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Proper Treatment of Animals

There are many commandments in Parshat Ki Teitzeh, that emphasize proper treatment of animals. An example of one of these mitzvot, is that we are not allowed to harness an ox and a donkey when they plow.

One explanation is that the ox is generally a much more powerful animal than the donkey. It will not be able to keep up with power of the donkey, and it will be greatly fatigued, and could even die.

There is a second explanation that also teaches that we must have a sensitivity to the needs of our animals. The ox is a kosher animal and chews its cud. The donkey does not. When they are harnessed together and the donkey sees the ox chewing its cud, it will feel gypped that it is not getting as much food as the ox. This is why it would not be proper to harness the two animals together.

Some rabbis took this second explanation to mean that we should feel for the plight of the poor. It is wrong for them to see us enjoying endless amounts of food, when they go hungry. We must do our utmost to see that our poor are adequately fed.
This again shows how we must not study superficially, but we should look for the Torah’s deeper meanings.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for more than twenty years. He has been teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach, Old Katamon, Jerusalem, for the nearly seventeen years. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles.
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