"Whoever has these three traits is of the students of our father Avraham, and [whoever has] three other (i.e. opposite) traits is [a student] of Bilaam the wicked: [one who has] a good outlook, a humble spirit and a meek soul is of the students of our father Avraham. [One who has] a negative outlook, a haughty spirit, and a greedy soul is among the students of Bilaam the wicked. (Pirkei Avot 5:22)
As the elevator doors opened, Sarah carefully lifted the garbage bag that was resting at her feet. Mindful to not tear the bag, Sarah walked a few steps down the sidewalk, in the direction of the communal dumpster. As Sarah approached the dumpster, she was dismayed to find the remains of what had once been a closet, carelessly tossed on the ground. "How inconsiderate!" she thought to herself. "Not only do people make the area look terrible, but they also block access to the dumpster!" Still fuming, Sarah clambered over the remains of the abandoned cabinet, hoisted her garbage bag, and slung it over the rim of the dumpster. She stood there, glaring angrily at the unsightly mess, seething over the thoughtlessness of her neighbors, who had so insensitively marred the appearance of the neighborhood, and caused her inconvenience.
"I have to take care of this once and for all!" Sarah muttered to herself. She reached into her pocket, took out her phone, and snapped a picture of the mess. Within seconds, the picture was on its way to the neighborhood whassap group, with the caption "Enough mess! Why should our neighborhood look like a junkyard? If you have something to throw out, put in the effort to put it in the dumpster, and not on the ground!"
When Sarah returned home, her husband said "Sarah, I noticed your whassap message." He paused. "I know you’re upset, Sarah. But I’m not sure if it was OK to send that picture. Whoever was in the Levi family’s apartment knows that the cabinet belonged to them! The Levis must be so embarrassed. They must be thinking about how all the neighbors are talking about what slobs they are."
"Well, I didn’t have a choice. It’s getting really disgusting next to the dumpster" Sarah was quick to retort. "It’s time for our neighbors to start caring about how the neighborhood looks! I’ve asked people to be careful with their garbage. I’ve put up signs so many times already. It’s time to take more drastic action."
Was Sarah correct in sending the picture, or was she wrong in possibly embarrassing her neighbors?
Rabbi Dov Lior Shlita:
It is not permitted to publicize the picture of the pieces of discarded cabinet, strewn haphazardly in front of the dumpster. This is because the picture is liable to embarrass those who threw out the cabinet. Sarah could send a message to the neighbors, stating that this is a recurring phenomenon, and that she is requesting that people be more careful in the future, regarding how they dispose of their unwanted property. However, it is inappropriate to act in such an unusual way, and publicize a picture which could embarrass someone.
However, if Sarah knew that there was one particular family who was regularly causing a big mess near the dumpster, and she had repeatedly requested that they be more careful, and despite, this, they continued to litter the area, there is reason to allow Sarah to publicize a picture of the mess, as a last resort, in order to restore cleanliness to the area.
This is indicated in Gemara Baba Batra, which states that if someone enters another’s property, it is permitted to announce "so and so is a thief, and is using my land illicitly." The rule is that "one does not punish without a prior warning." If a warning was given, however, and there was no response from the guilty party, it is permitted to publicize the wrongdoing, do to the lack of any other option.
A Time to Prey
"And the angel of G-d said to him ‘why did you hit your donkey three times?’" (Bamidbar 22:32)
From here we see that the prohibition against causing pain to animals is a Torah obligation. (Sefer Chasidim, 766)
Dani and Itzik were very excited. During the last few weeks of school, they had been eagerly planning their first summer outing. Finally, the last school bell had rung. Now, with backpacks slung over their shoulders, they were out in the wilderness, drinking in the fresh air. After walking for a while, the two boys stopped for a short lunch break. They took out their food, and sat, enjoying the picturesque scene that was spread out before them.
Suddenly, Itzik called out "Dani, look at that bird! Why isn’t it moving?" The two boys gazed at a dove, which was standing awkwardly on a rock, leaning slightly to one side. It fluttered one wing, helplessly. The boys realized that the dove’s second wing was injured. They sat for a minute, wondering if there was anything they could do for the bird.
"Itzik! Look!" Dani exclaimed, pointing to a cat, which had suddenly appeared. "It looks like that cat wants to eat the bird."
Indeed, the cat slinked closer to the dove, ready to pounce. Should Dani and Itzik chase the cat away, to prevent it from causing pain to the dove? Alternatively, should they simply the allow animals to act in accordance with their nature?
Rabbi Shimon Sofer Zt"l , (a grandson of the Chatam Sofer) in his book Hitorerut Teshuva (Choshen Mishpat, siman 37) rules that it is a mitzva to save the bird from the cat, and, if necessary, one may even kill the cat, in order to keep it from preying on the bird. This is no different from a case in which a person is pursuing another person, with intent to kill him, in which case, there is a mitzva for any observer to intervene, and kill the pursuer. Therefore, even though this is the nature of the cat, it is still obligatory to rescue the dove.
Rabbi Dov Lior Shlita agrees that it is a mitzva to save the dove from the cat. However, he maintains that it is merely optional meritorious conduct, and not an actual obligation. Additionally, Rabbi Lior states that one would be forbidden to kill the cat, even if there is no other way to save the bird. Rabbi Lior maintains that the law of "rodef" (pursuer) only applies to human victims, and not animals. There is no preferential treatment regarding the life of the dove, over the life of the cat. If this were a case of a cat attacking a human, it would be acceptable to kill him, however, in this case, he is merely attacking the dove, according to his nature.
Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzal, Shlita agrees that it is a mitzva to rescue the dove.
In conclusion: It is a mitzva to save the dove. According to the Hitorerut Teshuva it is proper to kill the cat, if necessary, in order to save the dove, while, according to Rabbi Lior, it is not proper to kill the cat.
When the Lubavitcher Rebetzin Slipped on the Ice
One day, the Lubavitcher Rebetzin went out, as per her routine, in order to get the mail. However, the ground was covered in a thin layer of ice, and, suddenly, without warning, the rebetzin found herself sprawled out on the ice, unable to move, due to the sharp pain in her arms. She attempted to lift herself, but the sudden stabs of pain made the task impossible. She lay there on the frozen ground, out of sight or earshot of anyone who could help.
Suddenly, a stray dog came padding up to her. The rebetzin realized immediately that this wasn’t just any stray dog. This was a dog who lived in the vicinity of her house. She had often taken pity on the poor creature, and, from time to time, would leave out food for him to eat.
As the rebetzin lay on the ground, the dog bent slightly toward her. She lay her hands on the dog’s neck. The dog moved along slowly, in the direction of the house, with the rebetzin’s hands still on him. In this way, she was able to get inside, and call for help.
(Related by the Lubavitcher rebetzin to her cousin, Hadassa Carlebach, as recorded in The Rebbe, page 364.)
Translated from Hebrew by Avigail Kirsch