Adamah Farm at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. (Courtesy of Hazon)

Being Kind to Animals

We must remember that respect for the living creatures in this world is also an important value.

Commentary on Parashat Emor, Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23

We spend a lot of time reminding ourselves how important it is to be kind to one another. We speak about seeing each person’s humanity and treating others the way that we would want to be treated. But what happens when that “other” is not a person but an animal? We must remember that respect for the living creatures in this world is also an important value.

This week’s Torah portion includes laws about properly treating animals. The very fact that these laws exist says a lot about Judaism’s appreciation of the role of animals in our lives. Humans and animals both have emotions. The Torah is teaching us to be sensitive to the animals we encounter in our lives.

In the theme song from the 1967 musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” Charlie’s friends list all of the things they like about him. One line reads, “You are kind to all the animals and every little bird.” Being kind to animals can make us better humans. We can measure ourselves by the way we treat the world around us, and animals are part of that world.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about their encounters with animals.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

· What role do animals play in your life?

· How have you been kind to or helped an animal?

· Can you think of an example where an animal is kind to or helps a human?

From “Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today,” available from Behrman House Publishers.

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