I’ve always loved animals. Growing up, I had guinea pigs,
hamsters, fish and a dog. Today, my husband Danny and I have two dogs, seven
chickens and a tortoise.
When I started my conversion to Judaism and learned about
the Torah laws relating to animals, I was convinced this was the right religion
I’d never thought about the treatment of the animals I ateWe feed our animals before we feed ourselves
before I kept kosher. I learned that through kosher slaughter, chickens and
cows were killed in a way that was painless. They didn’t witness another
chicken or cow being killed because that would be cruel. I heard about the
horrific ways that animals are usually slaughtered in a non-kosher setting, and
I was disgusted.
The laws of killing animals are so important in Judaism that
we even stress it in the seven Noahide laws for non-Jews, which say we can’t
cause unnecessary suffering to animals. Though they don’t have to follow kosher
laws, they can’t rip a limb off a living animal, for instance. One of the
reasons this law is so important is because it shows the true character of a
person. How they treat creatures that are below them in the hierarchy of life
and more vulnerable demonstrates their respect for all of G‑d’s creations.
There is also a law in Judaism that we feed our animals before we feed ourselves. This is something else I never even considered to be
important before converting. Now, every morning when I get up, I place food in
my dogs’ bowls, throw feed into my chickens’ coops and cut up some cucumbers
for my tortoise before I have my own morning meal.
When I give tzedakah—after
I donate to synagogues and organizations that help people—I set some money
aside for an animal shelter. I know that these dogs and cats are even more in
need than my animals, and I want to do my small part to ensure that they have
good lives as well.
The animal laws in the Torah suggest that living creatures
are intelligent, maybe even more than we know they are. They can recognize when
something bad is about to happen to them. They feel pain. Humans and animals
are not equals, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have compassion for them.
I never realized it as much as I do now, but my animals
completely rely on me. Following the Jewish laws of animal treatment has taught
me the importance of caring for things that can’t take care of themselves. It’s
shown me that even animals deserve a break from being our pets or serving us,
as we’re supposed to let them rest on Shabbat.
This kindness I have towards my animals has extended to
other living beings as well. I used to not think twice about killing spiders,Living creatures are intelligent
but now I feel guilty if I do that. I now try to trap them and take them
outside instead of hurting them. Even when it comes to my garden, I take care
of it to the best of my ability. After all, plants are at least somewhat
conscious, and another example of G‑d’s miraculous power.
The Almighty made everything that lives for a purpose. When
it comes to my animals, I do my best to respect and watch over them because I
know it’s what G‑d wants.
G‑d gave us the world and everything in it. I know that by
upholding my responsibility to care for it, I’m fulfilling my personal mission.