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Congregation Beth Shalom of the Blue Hills

Serving the Jewish Community of: Milton, Quincy, Boston, Hyde Park, Dorchester, Roslindale, Braintree & Surrounding Areas

The Elephant in the Room….No Longer

 I am no expert on how elephants (and other animals) are treated at Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey but as a kid who remembers going to the circus and seeing those majestic creatures parade and perform, last week’s announcement that they will no longer be a part of the “Greatest Show On Earth” reminded me of the seriousness with which Judaism takes the Mitzvah Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim – the command against cruelty to animals.  We are forbidden to yoke animals of different strength one to another.  Rebecca, Isaac’s future wife, is lauded for drawing water for the camels along with doing so for her human guest.  Hunting is forbidden.  Vegetarianism is considered the highest level of Kashrut.  We say the Shehechi’anu bracha when putting on a new garment EXCEPT if it is made of leather.  There’s more…the laws on this subject are far-reaching. Nachmonides explains why…”The reason for the prohibitions (against cruelty to animals) is to teach us the trait of compassion and that we should not be cruel, for cruelty proliferates in the human soul.”  Thank goodness, so too for small, ongoing acts of kindness and compassion.  Shabbat Shalom, RabbiB