Kindness to Animals
Parshat Emor has sixty-three of the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah. Only Parshat Ki-tetze, has more, with seventy-four. While the main topics are the rules for Kohanim, and the proper observance of the festivals, other subjects are also included.
There are two laws that involve our treatment of animals. The Sefer Hachinuch makes the point that we cannot truly know the reasons for the commandments. Specifically, treating animals with dignity, seems to be a priority of the Torah. The Chinuch agrees that such care is laudable. But if we were really kind to animals, we wouldn’t eat them! This is why we don’t know the true intended reason.
The two laws are אותו ואת בנו, that we may not slaughter the mother and offspring on the same day, and that an animal must be at least eight days old before slaughtering.
Included in the law of “mother and offspring,” is the prohibition of not doing the slaughtering when the mother can see it taking place. This certainly seems to be a gesture of compassion.
It is an interesting fact that calves do not nurse for a very long time and are weaned very early. The Torah still gives the mother seven days before taking her baby from her. Another possible act of compassion, to show that we must not be cruel to animals.
The Chinuch reminds us that this is speculation, for the depth and wisdom of the Torah belongs only to G-d.