I have read that the although the halakha requires koah gever (human strength/exertion) for pouring water over hands for n'ttilath yadhayim but it says explicitly in the Mishna that a qof (monkey) may also validly perform this function (m.Yadhayim 1:5).

Also, I have read that there was a creature called Adhne HaSadhe and that Rabi Yose expressed the view that this creature caused Tumath Ohel just like a human when dead (m.Kilayim 8:5). The Tiphereth Yisra'el on this Mishna states that the Adhne HaSadhe are gorillas.

My question is: "Are we meant to understand by the halakha that primates are considered 'human enough'? Are there other areas where they are considered partially human not mentioned above?"

  • its important to note that this is a minority opinion in the mishna in Kilayim i.e. the halacha would not be in accordance with Rabbi Yose.
    – bondonk
    Dec 10, 2013 at 1:48
  • @bondonk, Understood and point taken. However, when the first halakha does exist and is brought in the codes (i.e. Rambam/Shulhan Arukh), the second Mishna can be understood in a broader to be referring to a possible underlying concept even if it is not the halakha p'suqa. Thanks again and kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Dec 10, 2013 at 1:51
  • I'm not convinced that a gorilla would count as a "qof". according to the Tiferet Yisrael -- maybe "qof" only refers to primates that are less human-like than gorillas.
    – user3318
    Dec 10, 2013 at 2:56
  • Note that some sources (such as the Yerushalmi) think that adnei hassadeh is a reference to people who live in the wild.
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 10, 2013 at 2:58
  • 2
    The Tiferes Yisrael spells out "Orangutan", not "gorilla", by the way.
    – Shalom
    Apr 2, 2017 at 10:01

3 Answers 3


To understand whether or not primates are considered to be "Human Enough" in certain cases requires one to first understand the reasoning of the opinions in the Mishnayos cited.

Regarding the Mishna in Yadayim 1:5, Rav Ovadia M'Bartenura as well as the Tiferes Yisrael (Yachin) explain that the reason why a Kof is able to do a valid Netilah for washing of hands is because the Tanna Kama only requires that pouring come from a living being, not necessarily a human.

Here is a quote from the Tiferes Yisrael (ibid.)

(Sources from Sefaria.org)

והקוף לאו דוקא קוף. אלא ה"ה כשנוטל ע"י כח שום בע"ח. רק אורחא דמילתא נקט דקוף עשוי ללמדו כך. וס"ל דכח בע"ח בעלמא סגי לנט"י. ואין צריך כח אדם. אבל במים שנוזלים ממילא בלי כח בע"ח. מודה דפסולין לנט"י:

And a monkey... etc.: Not specifically an ape, rather (the Mishna means) when one washes his hands through any living being (it is permitted), it is only a way of expressing for a monkey is able to be taught such (i.e. to wash someone else's hands). (The Tanna Kama holds) that the action (of pouring) of a living being is enough for Netilas Yadayim and does not require action of a human. However with water that flows on its own without any action from a living being (the Tanna Kama) agrees that it is invalid for Netlas Yadayim

To summarize: According to the Tanna Kama in the Mishna, the permitting of a monkey to do Netilas Yadayim for another individual is based on the requirement that the pouring come from a living being, not necessarily a Human.

Regarding the Mishna in Kilayim 8:5 Rabbi Yose says that Adne HaSadeh convey Tumas Ohel like a human does. The Tiferes Yisael (Yachin) explains that "Orangutans" (see translation ibid.) due to their similarity in appearance to that of humans, Rabbi Yose holds due to their similarity to humans, they would convey Tumas Ohel like humans.

(I am not citing the Tiferes Yisrael because it would be repetitive, but I recommend seeing it there.)


Additonally, the Rash MiShantz ( I found this from Sefaria) cites the Yerushalmi which implies that the Adne HaSadeh were a derivation of the human species (the Bartenura quotes this Yerushalmi also).

(Partial Quote)

ירושלמי (הל' ד') אמר רבי חמא ברבי עוקבא בשם רבי יוסי ברבי חנינא טעמא דרבי יוסי וכל אשר יגע על פני השדה (במדבר יט) בגדל מן השדה כלומר מין אדם הוא

Yerushalmi (Halacha 4): Rabbi Chama son of Rabbi Ukva said in the name of Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Chanina the reason of Rabbi Yose (is from) "And anyone who touches in the open etc"(Numbers 19:16) which is raised from the ground, meaning (the Adne HaSadeh) is a species of human 1

In conclusion based on the Mishnayos stated and the Mepharshim cited. It is of my humble opinion (take that with a grain of salt,) that the only time we would consider apes to be "Human Enough" would be specifically regarding Tumah. A support to this claim can be noted in the Mishna in Yadayim (ibid.) where Rabbi Yose does not consider an ape to be valid for being able to properly wash someones hands (see Rav Ovadia M'Bartenura, for the effort exerted is not a human one, which the he requires for Netilas Yadayim).

To say anything beyond the possibility of conveying Tumah according to a single opinion presents challenges in light of the sources brought, therefore to consider primates as human in any other context would be difficult to say.

Hope this is insightful!

1On a side note, the Sefer HaChinuch provides a description of the Adne HaSadeh explaining that this is the Yadua cited in Leviticus 20:27

  • @רבותמחשבות Noted and edited. Mar 8, 2018 at 5:03

As noted here, R. Yosef Albo (Sefer ha-Ikkarim 3:1) writes that:

Coral is intermediate between inanimate matter and plants. We also find the sea sponge, which only has the sense of touch, and is an intermediate between plant and animal stages. We also find the monkey to be intermediate between animals and man.

This idea is repeated, for example by R. Moshe Isserles (the Rema) in his commentary מחיר יין, on מגילת אסתר, א:ו, and is ultimately based on Aristotle's classifications. This idea is also cited in the name of the Arizal (see, e.g., Ne'ot Ha-Deshe, Devarim 2). However, this was not written in a halakhic context, and it is unclear whether it would have halakhic ramifications.

In a halakhic context, the Torat Kohanim (Parshat Shemini, 6:5) explains the verse כל הולך על כפיו to include the monkey in the law of נבלת בהמה. The Ravad in his commentary explains:

והא דאמרינן הולך על כפיו זה הקוף רבותא קאמר שאעפ"י שדומה בצורתו לאדם ובאצבעות ידיו ורגליו כאדם אעפ"כ טומאתו כבהמה

In other words, the Torat Kohanim requires an additional דרשה to teach us that monkeys are included in this law, because otherwise we may have thought that monkeys follow the rules for humans with regard to טומאה.

See also R. Chaim Kanievsky's discussion of whether one can write a tattoo on the species known as אדני השדה here. He concludes that there may be a three-way dispute as to whether it is viewed as a plant, animal, or human.

  • "and is ultimately based on Aristotle's classifications" - where did that come from??
    – ray
    Apr 3, 2017 at 20:53
  • @ray en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristotle%27s_biology, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_chain_of_being I'm not sure if Aristotle applied this to apes, but he did say it about sea sponges
    – wfb
    Apr 3, 2017 at 21:43
  • how do you know that he originated that idea?
    – ray
    Apr 3, 2017 at 21:54
  • @ray b/c he is the earliest source for it
    – wfb
    Apr 3, 2017 at 22:03
  • @ray where is it in chazal?
    – wfb
    Apr 4, 2017 at 13:10

R. Yaakov Kamenetzky seems to link the law of a monkey washing hands to the aggadah that the people of the Tower of Babylon were turned into monkeys. The explanation might be that it is considered like human power because monkeys were originally humans.

Emes L'Yaakov O.C. 225:8

עלה בדעתי לומר דהנה בפ' חלק דף ק"ט ע"א אמרינן דאנשי דור הפלגה נעשו קופין וא"כ נבין מדוע מברכין עליהן משנה הבריות והיינו שהיו בריות ונשתנו לחיות והנה הרמב"ם בפ"ו מברכות הלי"ג כתב שקוף כשר לנטילת ידים והראב"ד תמה עליו דהא בעינן כח גברא ועיי"ש בכס"מ שהסתפק דשמא קוף דוקא ולא שאר בע"ח ועיין במגדל עוז שהביא מסוגיא דעירובין ומסוגיא דמעילה דמעשה קוף ופיל נחשב למעשה עיי"ש אבל לכאורה לא מצינו שהפיל נשתנה מבני אדם אבל אי נימא שזה כונת הגמרא הכא והיינו שקוף ופיל היו בני אדם ונשתנו לחיות וכן קיפוף כתב רש"י שיש לו לחיים כמו בן אדם א"כ אפשר דכולם היו בני אדם ונשתנו וא"כ יהי' מכאן מקור להסוגיא בעירובין ומעילה שם ודו"ק בזה

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