Caring for the environment and for animals should not be considered anathema to true Torah Judaism. Emphasis in Torah learning is usually placed on loving one’s fellow man as oneself, but caring for animals is a vital part of nurturing one’s soul appropriately too.
The Torah speaks about the Mitzvah of Tzaar Baalei Chaim – or “harm to animals” and rules in the strongest of terms that one should avoid hurting animals in any way whatsoever.
Some examples of kindness to animals include:
When it comes to eating, we must feed our animals before we ourselves eat.
When it comes to plowing with two animals together, we may not plow with an ox and a donkey together (the strong and weaker animal.)
When it comes to seeing an animal with an excess burden, we must even unload the animal belonging to one’s enemy – because of the pain that the animal experiences.
While animals are Muktze (forbidden to move) on Shabbat, there are a variety of laws that allow for caring for an animal that is found in a distressful situation.
Just two Parshiyot into the Torah, and the theme surrounds a man (Noach) being commanded to take at least two of every animal into the ark with him. There, he must spend a year taking care of every one of them. It is an animal (the dove) that is flown outside the ark to check that the land has dried (showing it importance and value to man.)
The Torah is replete with further stories about the unique natures of animals – and how they interact with man, very often for the good (showing the true nature of an animal that respects a human being) as we find in the story of Daniel in the Lions’ den.
We may not kill animals for no purpose. Animals must rest on the Shabbat day – just as a Jew does. The Jew may not work it in any way. We may not take away the eggs of a mother bird in the presence of their mother – with the Torah going so far as to offer the reward of length of days to one who sends away the mother bird before taking the eggs (when Halacha allows for this of course – and not just for the sake of doing so.)
The laws concerning cruelty to animals are numerous – but one thing is clear, animals provide assistance to people. They have real feelings and must be treated with the respect the Torah requires.
In today’s times, especially among many families who have never interacted with animals on a regular basis, animal cruelty can be a norm. Adults may throw out kittens born to a wild cat, that have been born in a storage room of theirs. Children – very often knowing nothing about the nature of an animal – may enjoy watching a gold fish “swim” in a plastic ice-cream box because it looks like fun! Other children may strike a donkey used for giving the children rides at a park – simply because they think this is the normal way to behave to make the animal walk! Yet others may chase birds eating peacefully – just to watch them as they are forced to fly away. Others may find caging a kitten in a tiny cage and carrying it around as their friends gather to see the “cute” kitten – an absolute delight.
It doesn’t take much to look around the world today to see how much cruelty is being done to animals. This should not be so, and we at Chessed Ve’Emet are committed to teaching the Torah’s beautiful values of kindness to animals. We have already published our first book “Tuvia Finds His Freedom” – a story book for children, accompanied with pictures – to teach about the importance of caring for animals and learning how not to be cruel. We already have further ideas for future books aimed at reaching children – because once children learn about the beauty of animals, they will grow up to value them too.
If you value the Mitzvah of being kind to animals and would like to assist us in furthering our goals in writing more books or would like to find out about our further projects in this area, please contact us. We can do with all the support available as we reach out in educating others about the beautiful values of Torah – as they reach out to all areas of life!
BOOK READING FOR CHILDREN IN PERSON
If you would like a personal book reading of our book, please contact us. We will come through to your school or other location and read our book to the children – giving them the opportunity to learn more about this subject, ask questions and find out how important it is to care for animals.