Shabbat Commentary

4/5 May: Shabbat  Emor comes in 8:14 pm,  ends  9:25 pm

“However, no animal from the herd or from the flock shall be slaughtered on the same day with its young.”  Vayikra 22:28

Rambam teaches in his Guide for the Perplexed, that the Torah chooses the most humane method of killing animals and forbade strangulation, cutting a limb or slaughtering the mother and young on the same day, to prevent the slaying of the young in the presence of its mother — since this involves great cruelty.   There is no distinction between the suffering of man and beast in this respect, since maternal affection does not belong to the intellectual but rather emotional faculty that is common to most animals and man alike.

Ramban takes a different approach.  He writes that the reason for the prohibition of slaying the mother and young on the same day…is to eradicate cruelty and pitilessness from man’s heart…not that God had pity on the mother and young… The real reason is to cultivate in us the quality of mercy… since cruelty is contagious…

I believe the argument between Rambam and Ramban also relates to why we fight for social justice and human rights.  There is no doubt we do we do it for the downtrodden, the poor, the ones whose rights are neglected and abused.   Injustice cries out to be rectified, to be set right.  But Ramban would argue that it is just as valid to say that when we work to protect others, we do it to protect our own hearts and our own souls as well.    And hopefully, the process is cyclical; by cultivating in us the quality of mercy,  we are able  to work harder to create an Eretz Yisrael that cares about every citizen and resident.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman.

May 3, 2018