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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 27, 2009 / 6 Av 5769

Animals' relationship with mankind, Part II

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir





http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Last week we saw that the book of Genesis shows that from the dawn of man's creation, he is in a close relationship with his animal companions, a relationship that partakes of both lordship and fellowship. Later we find that the Torah includes a number of commandments involving mercy towards animals. This week we will examine some of these commandments.


In the Ten Commandments we find: "Six days shall you work, and do all your labor. And the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your G-d; don't do any labor — you, and your son, and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant and your beast, and the sojourner in your gate"(Exodus 20:8-9). A little later the Torah elaborates: "Six days shall you do your tasks and on the seventh day rest, in order that your ox and your ass shall rest, and the son of the maidservant and the sojourner be refreshed"(Exodus 23:12).


In the same chapter, we find: "If you see [even] your enemy's ass struggling under his load, don't refrain from helping him; surely help him [to unload]" (Exodus 23:5). According to the Talmud, this is one source for learning the prohibition of animal suffering. (1)


In the book of Deuteronomy (12:21), we find the commandment to slaughter animals before we may eat them: "Slaughter from your herd and your flock which the Lord your God gave you, as I commanded you; and [then] eat in your gates according to what your soul desires." Many commentators, including Sefer Hachinuch, express the opinion that one purpose of this commandment is that kosher slaughter is a humane way of killing that causes only minimal suffering to the animal.


In chapter 22 (verses 6-7), we find the commandment to send away the mother bird before taking the eggs for our own use. The commentators explain that seeing the eggs taken away causes distress to the mother, which is partially alleviated by sending her away.


A few verses later (Deuteronomy 22:9) we find the prohibition on plowing with two different kinds of animals. The Sefer Hachinuch suggests that plowing with another kind of animal causes distress to draft animals.


Later in the same book we find, "Don't muzzle the ox as it threshes"(Deuteronomy 25:4). Again the Chinuch explains that it is stressful for the animal to be surrounded by food but unable to eat.


One thing we notice from these commandments is that they go far beyond merely avoiding active cruelty to animals. In most cases the commandment is to take positive action to alleviate distress, and in many cases it is distress that falls short of actual cruelty.


Another thing we notice is that commandments are ultimately limited in scope. Only animals belonging to a Jew, who himself is commanded to keep the Sabbath, needs to be given rest on the Sabbath; humane kosher slaughter is a requirement only when the animal is to be eaten, but not for example if it is needed for fur or leather. While we many not muzzle an ox as it threshes, there is no general requirement to allow animals to eat freely; this commandment refers specifically to when it is actually working with the food.


I believe that these two aspects are related. Ethical obligations to animals are commensurate with the benefit they provide us, and our relationship with them. Animals that work for us all week long rest on the Sabbath day; animals that help us with our loads should be helped when they are overburdened; animals which provide us with vital sustenance need to be slaughtered in a humane fashion.


Cruelty is of course forbidden towards any creature, but the higher levels of obligation are commensurate with the degree of connection with and benefit from the animal.


This answers what some people consider a paradox of the Jewish approach to animals. Some people ask, if Judaism acknowledges ethical duties towards animals, why does it let us use them for our benefit? In fact, the duties to animals are a consequence of the benefit we derive from them. Ethical duties don't arise in a vacuum; they generally stem from a combination of empathy and reciprocity. Reciprocity doesn't have to mean tit for tat; animals won't go on strike and refuse to help us if some people treat them meanly. In this context, reciprocity means that we acknowledge the benefit animals provide us and requite it with basic standards of humane treatment.


Next week we will study in more detail the nature of animal suffering rules in Judaism, and their relationship to the underlying principles we have examined so far.

SOURCE: (1) Bava Metzia 31a

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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