613 mitzvot of the Torah fall into two categories;
Lamakom" between man and G-d - mitzvot which have
no direct effect on other people, such as eating kosher, keeping
Shabbat, and reciting blessings.
Lachaveiro" between one person and another - mitzvot
that involve interaction with other people and the sensitivities
The Parsha Ki Teitzei,
contains more mitzvot than any other Parsha of the
Torah (74 mitzvot). Most of the mitzvot in
this Parsha are mitzvot Bein Adam Lachaveiro
- concerning behavior between man and his fellow man. As we near
the end of the year and prepare for the new year, we must be very
careful in our behavior toward others.
a bird's nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree
or on the ground - young birds or eggs - and the mother is roosting
on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with
the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young
for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your
The Torah forbids
one to take an ownerless mother bird when it is sitting on its eggs
or young. The Torah commands us to shoo away the mother bird
- even many times if it keeps returning to the nest - and only then
is one permitted to take the eggs or young.
of Shiluach HaKen - sending away the mother bird, shows that
we should have compassion for all living things, and should not
torment the mother bird by taking her offspring in her presence.
You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together."
The Torah forbids
one to harness two different types of animals together. This prohibition
applies not only to oxen and donkeys or plowing, but also to any
coupling of any two different species, for any kind of work. (Rashi).
The Da'at Zekeinim,
(a collection of comments on the Torah by
the Tosafist school of the 12th and 13th centuries),
explains that one of the reasons for this prohibition may be the
fact that an ox chews its cud, whereas a donkey does not. Imagine
the pain that the donkey would feel if, while they are both hungry
for rest and nutrition as they labor side by side under the yoke,
the donkey would turn his head, and see the ox chewing its cud.
did he get food?" the donkey would be thinking, pained by the
fact that the ox has food and he does not.
shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing."
Threshing is the process
that separates wheat from its husks. This is accomplished by stepping
on the wheat. The husks split off and are left behind. Oxen are
used to step on the wheat. One is not allowed to muzzle the ox;
thereby preventing it from eating the wheat while it is threshing.
The ox becomes hungry while working. To prevent him from eating
would be a cruelty.
is admonishing us to be sensitive to the pain of animals. The mitzvot
to send away the mother bird, not to muzzle a working animal, and
not to harness two different types of animals together fall under
the category of Tza-ar Ba-alei Chayim - cruelty to animals.
These mitzvot remind us that all living things must be treated
with care and respect and that we must not let creatures suffer.
But there's more to
one of the greatest leaders and Torah commentaries of the Middle
Ages, explains that one of the reasons for the mitzvah of
Shiluach HaKen, is so that we do not develop within ourselves
a trait of cruelty by grossly causing discomfort to the mother bird
by allowing her to witness the taking of her young.
With regards to muzzling
an animal, the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 596) explains
the reason behind this mitzvah. We must teach ourselves to
be compassionate. When we accustom ourselves to always seeking the
kind and benevolent path even towards animals, how much more so
we will learn to be compassionate towards human beings.
In all of these scenarios,
as well as in numerous other places, the Torah is teaching
us an incredible lesson in the sensitivity that we must have in
recognizing - and preventing - the distress and discomfort of others.
Kindness to animals
is related to kindness in human beings. The Torah teaches
us that we have a greater obligation to our fellow man than to animals.
That does not mean that we can be cruel to animals. We must look
at it the other way. We must be kind even to animals. How
much more so must we be kind to human beings. If the Torah
can be so demanding about how sensitive we are to these animals,
how much more so must we be sensitive to other people.
Rabbi Paysach Krohn,
a popular author and lecturer, expresses this idea in his book,
"In the Footsteps of the Maggid" (pg. 142). He includes
the following true story, which recalls the sensitivity towards
one's fellowman and exemplifies how far we must go to prevent another
There once was a quiet,
kind, and unassuming Jew, a Holocaust survivor, who came to this
country as a teenager. Money did not come easily as he struggled
throughout his life to eke out a meager livelihood to support his
family. When he was older, retired from his daily endeavor to earn
a livelihood, he would always carry a roll of quarters with him.
No one knew the reason for this seemingly strange behavior. It was
only after he passed away, that the reason was revealed.
At the Shul
(synagogue) where this man prayed daily, poor people would often
come around, asking for contributions. Most people would give change
in various denominations. This man realized that if he were to take
out a dollar bill, intending to ask for change, the poor person
would feel a momentary surge of excitement at the prospect of being
given a whole dollar instead of his usual change. This fleeting
hope would be quickly shattered, when change would be requested,
and that excitement would revert to disappointment.
Rather than play with
another person's emotions, and in order to avoid the poor person's
momentary discomfort, this man would walk around with a roll of
quarters, so he would always have the correct change when it was
needed for his daily contributions.
This story should
serve as an example of how extremely sensitive we must be to the
feelings of others, constantly striving to prevent them from experiencing
any unnecessary discomfort. When someone needs a helping hand, no
matter how big or how small, it is our duty to offer it. For if
the Torah can be so concerned about an animal's temporary
discomfort, we are certainly expected to go out of our way to help
a person in need. And if we must be so careful to prevent someone
from suffering, even from the momentary disappointment that a poor
person would feel when realizing that he will only be given a percentage
of what he was anticipating, how much more so must we not be the
instigators of that discomfort by humiliating, ridiculing, or disparaging
Through this awareness,
may we be able to fulfill all of the mitzvot - both those
between man and Hashem and those between man and his fellow
man - with the proper sensitivity and respect for one another.
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