Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cruelty to Animals

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlit”a, once gave a very inspiring talk on the prohibition to cause pain even to animals. “The verse in Nitzavim adjures us to cleave to Hashem—ולדבקה בו. Chazal explain that although one cannot literally cleave to Hashem, we can emulate His attributes. Just as He is merciful and gracious, so should we emulate His ways. It is very simple to determine whether a person truly emulates Hashem: just observe his actions. How does he treat animals, for example?
“This topic in general is a very important one. Very often, one finds that when children go to the zoo, they delight in pestering the animals. They throw objects into the cages, and sometimes even throw stones at the hapless creatures to see how they will react. Of course such actions scare the animals and cause them pain. Strangely, their parents often do not rebuke them for violating the prohibition of tzar balei chaim, and we can only conclude that this sin is not known to many.
“The Sefer Chasidim point out that a person will be brought to judgment for any needless pain he caused to animals. Even overloading an animal and striking it when it cannot walk on account of being overburdened will be cause for judgment. In addition, those who pull the ears of cats to hear their cries of pain are sinners.
The verse states, ‘וביום ההוא נאום ה' מכה כל סוס בתמהון ורוכבו בשגעון’—‘This is the promise of Hashem: On that day, anyone who strikes a horse will be struck with confusion, and who rides it will be struck with madness.’ Our sages teach on this verse that Hashem will collect payment from riders of horses who kicked their horses needlessly.
“Instead, we should use the time at the zoo to point out to our children the wonders of creation. Each animal or bird is designed exactly as he should be in order to survive in his environment. Some have scales, others fly while others have a protective house on their backs. There is no end to the lessons and wonder one can extract from focusing on the animals in the right way with the proper guidance.”

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