Two Post-Protest Thoughts

Image: A Protest Sign. Lady Liberty captioned “I’m with her.” Photo by Rabbi Ruth Adar.

I am exhausted. I spent the morning at the synagogue and the rest of the day (when I thought i was going to take a nice nap) at a protest at San Francisco airport. Now it’s late and I want to post something but the body is saying, “Lie down, already!”

Our president chose to celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day with an executive order. It barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days. (CNN) Our immediate protest was on behalf of the people detained at SFO who had the bad luck to have planes that took off while their visas were still good, and landed after their visas had been Trumped. I have spent some time as an innocent airport security detainee (a story I’ll share another time) and it is terrifying and miserable. I felt for those folks.

I had planned to blog tonight about the social justice tradition in Judaism. I know I’m blogging a lot about what some readers may think of as “politics” and I wanted to explain why I feel that I’m still blogging about Basic Judaism. However, that was before I spent 2.5 hours in a crowd screeching “Let In the Lawyers” and “No Bans, No Walls” at the top of my lungs.

Another time.

A couple of random thoughts:

 

  1. Please don’t take dogs to protests. They don’t know what’s going on and shouting scares them. Today I watched fearfully as a couple walked around with a tiny dachshund on a leash. The dog was visibly terrified (panting and yawning) and it was in serious danger of getting trampled. I couldn’t get close enough to them to lecture them on the mitzvah of kindness to animals.

    Big dogs are in a different kind of danger in a crowd. They can scare people, and scared people do dumb and/or mean things. When there are police around, it is advisable not to scare them, either. So leave the giant pit bull at home, too.

    Yes, I have a dog and I love my dog. This is not about hating dogs.doggie

  2. Think twice before taking photos and posting them to social media. People wander around at these things taking photos, and now that I have been home, I see their photos on social media. My face is already all over the Internet, but not everyone wants to be on Facebook.

    This also goes for selfies: think about the people in the background. I have sinned once in this respect, but I won’t do it again. Moreover, it took my son so long to take this picture that I’m pretty sure people who didn’t want to be in it had a chance to cover their faces. What’s done is done (nothing ever disappears from the Internet) but I am determined never to do it again.

    Alternatively, you can take photos of people facing the other direction. I have some “scooter’s eye view” photos that will not be of any interest whatsoever to Big Brother. (See doggie photo above.)

I’m rambling, because I am exhausted. Those were my two points. Go to bed, rabbi!

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A Suffering Dog – What Does Torah Require?

Image: A dog is locked in a hot car. I am taking a photo through the window to show the security guard. Photo by Ruth Adar.

Kindness to animals is not merely a “good deed.” Unnecessary cruelty to animals (Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim) is repeatedly forbidden in the Torah.

It’s getting warm outside. You see an animal locked into a hot vehicle. You think, “Is this my business?” and I assure you, the Torah commands that we act when a fellow creature is suffering.  In Exodus 23:5:

If you see a donkey belonging to someone who hates you fallen down under its burden, you may not pass by him, and you must surely release him.

Even if the animal is owned by an enemy, even if it is a work animal fallen down working, we may not pass by and we must surely help. An unusual grammatical construction in the Hebrew (“must surely help”) underlines the urgency of this commandment.

Why does the Torah add “belonging to someone who hates you?” The reaction of the owner – their feelings about us – are not part of the equation. If they are angry that we “meddled,” so be it.

So what are my options when I see an animal locked in a car on a hot day? This happened to me this past week: I saw the dog in the photo above locked in a truck in 90 degree heat (outside – goodness knows what it was inside the truck.) I had been parked next to the truck for 15 minutes waiting for a friend (I was drinking water, with the windows down to catch the breeze) before I noticed the dog. He was panting heavily and had no water.

I took a photo of the dog (above) and of the license plate of the truck, and went inside the business to find help. The business has a security guard, who walked back with me to check the situation. As we walked, a couple sprinted by us and released the dog from the car, taking him out on a leash. The man walked rapidly away with the dog, and the woman walked back to the business, telling us that she “appreciated our concern” but that they had been “checking on the dog every ten minutes.” The security person chose to drop the matter there.

Did the couple understand that they had been cruel to the dog? Probably not. My impression was that they wanted to avoid trouble. It is my hope that they will avoid trouble in future by not torturing the dog.

I share this story because I want to let you know that Torah requires we act when we see a suffering animal. Judaism is very clear about this: while it is permitted to kill and eat some animals for food, we are required to do so with a minimum of pain to the animal. That’s what we are paying for when we pay extra for kosher meat: we are paying for rabbinic supervision certifying that the animal was slaughtered in a kosher fashion. There are a lot of controversies about whether kosher methods are still the kindest available, and a growing number of Jews and others have elected a vegan lifestyle to completely avoid cruelty to animals. However, the principle itself stands: we are not permitted even to witness unnecessary cruelty to animals. It is up to each of us to determine exactly where we will draw the line of necessity.

Nothing about that dog’s situation looked “necessary” to me.

So, if you see an animal suffering in a car in the heat, what can you do?  If it is outside a place of business, notify the business (the dog or ar owner is likely there.) If that doesn’t produce immediate results, call the police with a description of the car, the dog, the license plate, and location. There are laws against animal cruelty in many locales. Keep trying until help arrives.

I would be very reluctant to break a window on the car. Breaking the window gets us into a whole new set of questions. Also, if we’re talking about dogs, unless the dog has collapsed from the heat, there’s always the possibility that the dog will run off and get hurt in traffic or that it will try to protect the car and bite.

May we each have courage and resourcefulness when faced with a situation requiring action!