Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Kindness to Animals

Animals are one of the most important “educational tools” God provided to humanity in order to teach them to be “givers.” While animals can’t communicate with the same ability as humans, they are God’s creations and express basic feelings such as pain, hunger, satisfaction and, many would argue, loyalty and love.

Jewish law teaches us that when a person assumes responsibility for an animal, whether a pet or a farm-animal, care of the animal becomes a top priority. In Talmud Berachot 40a, Rabbi Judah quotes Rav as saying: “It is forbidden for a person to eat until one has fed one's animals, since the verse states, ‘and I will provide grass in your field for your cattle,’ and only then does it say, ‘and you will eat and you will be satisfied’” (Deuteronomy 11:15).

It is from the matriarch Rebecca that we learn about kindness to animals. When Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, who is seeking a wife for Isaac, meets Rebecca at her town well, she gives him a drink of water and then says: “I will draw for your camels as well, until they have done drinking” (Genesis 24:19). She ran to the well numerous times to ensure that the camels were properly satiated. (The reason she did not offer to water the camels first was because they were not hers. Additionally, there is an opinion that water, unlike food, should first be given to humans for the sake of pikuach nefesh, saving a life.)

While the obligation does not include animals at large (such as stray cats), the principle itself is intended to make one much more aware of the ways in which he/she can be kinder to all animals and, indeed, to all people.

This Treat was originally published on November 10, 2009.



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