Author Archives: David Sears

Compassion for All Creatures

R David Sears / “God is good to all, and His mercy is upon all His works” (Psalms 145:9). This verse is the touchstone of the rabbinic attitude toward animal welfare, appearing in a number of contexts in Torah literature. The Torah espouses an ethic of compassion for all creatures, and affirms the sacredness of life. These values are reflected by the laws prohibiting tza’ar baalei chaim (cruelty to animals) and obligations for humans to treat animals with care. At first glance, the relevance of the above verse may seem somewhat obscure. It speaks of God, not man. However, a basic rule of Jewish ethics is the emulation of God’s ways. In the words of the Talmudic sages: “Just as He clothes the naked, so shall you clothe the naked. Just as He is merciful, so shall you be merciful…”[1] Therefore, compassion for all creatures, including animals, is not only God’s business; it is a virtue that we, too, must emulate. Moreover, rabbinic tradition asserts that God’s mercy supersedes all other Divine attributes. Thus, compassion must not be reckoned as one good trait among others; rather, it is central to our entire approach to life.

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