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Jewish Humane Education Kit
Lesson I: Backup Material Biblical Stories





Backup Material: Contents

Lesson I Backup

Lesson II Backup

Lesson III Backup

Lesson IV Backup

Lesson V & VI Backup

Lesson VII Backup

Lesson VIII Backup

Lesson IX Backup



Judaism & Animals





Jewish tradition embodies the view that good and wise treatment of the animals in our care is so important that it indicates good character and even demonstrates that the person is worthy of being in a position of national responsibility and leadership. Thus, the truly great Jewish heroes of the Bible were trained for their tasks by being shepherds of flocks. They were chosen as leaders of their people because of the kindness they showed to the animals in their care.




Moses was tested by God through his shepherding. When Moses was tending the sheep of Jethro in the wilderness of Midiam, a young kid ran off from the flock. Moses ran after him until he found the kid drinking from a pool of water. Moses approached him and said, "I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty; now you must be tired." So Moses placed the kid on his shoulders and carried him back to the flock. Then God said, "Because thou hast shown mercy in leading the flock, thou will surely tend My flock, Israel."




God also deemed David worthy of leading the Jewish people because he knew how to look after sheep, bestowing upon each the care it needed. David prevented the larger sheep from going out before the smaller ones. The smaller ones were then able to graze upon the tender grass. Next he permitted the old sheep to feed from the ordinary grass, and finally the young, lusty sheep ate the tougher grass.

Midrash, retold by Richard Schwartz
Judaism and Vegetarianism, pp. 18-19




The Torah described Esau, Jacob's twin brother, as "a wild man." Rashi, the great authoritative Torah commentator, interpreted this to mean: "He loved to hunt beasts."




Abraham sent his faithful servant Eliezer on a long journey to his birthplace to find a wife for his son Isaac. Eliezer traveled on the back of a camel, bringing with him other camels laden with gifts. He arrived exhausted, hungry, and thirsty after the long trip through the desert.


Eliezer arrived at the well in the city of Abraham's birth in the evening, the hour when the women of the city came to the well to draw water for their households. He prayed for a sign that would show him the woman who was destined to be Isaac's bride.


As he finished praying, Rebecca came to the well and filled her jug. Eliezer approached her and asked if he could drink a little water from her jug. Rebecca said to him, "Drink and let me draw water for your camels as well." Rebecca's kindness and compassion for animals convinced Eliezer that she was the one destined to be Isaac's bride.

Genesis 24:11-20




The patriarch Jacob also demonstrated concern for animals. After their reconciliation, his brother Esau said to him, "Let us take our journey and I will go at your pace." But Jacob, concerned about his flocks and children, politely told him to go on ahead of him: "My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and that the flocks and the herds giving suck are a care to me; and I will journey on gently, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children...."

Genesis 33:12-14



Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak

When Rabbi Yaakov Yitzhak of Pshiskof was a boy, he would take walks in the field with his father. If he saw sheep fighting and wounding each other with their horns, he would separate them and quiet down the herd. The baby lambs would come up to the boy and cling to him. He would pet them and talk to them in loving words. His uncle said, "This boy is destined to be a faithful shepherd to his people." And so it was. Yaakov Yitzhak became known as "Ha Yehudi" — the model Jew.



Rabbi Shneor Zalman

Rabbi Shneor Zalman of Ladi, who lived in the 18th century, used to like to take walks with his grandson. He often stopped to listen to the songs of the many different birds. His grandson expressed surprise that a famous and important rabbi would spend his time listening to birds. Zalman said to the boy: "You should know, my son, that if every person whose hearing is working properly listens, he can hear in the voice of every bird and beast the voice of God."



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