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Parshat Emor – “Animal” Welfare

Leviticus 21:1-24:23 30 april till 6 mei 2023

שׁ֣וֹר אוֹ־כֶ֤שֶׂב אוֹ־עֵז֙ כִּ֣י יִוָּלֵ֔ד וְהָיָ֛ה שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֖ים תַּ֣חַת אִמּ֑וֹ וּמִיּ֤וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי֙ וָהָ֔לְאָה יֵרָצֶ֕ה לְקׇרְבַּ֥ן אִשֶּׁ֖ה לַיהֹוָֽה׃

When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall stay seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as an offering by fire to יהוה.

Leviticus 22:27

What can we learn from this?

In reading this verse, I thought of “tza’ar ba’alei chayim.” The prohibition against inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering upon living animals unless there is a good reason to do otherwise. To treat a animal cruelly is wrong.

Nowadays we know that it is good that cow and calf are not separated too early. It prevents all kinds of problems, both in the cow and the calf. The natural separation process of cow and calf normally takes six months. A week of mother and calf being together is wonderful, but has a reason other than directly the “animal welfare” of the cow and calf.

The verse does not speak of animals in general, but specifically of animals sacrificed to G-d. We know that an animal may be eaten from the moment it is born, and no longer attached to its mother. However, isn’t it our own logic and feeling that teaches us not to kill such a young animal? This verse teaches us that we need to think about what we find acceptable as a society. Do we find separating cow and calf acceptable? From what age do you think an animal should be slaughtered? Questions to which each person must find his or her own answer.

Why was a young animal only allowed to be sacrificed after 7 days, i.e. on about the 8th day? A beautiful explanation is given by Rabbeinu Bahay

This may best be understood by means of a parable (Tanchuma Emor 12). A king who visited a country issued a decree that no one would be allowed an audience with him until after they had paid their respects to a certain lady of high society. Similarly, G’d said to the people of Israel: “you may not offer Me a sacrificial offering until after that animal has paid its respects to My daughter, (society lady in the parable) i.e. to the Sabbath.

The animal must have experienced at least 1 shabbat and given honor to it before it has a state of “holiness” to be sacrificed. As a side path noted if an animal must already give honor to the Shabbat, how much more so than a human. However consider in this that Noahide do not observe the Shabbat. However honoring the Shabbat can be done through a meal, through learning from Tenach, through singing, through making time for family and friends. See also “Can Noahides Observe Shabbat“.

On a deeper level – Chassidic Insight

“Mother” (cow) can be interpreted as “intellect.” When the intellect thinks of doing, achieving or performing something it creates an emotion in the process. An emotion is “born” (the calf). For example, an emotion of joy, love, sadness, anger, etc. We learn from this verse that we should keep the emotion or emotions that are born with the intellect for a week. Important decisions should not be carried out on an emotional whim. Give them a week to grow and allow the emotions to “mature.” In this way, you carry out decisions with the right emotions and therefore in a manner desired by Hashem.

Very practically when someone has angered you, often your first reaction is to express your anger right away. However if you give the situation time, and your initial emotions have subsided – then you may very well still be angry – yet your words and actions will be more thoughtful and hopefully constructive rather than destructive.

It is not for nothing that we can learn this lesson in the time of the counting of Omer. Seven weeks of 7 days linked to the 7 emotions, which are:1 Loving-kindness, 2 Justice and discipline, 3 Harmony/ Compassion, 4 Endurance / Humility, 5 Bonding, 6 Sovereignty, 7Leadership. Each week 1 emotion to contemplate, meditate on and work on.

let’s learn to control our emotions and thus carry out what we think, say and do in a manner that Hashem desires.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources: ILVO, Chassidic Insights for Parshah Emor

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