Watching the monkeys in the zoo depicts a beautiful scene, each one displaying great empathy and love for each other. Big monkeys hover protectively over the smaller ones, the epitome of a peaceful and caring environment.

The zookeeper comes towards them with a great big bunch of bananas. The serene ambiance quickly becomes chaos. The once-protective, larger monkeys push around the younger ones, as they all let loose. It’s banana war!

Selflessness is replaced with selfishness, and harmony with conflict...

This week's Torah portion contains the famous second paragraph of the Shema that outlines the rewards and benefits when we observe the commandments.

"…and I will give grass in the field for your animals, and you will eat and be satisfied" (Deut 11:15)

The Talmud (Brachot 40a) states on this verse that a person is obligated to feed his animals in the morning before he himself eats.

A beautiful mitzvah, and lesson that comes with it.

Feeding our animals before ourselves is to teach us to have compassion for all living creatures. Even when we are hungry, our first thoughts should be of helping those who are unable to help themselves.

Someone who owns an animal will have this opportunity for a daily lesson, gaining more sensitivity to the needs of others.

It takes great strength to stop and think of others when we ourselves are in need. A monkey may not have that ability, but a human certainly does!

Kindness involves sacrifice, it involves being able to put someone else's needs above our own, even when we ourselves might be hungry.

Shabbat Shalom!

(Ideas adapted from Growth through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and Building blocks of Chesed by Rabbi Y Yodaikin)