Caring for animals Jewishly
By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,
seymourforweb2Those of you on the J Facebook page may have seen the pictures posted of the Dallas firefighters saving 12 ducklings who fell down the drain at the J.
Just last week during camp, campers found a little bird that had fallen out of a nest. With the help of our J staff, we discovered what to do if you find a baby bird thanks to and where to call if you find one — we called Eastlake Vet Hospital on Northwest Highway.
We also learned a lot about the Jewish perspective on taking care of animals.
Being kind to animals goes all the way back to Noah and the animals on the ark. The rabbis wrote much about the responsibility that people have for animals. “Tzaar Baalei Chayim” literally means “compassion for the pain of living creatures.”
There are many different mitzvot that come from this concept of caring for animals. Judaism teaches us that we must always care for those who need us. Animals cannot care for themselves so it falls to us to protect them.
You must not eat your own meal until you have seen to it that all your animals have been fed.

— Talmud, Berachot 40a

When you see your enemy’s donkey lying under its load and would like to leave it alone, you must nevertheless help it get on its feet.

— Exodus 23:5

If you come across a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground, and the nest has young birds or even eggs, and the mother is sitting with her young, do not take the mother together with her children. Let the mother go and take only the young — so that you may fare well and live a long life.

— Deuteronomy 22:6

When animals lose their young, they suffer great pain. There is no difference between human pain and the pain of other living creatures.

— Moses Maimonides

Here are a few things to think and talk about:

  • Based on what Judaism says, should we keep animals in a zoo? Why or why not?
  • How can you help animals in our community?
  • How do animals communicate with us?
  • Should we use animals for research?
  • What can you do to help animals?

Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas.

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