Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Be Kind To Animals
The Torah way is to be kind and compassionate to all living creatures. In this week's Torah portion (Deuteronomy, 22:10), we learn that a farmer shouldn't make two different types of animals work together, as it will upset them. God wants us not only to be sensitive to an animal's physical pain, but even to its feelings.
In our story, a young girl discovers a new way to be kind to animals.
HOP, SKIP, AND A JUMP
Shari Smith was walking along the trail behind her bunk, enjoying the sunshine and cool breeze of the early morning. She loved taking a little stroll before everyone else woke up - everything was so quiet and pretty.
She bent down for a moment to tie her shoe and was completely surprised to find four tiny baby rabbits hiding in the grass! Huddled together and sniffing around, they were probably waiting for their mother to return with some food. They looked so cute! She immediately picked one up and held its soft fur to her face, and decided she was going to keep him.
Shari ran back to her bunk and took one of her shoeboxes down to make him a little bed. She made so much noise that her bunkmates started to awaken. They asked what she was doing, and she showed them her new pet.
"He's so small! Where did you find him?"
"In the tall grass behind the bunk, there are some others there. You can go take them for yourself. This one is mine!"
Miriam, the youngest in the bunk, looked concerned. "Shari, how could you do that?"
"How could you take him away from his mother? How is he going to survive?"
"No problem. I'll feed him lettuce from my leftover salad at lunch - I never eat it anyway - and I'll give him water. He'll do fine."
Miriam shook her head. "I don't know. It's not easy to take proper care of a baby animal. But even if you can feed him, he's going to miss his mother so much and imagine how sad she's going to feel to find him gone!"
Shari laughed nervously. "Oh, come on Miriam. Now you're going way too far. What's the big deal? They're just dumb animals. The mother won't even realize he's gone!"
"Not true. She's going to feel so lonely having one of her babies away from her!"
With that, Miriam went quiet and turned away. Shari tried to ignore the sad look on her friend's face. She was probably just jealous that she didn't have a cool pet of her own. Yet as the day went on, she just couldn't get her friend's words out of her mind.
Later on that day, Shari joyfully ran to the office after hearing an announcement that she had a phone call.
"Hi Mom! Yes, I'm having a great time! Thank you so much for sending me to camp! You, you what? You miss me? What did you just say? That it feels lonely having one of your babies away from you? ...Um, um, I miss you a lot too, but now I've got to go, okay Mom? Bye!"
Shari stood next to the phone for a long minute after her mother had hung up. She felt like her mother's words - the same as Miriam's - were almost like a message to her from heaven or something.
"Shari, are you okay?" asked the secretary.
"Yes, I'm fine! Excellent, in fact."
She ran back to her bunk and scooped up the baby rabbit as carefully as she could. 'I hope I find the spot where the other ones are. Oh, please let me find them!' she whispered to herself. Finally she came upon the other baby rabbits, this time with their mother stomping around anxiously next to them. Shari had never been happier to be part of a 'family' reunion.
"Here you go, little bunny. Back to your mommy," she said, as she gently placed the rabbit down and scooted away. Though Shari couldn't be sure that the rabbits felt better, she knew for sure that she felt better for being kind enough to care.
Q. How did Shari feel at first about taking the baby rabbit away from its mother?
A. She felt like it didn't matter.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt that the animals' feelings were important and she should give it back.
Q. What life lesson do you think Shari learned that day?
A. She had let her own feelings of wanting a pet make her ignore whether taking the rabbit would be upsetting for the rabbit or its mother. Her friend's concern made her think again and decide that a kind person cares about all feelings - even animals'.
Q. Do you think animals really have feelings like people do?
A. While they don't have the same level of intelligence and sensitivity that humans do, they certainly do have basic feelings and we should try our best not to cause them pain.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Does being kind to animals mean that we should never eat meat or use animals for our needs?
A. While God allows us to use animals for our legitimate needs, He also wants us to respect all life and not abuse or cause unnecessary pain to any creature. It is a delicate balance, but one a kind and spiritual person must learn to make.
Q. How can we properly make that balance?
A. The Torah expresses God's guidelines concerning the most spiritual, ethical and balanced behavior in all areas of life, including how to treat animals. Among the Torah's many guidelines in this area, are that we should feed our animals each morning even before we feed ourselves. We shouldn't hunt or trap animals for sport and that when a person rests on the Sabbath he should allow his animals to rest the whole day too!