Question:

My son killed a spider and now feels remorseful. He wants to know if the spider had a soul. I would also like to know which animals have souls.

Answer:

The truth is that not only spiders, but everything, even an amoeba, has a soul. The soul is the embodiment of every created thing's purpose, the reason G‑d created it.

Therefore, we should be careful not to destroy anything without purpose. However, in general we are not prohibited from destroying living organisms when the destruction can benefit us. For example, we are permitted to exterminate mosquitoes so that they don’t cause us discomfort, or to chop down trees to use for building.

The concept of murder applies only to the human being who was created in G‑d’s image. While all of creation needs to be valued and treated respectfully, only human life has absolute value independent of circumstances.1

Please see the article, What is a Soul? and our additional article on The Soul.

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein