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Jewish Humane Education Kit
Lesson VII: 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





We also have responsibilities toward animals we encounter, to prevent their pain (law of helping an overburdened donkey), hunger and thirst (Rabbi Leib), abandonment (Rabbi Salanter), and emotional suffering (Rabbi Zusya).



Rabbi Israel Salanter

Rabbi Israel Salanter, one of the most distinguished Orthodox Rabbis of the nineteenth century, failed to appear one Yom Kippur eve to chant the Kol Nidre Prayer. His congregation became concerned, for it was inconceivable that their saintly rabbi would be late or absent on this very holy day. They sent out a search party to look for him. After much time, the rabbi was found in the barn of a Christian neighbor. On his way to the synagogue, Rabbi Salanter had come upon one of his neighbor's calves, lost and tangled in the brush. Seeing that the animal was in distress, he freed her and led her home through many fields and over many hills. His act of mercy represented the rabbi's prayers on that Yom Kippur.

S.Y. Agnon, Days of Awe
Jerusalem: Shocken, 1939



Rabbi Moshe Leib

The Hassidic Rabbi Moshe Leib went regularly to the weekly fair in Sassov. One day, while at the fair, Rabbi Leib saw cattle whom the merchants had left for a long time without food and water. Rabbi Leib, sensing how thirsty and uncomfortable the animals were, filled a pail with water and gave it to them to drink.


As he was doing this, one of the merchants returned. Thinking Rabbi Leib was someone's servant, the merchant ordered him to take water to a group of calves at the other end of the marketplace. Rabbi Leib did not reveal his identity to the merchant, but filled up a bucket and went off to water the thirsty calves.



Rabbi Zusya

Rabbi Zusya once went on a journey to collect money to ransom prisoners. He came to an inn and in one room found a large cage with many types of birds. He saw that the birds wanted to fly out of the cage and be free again. He burned with pity for them and said to himself, "Here you are, Zusya, walking your feet off to ransom prisoners. But what greater ransoming of prisoners can there be than to free these birds from their prison?" He then opened the cage, and the birds flew out into freedom. 


When the innkeeper saw the empty cage, he was very angry and asked the people in the house who had released the birds. When the innkeeper found out that Rabbi Zusya had let the birds free, he shouted at him: "You fool! How could you rob me of my birds and make worthless the good money I paid for them?" Zusya replied "You have often read these words in the Psalms: 'His tender mercies are over all His works.' " Then the innkeeper beat Zusya until he became tired and then he threw him out of the house. And Zusya went his way serenely.

Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim,
Vol. 1, p. 249



Return to Lesson VII