What if animals could talk? - www.jewishaz.com: Torah Study

What if animals could talk?

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Posted: Wednesday, July 5, 2017 7:35 am

Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you s/he is a “member of the family.” But are they really on the same level? On the one hand, we allow animals into our homes, our bedrooms and our most intimate moments, pouring out our affection on them during the quiet times of our days. We admire animals for their beauty, grace and the warmth they bring to our lives. At the same time, however, we also perceive ourselves as superior to animals. After all, only people were made in God’s image, says Jewish tradition. Humanity seems never to have quite settled on what animals mean to us or how we should treat them.

This tension can be seen in this week’s Torah portion in the relationship between Balaam and his remarkable donkey. Balaam has been summoned by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites, making it easier for the Moabites to destroy their Jewish victims. Saddling up his animal companion, however, Balaam is furious when the donkey refuses to follow orders. Ironically, we know that the donkey is trying to protect her less-insightful human cargo. After enduring several blows, the animal finally speaks out, saying, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times? Look, I am the donkey that you have been riding all along until this day! Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” Despite Balaam’s thoughtless fury, the donkey answers calmly and with reason.

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