Emor – Torah and Kindness
An ox or a sheep or a goat when it gives birth, it should be seven days under its mother and from the eighth day on it will be accepted as a sacrifice. And an ox or goat her and her child can not be slaughtered on the same day. Why should we worry about the suffering of animals? After all they do not think.
In our Perasha We find two Mitzvot one following the other. We have a Mitzvah not to slaughteran animal until it is eight days old. Second, we are told not to slaughter a mother animal and her child on the same day. In connection with these Pesukim we have a very important discussion. Are Mitzvot just arbitrary or are they supposed to make people merciful? We have a Midrash which tells us that many Mitzvot are to instill mercy.
Why is a baby’s Brit Milah done on the eighth day? Since the Holy One Blessed be He had mercy on the baby and waits until the child is strong enough. Just as G-d is Merciful to people he is merciful to beasts. We know this from the Pasuk (in our Perasha) after the eighth day an animal will be accepted as a sacrifice Not only that but we are commanded not to slaughter a mother and its child on the same day. Just as G-d is merciful to beasts he is merciful to fowl. Since we are commanded to send away the mother bird if we need its eggs or chicks.
This Midrash is clearly of the opinion that many laws are humanistic. This Midrash follows the same opinion as the Targum. Apparently their existed a very old tradition that many laws in the Torah were solely to instill the Jewish people with mercy. There is an opinion in the Mishnah which says that it is forbidden to say that the laws of the Torah are not to instill mercy. Instead they are only rules.
Rabbi Yosi the son of Rabi Boon says those who make the attributes of G-d into mercy are not doing good. That which we read in the Targum ‘My nation Israel as much as I am merciful in heaven so you should be merciful on earth, an ox or lamb do not slaughter her and her children on the same day.’ They (the Targum) are not doing good since they are making the attributes of G-d into mercy.
There is a Mishnah which says that it is forbidden during prayer to say: On the nest of a bird your mercy comes. Certain emoraim interpreted this to mean that the laws of G-d are not to instill mercy but they are just rules. Others explained that you can not say this because it is like saying G-d is merciful to birds but not to me. Recently I heard an interesting explanation on this Mishnah. According to Rabbi Sasoon of Blessed Memory. The phrase On the nest of a bird your mercy comes was the opening words of a known prayer. We refer to certain parts of the prayer as Aleynu Leshabayach or Modim. Nobody would suggest that the words Aleynu Leshabayach refer only to those two words. Every one knows that it refers to a two paragraph prayer. Similarly the phrase On the nest of the Bird referred to a specific prayer which was forbidden to say. Several hundred years later these prayers had already disappeared and no one knew them. They had disappeared because it was forbidden to say them. When the Gemarah has its discussion on the Mishnah they did not have the song. Taking this into account we can comfortably say that the Targum and the Midrash are correct in saying that the laws of G-d are to instil mercy. It seems that they had a very reliable tradition. We should be like G-d and worry about others, both people and animals alike.