For the week ending 5 March 2005 / 24 Adar I 5765

Human and Animal Survival

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: In regard to the tsunami tragedy, the media reported that animals in the stricken areas were hardly affected as a result of their instinctive sensing of danger which prompted them to flee. What is the right thing to do in learning a lesson for our own behavior?

Answer: The answer to this question was supplied centuries ago by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his classic ethical work "Mesillat Yesharim" (Path of the Just).

In his chapter on the Trait of Watchfulness, he calls attention to the necessity of man to exercise caution in all his actions and not to abandon his soul to the danger of destruction.

"This is demanded by ones intelligence. For considering the fact that a man possesses the knowledge and the power of reason to save himself by fleeing from destruction of his soul, is it conceivable that he should willingly blind himself to his own salvation? There is certainly no degradation and folly worse than this. One who does this is lower than beasts and wild animals whose nature is to protect themselves, to flee and to run away from anything that seems to endanger them."

(Animal survival of the tsunami teaches us another lesson as well about Israels concern for the human survivors. Many children in Sri Lanka were attacked by roving dogs in the affected areas and were treated in a field clinic established by members of the Magen David Adom sent to that country.)

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