Tending Your Sheep
Tue, 08/13/2013
Rabbi David Wolpe
Rabbi David Wolpe

When God wishes to choose leaders, the Rabbis teach, God looks to see how they tend sheep. Jacob, Moses and David were all shepherds. This rabbinic teaching reminds us how important it is to be kind to those whom we do not need. But let’s take it more literally: how nice are you to sheep?

Judaism is quite clear on the animal/human divide. The life of a human being is infinitely precious. The Torah does not insist on the Divine in animals or presumably it would not permit us to eat them. A vegetarian myself, I still acknowledge that the Jewish tradition never mandated that we stop eating animals.

Yet how we treat animals is indeed a powerful measure of how we treat those who will not return the favor. A dog can’t help your climb up the corporate ladder, nor a cat swell your coffers. But we have an obligation to be kind to those in our power, and there is no reason at all why that ought to suddenly stop at the species barrier. The cruelty of much factory farming, the callousness of some experimentation — all these things should arouse our compassion. How do you tend sheep?

Rabbi David Wolpe  is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

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It's impossible to that G-d would set up a world in which animals prey upon each other to survive, but he did. So all we can do is not accept and contribute to the cruelty, by not eating animals. Of course it's only symbolic, as many more living, feeling things (frogs, grasshoppers, worms, rabbits, gophers, mice, birds, snakes, and other field creatures) are killed in the harvesting of vegetables than in the raising of animals for slaughter. Whether the lives of larger animals are more important and valuable than smaller ones is open for debate.So, all we can do is live our lives in a way that we feel is ethical..

Thank you, Rabbi Wolpe. In light of yesterday's Torah readings, God shows us concern about the treatment of animals. And regardless of whether we we eat them or not, we must not treat them with cruelty or neglect, acknowledging our responsibility to their well-being. And in light of what we now know about their sentience and feelings, it is all the more important to heed these commandments.

VERY APPROPRIATE IN ELUL OR PRE-HHD

God damn it I love Rabbi David Wolpe.

The question is “would you as a leader lie about the Torah to the sheep, your congregants?”

The Torah does not include the reform/conservative/liberal/progressive etc etc as one of the 70 faces of Torah. This is self explanatory, as something contrary to Torah is not included as a halacha that is followed, on the contrary it is a reference to a negative commandment in the Torah- that which we are forbidden to do. Since they "change Torah" they are not Orthodox Jewish, and so are not the Jewish religion at all, but a different one, as Chief Rabbi Hertzog of Israel, of blessed memory , has stated “They are not Judaism”.

If even one word they teach is against the Torah,(and there are many, many such words) then all they say that comes from their mouths cannot be trusted and is rejected. They studied with teachers and mentors who change the words and meanings of the Torah. Their teachers encourage ideas contrary to Torah

@Anonymous: "The Torah does not include the reform/conservative/liberal/progressive etc etc as one of the 70 faces of Torah...

If even one word they teach is against the Torah,(and there are many, many such words) then all they say that comes from their mouths cannot be trusted and is rejected. They studied with teachers and mentors who change the words and meanings of the Torah. Their teachers encourage ideas contrary to Torah."
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If "Torah True" Judaism is populated largely by persons such as yourself, I'll gladly admit to practicing a different religion.

Get over it!

The truth is the truth and lies are lies.
Being sycophantic on a blog, as you have done, by rejecting Torah in your implicit agreement with the article at the very top of the page, won't do you any good.
Become a little more introspective -it is Ellul-think of your neshoma- because your "friends" do not give it a second or even first thought. So much for "tending sheep"!

It is my belief that God gave us animals because He loved us so very much. Though I adore all animals, I have seen that they are not all alike. I have found that the ones who show the greatest intellect can touch your heart and soul with ease. Life would be far less wonderful without a dog or a cat to love you unconditionally.

Hi Dave, God set up the world so that every animal is another's prey. Recognizing that, can we say that causing pain is a big issue for him - even tho it may be an issue for you, personally?

The word for animal in Hebrew is "behema" which means, "it is what it is". Only man can become more. Becoming more means being more than, "it is what it is". Not treating animals properly brings us to the level of the animal itself.

G-d never told man to eat animals. When they wanted to, he said that if they chose that, they had parameters - which we know as the laws of kashrus. He gave manna, man, in his inimitable way, chose differently.

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