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צער בעלי חיים - Caring for Animals

Right in the heart of Jerusalem there is a wonderful zoo called the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Not only does the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo have lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)  It also has a top notch animal hospital.

The animal hospital includes a large surgery room with diagnostic equipment, recovery and treatment rooms, a laboratory and a quarantine unit. The animal hospital serves all of the zoo's animals with the exception of “the big 5”- elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos and bison. These large animals are treated in their own quarters within their exhibits. Diagnostic and preventative medical programs are an integral part of veterinary zoo medicine. 

Caring for animals is very important in Judaism.  Jacob, Moses, and David were all shepherds, people who cared for animals.  The Talmud specifically states that Moses was chosen for his mission because of his skill in caring for animals.  "The Holy One, Blessed Be He, said 'Since you are merciful to the flock of a human being, you shall be the shepherd of My flock, Israel.'" Likewise Rebekah was chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals.  When Abraham's servant asked for water for himself, she volunteered to water his camels as well, and thereby proved herself a worthy wife.

The laws regarding treatment of animals are referred to as Tzaar Baalei Chayim, prevention of cruelty to animals.

Under Jewish law, animals have some of the same rights as humans do.  Animals rest on Shabbat, as humans do.  We are forbidden to muzzle an ox while it is working in the field, just as we must allow human workers to eat from the produce they are harvesting.


So now it’s your turn.  
Take some time this month to care for animals.  Maybe you can volunteer a few hours at your local animal shelter.  Or maybe you can take care of a neighbor’s pets while they are away.  You can also find out about supporting organizations that care for animals on-line.
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