This week’s value: being kind to animals

Dear Families,

Each summer we focus on values that we can DO! This summer, more than ever, we need to unplug from our computers and devices. At the J camps, all the children and the families get involved. There is a little learning, a little thinking and then a lot of doing!! Get involved with us this summer. The value for this week is: tzaar baalei chayim, being kind to 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, and 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


  • 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?

Do something ‘Jewish unplugged’

What can you do to help animals? Go to Operation Kindness or the animal shelter — see how you can help. Buy a bag of dog food or snacks and give to the shelters.

Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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