before Shabbos, it works.

  9. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Monkey and Eruv Tavshilin … what, you have your monkey cook and bake something? No I know … hm … could someone translate the “bahadein eruva” into Yerkish?

  10. Would the same halachot apply to apes, animals that were unknown to Chazal?

  11. Shalom-

    Ooops! I thought it was Eruv Tavshilim. Really

    If so, I stand corrected. I’ll re-look it up later.


  12. R’ Charlie-

    Yes. And parrots too.

    Ari Enkin

  13. MiMedinat HaYam

    one is allowed to hit children, except teachers on 9 days — rema. (true.) doesnt say anything about non teachers (true.)

    so make sure your children learn from monkeys. (some yeshivot i know have them teaching.)

  14. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Charlie, you’d have to go to the underlying reasoning of each of these:

    1. Moot point.
    2. Would have to look up what the underlying reasoning is.
    3. Most likely the same for apes and chimps.
    4. Same.
    5. Same (provided it’s well-trained).
    6. See 5.
    7. Same.
    8. Of the inebriated folks I’ve encountered on Purim, some danced like apes, some like chimps. CYLOR.
    9. Interesting; my guess is it all depends how it strikes you (that’s the “rationalist” explanation for that halacha, if you go with the kabbalistic one, beats me…)
    10. See 9, CYLHGR (hassidic grand rabbi).
    11. Likely the same.
    12. Definitely the same; cats dogs camels chimps whatever.
    13. Definitely the same.
    14. Tzorech Iyun. Get Rabbis Avi Weiss and Shafran on conference call right away, this is important.
    15. What if you wake up and say, “hm was that a chimp or an ape?” Check your local mekubal.
    16. Tzorech iyun gadol.

  15. Chimps are apes; not all apes are chimps. Apes are not monkeys but they are all primates.

  16. Michael Rogovin

    Actually chimpanzees and orangutans are not monkeys. They are apes (or great apes), a higher form of primate. Monkeys are distinguished from apes by, among other characteristics, a tail. Monkeys were (and I think still are) kept as pets and trained as servants in some near east locales, that is not the case with any species of great ape to the best of my knowledge. I leave it to R Slifkin who occasionally contributes to this blog to comment further on the differences between apes and monkeys both biologically and halachicly. Whether Kof is a generic term in Talmudic Hebrew for a non-human primate or refers exclusively to monkeys is beyond the scope of my knowledge.

  17. Are there any Nafkah Minas as to a Maaseh Kuf and a Maasej Kuf Balma and whether Maaseh Kuf is a Din in the Cheftzah or Gavra, or whether a Maaseh Kuf is a Hidur,Lchahtchilah, Bdieved, etc?

  18. Steve-

    I never put any thought into this. Maaseh kof can only be bdieved.

    Ari Enkin

  19. Stop monkeying around 🙂

  20. R Ari and R Gil are too holy to know this but references to spanking monkeys are inappropriate and should be deleted (including this post).

  21. Items 1 and 15 are not halachic even by the standards of Purim Torah. Item 16 is a gratuitous dig that has no place here.

  22. J.I.-

    Thanks for that.

    I think I took care of what needed to be taken care of.

    Ari Enkin

  23. I checked Piskei Tshuva (footnote 7) – no mention of monkeys there.
    Also Shevet Halevi (footnote 4).
    Ari, are you using the term “monkey” in the abstract sense?

  24. Anon-

    A big shkoyach to you on the homework!

    Re: footnote 7-

    The Chatam Sofer and the Chashukei Chemed mention “kof”. I did not see the Piskei Teshuva inside. I saw it quoted somewhere else.

    Re: Footnote 4-

    The Shevet Halaevi discusses a “baal chai” It seems to be obvious that it can only be referring to a monkey. The Rav Zilbershtein reference in footnote 3 says that as well.


    Ari Enkin

  25. Re Shevet Halevi – Do I understand correctly that there’s only a problem of bishul akum if the animal belongs to a non-Jew?

  26. Shlomo-

    If I understand correctly — it makes no difference. Even a “Jewish monkey” still cant cook for you.

    Ari Enkin

  27. If I understand correctly – the law of bishul akum applies because the monkey’s action is considered an indirect action by the owner. Thus, with a Jewish owner there would be no problem.

  28. Anon-

    He says that a Jew must be involved in the cooking. There are no other loopholes.

    Ari Enkin

  29. …actually I should have said “There is no monkey-business allowed”

    Ari Enkin

  30. MiMedinat HaYam

    anything a monkey cooks “eino oleh al shulchan m’lachim”

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