Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mishpatim, Shemos 23:5. Humane Treatment of Animals. צער בעלי חיים

Many years ago, on Shabbos, one of my children was fooling around with the fountain in middle of a five hundred gallon outdoor fish tank and caused it to start spraying the water out of the tank.  Left like that, we expected that by the time Shabbos was over, the tank would have emptied out and all the fish would die.  I was not able to fix the fountain, because fixing it would be mesaken manna.  The children were very upset, but I told them that as far as I knew, Pikuach Fish is not docheh shabbos.  In the end, enough water remained under the pump for the fish to survive, and they grew fat and prospered until they froze solid seven or eight years later.

But as it turns out, maybe Pikuach Fish is docheh Shabbos, at least a little bit.  

  • In this week's parsha (23:5) we learn the rule of פריקה, that the Torah obligates us to assist a man whose animal is overburdened by unloading it.  Rashi there in Shabbos  (קכח: ד"ה צער)  suggests that our passuk is the source for the prohibition against צער בעלי חיים, causing pain to animals.   Rashi, as do most Rishonim, paskens like Reb Akiva there that this is an issur de'oraysa.  This is how the Rama (CM 272:9) paskens.  Although Rashi says the source is Prika, other rishonim find many other sources for this din.  
  • The Rambam in מורה נבוכים ג-יז writes that the fact that the Malach rebuked Bilaam for striking his donkey (Bamidbar 22:32)  shows that it is prohibited to hurt an animal for no reason.  Reb Mordechai Carlbach in his Chavatzeles HaSharon points out that the Rambam apparently thinks that this prohibition is so logical and self-evident that it applies even to non-Jews. 
  • The Ramban and Chinuch (Mitzva 451) explain that the mitzvah of Shechita was given so that it will be killed in a manner which minimizes its pain. The same reasoning has been applied to אותו ואת בנו, לא תחרוש, and many other dinim.
  • The Raavad and the Meiri מאירי בבא מציעא לב: derive this din from the commandment (Devarim 25:4) not to muzzle an ox while it is threshing.  
  • The Ritva בשיטה מקובצת בבא מציעא לב. ד"ה תדע just says it's a Halacha Le'Moshe Mi'Sinai.
The Mesilas Yesharim says  ובכלל הענין הזה שלא לצער לשום בריה אפילו בעלי חיים ולרחם ולחוס עליהם, וכן הוא אומר (משלי י"ב): יודע צדיק נפש בהמתו, וכבר יש שסוברים (ב"מ ל"ב): צער בעלי חיים דאורייתא, ועל כל פנים דרבנן, כללו, של דבר הרחמנות וההטבה צריך שתהיה תקוע בלב החסיד לעולם, ותהיה מגמתו תמיד לעשות קורת רוח לבריות, ולא לגרום להם שום צער וכו'. 

The Gemara in Bava Metzia 85a has the famous story of Rebbi and the calf:  דרבי ע"י מעשה באו וע"י מעשה הלכו ע"י מעשה באו מאי היא דההוא עגלא דהוו קא ממטו ליה לשחיטה אזל תליא לרישיה בכנפיה דרבי וקא בכי אמר ליה זיל לכך נוצרת אמרי הואיל ולא קא מרחם ליתו עליה יסורין וע"י מעשה הלכו יומא חד הוה קא כנשא אמתיה דרבי ביתא הוה שדיא בני כרכושתא וקא כנשא להו אמר לה שבקינהו כתיב (תהילים קמה) ורחמיו על כל מעשיו אמרי הואיל ומרחם נרחם עליה

Reb Yakov Kaminetzky in his Emes L'Yaakov al haTorah says that although it is a machlokes tana'im whether Tzaar Baalei Chaim is De'oraysa or De'rebannan, everyone would agree that it is an issur de'oraysa to inflict needless pain on an animal.

    To the best of my knowledge, even according to those opinions that the din derives from Mitzvos Asei like Shiluach Hakan and Perika, we never find צער בעלי חיים used as an Asei in the application of  עשה דוחה לא תעשה.  I assume that this is because avoiding an aveira is a Tzorech Adam, and there is no din of צער בעלי חיים where there is some tzorech.  

    But we do find some cases where Chazal relaxed Issurim Derabanan that stand in the way of alleviating צער בעלי חיים.  One example of a kula is the Rambam 21 Shabbos 9, based on the Gemara in Shabbos 154b and 158b, that allows Perika of muktza objects.   וכן פורקין המשאוי מעל הבהמה בשבת משום צער בעלי חיים.   However, the Mishna Berura (OC 266 BHalacha in 9) holds that this hetter is not accepted le'halacha.  The Aruch Hashulchan does leave the hetter fully intact in 266:24.  However, as the Mishna Berura says in 308, we are not empowered to extrapolate to other cases.  

    So even assuming that fish feel pain, Pikuach Fish is still not docheh Shabbos.  The most I could have done was call a gentile neighbor to help.

    Just as an aside, when Reb Moshe learned of how veal were raised, he stopped eating white veal.  He felt that even though the prohibition of  Tzaar Baalei Chaim does not prohibit whatever yields some human benefit, the difference between white veal and red veal is so trivial and involves such tzaar for calves that he personally was repelled by it and didn't want to eat it.  This is very much like the Noda Be'Yehuda in YD II:10 who was asked whether a wealthy businessman is allowed to hunt for recreation on his forested properties.  (Perhaps he was interested in strengthening his social ties to his fellow businessmen- even then, people would network by getting together to "shoot birdies.")  In any case, he says that if there is any benefit at all, even  if you will not eat what you kill, it is muttar.  He then points out that in the Torah we only find Nimrod and Eisav named as hunters, so the questioner might want to re-think his leisure activities.  Muttar? Yes.  Ugly? Emphatically yes.  As he points out, we don't even make a Shehechiyanu on leather garments because they required an animal's death (Rama end of OC 223 and see the Noda Be'Yehuda's discussion in the Teshuva).
      Another story- In my city there once lived a great and beloved tzadik and parush, Rabbi Winchester, whose tireless pursuit of chesed is legendary.  His son, Avi, says that Rabbi Winchester would take him to the Fannie Mae store, which sold non-kosher candy, and his father would stand outside while Avi went in and bought a five pound bag of broken peanuts.  Rabbi Winchester would take the bag to a park and give it to the birds.  He said that in the summer, the birds manage on their own, but in the winter, many of them starve, and he wanted to help them to survive the brutal weather.


      1. if those unfortunate fish of long ago had constituted a work-crew
        (for example, if each fish were tied daily to a toy boat on the water's surface, to draw it about for your children's entertainment),
        would that yield an aseh to docheh Shabbos? your regularly working goldfish(sanhedrin 59b) Must Rest on day 7-- surely the guppy seized with panic during a shrinking water crisis is not resting?