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Animal Cruelty – On Second Thought

On Second Thought: Delving Into the Sugya with Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

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Bava Metzia 33-34

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בבא מציעא לב-לג

From the statements of both of these tanna’im it can be learned that the requirement to prevent suffering to animals is by Torah law.

 

שמות כ״ג:ה׳

(ה) כִּֽי־תִרְאֶ֞ה חֲמ֣וֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ֗ רֹבֵץ֙ תַּ֣חַת מַשָּׂא֔וֹ וְחָדַלְתָּ֖ מֵעֲזֹ֣ב ל֑וֹ עָזֹ֥ב תַּעֲזֹ֖ב עִמּֽוֹ׃ {ס} 

Exodus 23:5

When you see the ass of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him. 

 

דברים כ״ה:ד׳ – (ד) לֹא־תַחְסֹ֥ם שׁ֖וֹר בְּדִישֽׁוֹ׃ {ס} 

Deuteronomy 25:4 –  You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing.

דברים כב לב

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְהֹוָ֔ה עַל־מָ֗ה הִכִּ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־אֲתֹ֣נְךָ֔ זֶ֖ה שָׁל֣וֹשׁ רְגָלִ֑ים הִנֵּ֤ה אָנֹכִי֙ יָצָ֣אתִי לְשָׂטָ֔ן כִּֽי־יָרַ֥ט הַדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְנֶגְדִּֽי׃ 

 

The messenger of יהוה said to him, “Why have you beaten your ass these three times? It is I who came out as an adversary, for the errand is obnoxious to me.

 

בבא מציעא פה

עַל יְדֵי מַעֲשֶׂה בָּאוּ מַאי הִיא דְּהָהוּא עִגְלָא דַּהֲווֹ קָא מַמְטוּ לֵיהּ לִשְׁחִיטָה אֲזַל תַּלְיֵאּ לְרֵישֵׁיהּ בְּכַנְפֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי וְקָא בָכֵי אֲמַר לֵיהּ זִיל לְכָךְ נוֹצַרְתָּ אָמְרִי הוֹאִיל וְלָא קָא מְרַחֵם לֵיתוֹ עֲלֵיהּ יִסּוּרִין 

The Gemara stated that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s suffering came upon him due to an incident. What was that incident that led to his suffering? The Gemara answers that there was a certain calf that was being led to slaughter. The calf went and hung its head on the corner of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi’s garment and was weeping. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to it: Go, as you were created for this purpose. It was said in Heaven: Since he was not compassionate toward the calf, let afflictions come upon him. 

וְעַל יְדֵי מַעֲשֶׂה הָלְכוּ יוֹמָא חַד הֲוָה קָא כָנְשָׁא אַמְּתֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי בֵּיתָא הֲוָה שָׁדְיָא בְּנֵי כַּרְכּוּשְׁתָּא וְקָא כָנְשָׁא לְהוּ אֲמַר לַהּ שִׁבְקִינְהוּ כְּתִיב וְרַחֲמָיו עַל כׇּל מַעֲשָׂיו אֲמַרוּ הוֹאִיל וּמְרַחֵם נְרַחֵם עֲלֵיהּ 

The Gemara explains the statement: And left him due to another incident. One day, the maidservant of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was sweeping his house. There were young weasels [karkushta] lying about, and she was in the process of sweeping them out. Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said to her: Let them be, as it is written: “The Lord is good to all; and His mercies are over all His works” (Psalms 145:9). They said in Heaven: Since he was compassionate, we shall be compassionate on him, and he

 

Shemot Rabbah 2:2

Our teachers have said: Once, while Moses our Teacher was tending [his father-in-law] Yitro’s sheep, one of the sheep ran away. Moses ran after it until it reached a small, shaded place. There, the lamb came across a pool and began to drink. As Moses approached the lamb, he said, “I did not know you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so exhausted!” He then put the lamb on his shoulders and carried him back. The Holy One said, “Since you tend the sheep of human beings with such overwhelming love – by your life, I swear you shall be the shepherd of My sheep, Israel.”

 

Maimonides Guide of the Perplexed (3, 17)

There is a rule laid down by our Sages that it is directly prohibited in the Law to cause pain to an animal, and is based on the words: “Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass?” etc. (Num. 22:32). But the object of this rule is to make us perfect; that we should not assume cruel habits: and that we should not uselessly cause pain to others: that, on the contrary, we should be prepared to show pity and mercy to all living creatures, except when necessity demands the contrary: “When thy soul longeth to eat flesh,” etc. (Deut. 12:20). We should not kill animals for the purpose of practising cruelty, or for the purpose of play.

Sefer HaChinukh 451:3

It has also been said as to the reason for shechitah from the neck, and with a checked knife, that we not cause more pain to an animal than is necessary. Because the Torah allowed people to eat animals and [to use them[ for all his needs, but not to pain them for no reason. The sages have already spoken at length about the prohibition of harming animals in Bava Metzia 32a, Shabbat 128b, on the question of whether it is forbidden from the Torah. And they concluded that apparently it is a Torah prohibition.

 

Sefer HaChinukh 596

(1) To not muzzle an animal at the time of its work:…

(2) It is from the roots of the commandment [that it is] to teach ourselves that our souls be a good soul that chooses what is right and clings to it and pursues kindness and mercy. And in our accustoming it to this – even with animals that were only created to serve us, to be concerned for them to distribute to them a portion of the toil of their flesh – the soul will take for itself the way of this habit; to do good to people and to guard from taking access away from them for anything that is appropriate for them, and to repay their reward according to all the good that they do and to satiate them with that upon which they toiled. And it is fitting for the holy chosen nation to follow this way

 

Shulchan Arukh, Even HaEzer 5:14

Rama: Anything needed for healing or other reasons, there is no prohibition of “causing pain to animals” (Issur V’Heter Extended 59). And therefore it is permitted to pluck the feathers of wild geese, and there is no potential problem of “causing pain to animals” (Mahar”i 105). Nevertheless, the world withholds from it because of its cruelty

 

משלי י״ב:י׳ – (י) יוֹדֵ֣עַ צַ֭דִּיק נֶ֣פֶשׁ בְּהֶמְתּ֑וֹ וְֽרַחֲמֵ֥י רְ֝שָׁעִ֗ים אַכְזָרִֽי׃ 

Proverbs 12:10

A righteous man knows the needs of his beast ,But the compassion of the wicked is cruelty.

 

תהילים קמ״ה

(ט) טוֹב־יי לַכֹּ֑ל וְ֝רַחֲמָ֗יו עַל־כָּל־מַעֲשָֽׂיו׃ (י) יוֹד֣וּךָ יי כָּל־מַעֲשֶׂ֑יךָ וַ֝חֲסִידֶ֗יךָ…. (טו) עֵֽינֵי־כֹ֭ל אֵלֶ֣יךָ יְשַׂבֵּ֑רוּ וְאַתָּ֤ה נֽוֹתֵן־לָהֶ֖ם אֶת־אָכְלָ֣ם בְּעִתּֽוֹ׃ (טז) פּוֹתֵ֥חַ אֶת־יָדֶ֑ךָ וּמַשְׂבִּ֖יעַ לְכָל־חַ֣י רָצֽוֹן׃

Psalms 145

(9) Hashem is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works…..(15) The eyes of all look to You expectantly, and You give them their food when it is due. (16) You give it openhandedly, feeding every creature to its heart’s content.

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer

Rabbanit Yafit Clymer is a senior lecturer in Jewish Studies at the several Matan learning centers, at 'Emunah' and WebYeshiva. She is a group instructor for various programs. Rabbanit Clymer is part of the steering committee of the 'Beit Hillel' organization and answers halachic questions online as a part of their Meshivat Nefesh project.
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