By Laura Seymour
At camp we have been talking about caring for animals as a Jewish mitzvah. Here is another thought on the subject from taken from Joel Lurie Grishaver and Nachum Amsel’s “A Collection of Ethical Cases and Jewish Answers (Family Bet Din)” and “You Be the Judge 2: Collections of Ethical Cases and Jewish Answers.” A bet din is a Jewish court of law and here is your chance to be the court and the judge.
The Case: Does Shabbat Have to Go to the Dogs?
This case is a common one in many families. Feeding the family pets is a chore that is often the responsibility of the children in the family. In this situation, Josh has forgotten to feed the dog and the family is sitting down to dinner — Shabbat dinner. The dog is barking. Grandma says to feed the dog after the blessings and dinner. Cousin David says that the dog should be fed before the blessings and before the family eats.
You Be the Judge:
Should the dog be fed before the family eats or after? Make your case!
The Sages Decide:
There is a mitzvah called “tzar ba’alei hayyim,” which forbids being cruel to animals and not feeding is being cruel. In the Torah, we read about Rebecca who was kind to the camels and then Moses brought water from the rock for the people and the animals.
Maimonides says, “The sages made it a practice to feed their animals before they tasted anything themselves.” Rashi, in the Talmud, says, “One may even delay ha-motzi in order to feed animals.” Many rabbis have agreed that pets are our responsibility which includes feeding them as they cannot get their own food.
So, did your decision agree with the rabbis? Caring for animals is important and must come even before we take care of ourselves — it is a mitzvah and responsibility!
Shalom, from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.