Israel Forever

For the week ending 9 December 2006 / 18 Kislev 5767

Cruelty to Animals or to Jews?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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In the recent UN vote on an investigation committee to study "Israeli aggression" the nations of Europe demonstrated that their historic anti-Semitism has now become focused on the Jewish State.

One of the favorite tactics of European anti-Semites has always been to outlaw the slaughtering of animals according to the halachic method of shechita on the grounds that it represents cruelty to animals.

The Torah attitude towards animals is diametrically opposed to this characterization of kashrut-observing Jews as being inhumane. In this week's Torah portion we will read that the Patriarch Yaakov, on his way back to Eretz Yisrael after his encounter with the father of anti-Semitism, his brother Esav, arrived at a place called Succot. The place was thus called because Yaakov built succot shelters there for his cattle.

Why did the Torah record something that on the surface seems so trivial?

The Ohr Hachayim commentary suggests that this was the first time in history that anyone showed such consideration to animals, that he bothered to build shelters for them. Laws and stories abound in Talmudic literature that properly reflect the true Jewish consideration of all forms of life.

Just as Jewry has survived all of the anti-Semitic attempts to demonize and destroy it, so too will Israel, with G-d's help, survive the efforts of its enemies to do it harm.

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