כ״ה באדר ה׳תשע״ג (March 7, 2013)

Shabbat 155a-b: Feeding Animals on Shabbat

On today’s daf the Mishna turns its attention to feeding animals on Shabbat. The Mishna teaches:

One may not forcibly overfeed a camel on Shabbat and one may not force-feed it, even if in doing so he does not overfeed the camel. However, one may place food into its mouth.

One may add water to bran used as animal feed, but one may not knead the mixture. And one may not place water before bees or before doves in a dove-cote, because they are capable of finding their own food; however, one may place water before geese and chickens and before hardisian [hardeisiyyot] doves.

The question of feeding an animal depends on one’s responsibility for that animal. This is clarified in the following teaching that appears in the Gemara:

One may place sustenance before a dog on Shabbat, but one may not place sustenance before a pig. And what is the difference between this and that? In this case of the dog, responsibility for its sustenance is incumbent upon you, and in that case of the pig, responsibility for its sustenance is not incumbent upon you, as no Jew raises pigs.

The Me’iri argues that the Gemara’s intention is to permit feeding a dog even if the person does not own it. He explains this based on the verse concerning the halakhot of an animal with a condition that will cause it to die within twelve months [tereifa]: “You shall cast it to a dog” (Shemot 22:30), basing himself on the idea that the dogs were rewarded for their behavior during the Exodus: “Against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog whet his tongue,” (Shemot 11:7).

The Me’iri also notes that the discussion about feeding animals would not be applied to people. Thus, even if it is prohibited to feed an animal on Shabbat if one is not responsible for its sustenance, it is permitted to give a gentile food in one’s courtyard despite the fact that responsibility for his sustenance is not incumbent upon a Jew. draw a distinction between the cases. A Jew is required to treat gentiles well in order to encourage good relations, much as he gives charity to both gentiles and Jews. Furthermore, since people are considered more important than other beings, the Sages permit giving food to a gentile on Shabbat in order to preserve human dignity.

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