Divre Harav – January, 2021

God made some animals to demonstrate God’s might and power, like the lion, the tiger, the elephant, the rhinoceros, the great white shark, and the blue whale.

Some animals are a demonstration of God’s beauty, like the antelope, the horse, the swan, and the dolphin.

Some animals make you believe that God has a sense of human, like the platypus, the penguin, and the monkey.

God made some animals to work with human beings, like horses or oxen, and some animals to feed us or clothe us, like sheep, goats, cows, or chickens.

God, the creator and designer, the engineer and driver of this grand experiment called planet Earth and the Milky Way galaxy and the boundless universe, will someday apologize, at least I hope, for mosquitoes, gnats, and cockroaches, some of God’s early insect experiments.

And then there are the animals that God made to be our companions, to live with us and talk with us and comfort us when we are sad and give us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Cats and dogs and rabbits and birds and small animals like hamsters and gerbils, and various other animals that give us joy each day. In this category, there is no accounting for taste. Dog people and cat people will rarely agree, except when they puzzle over reptile lovers.

Why do we take animals into our homes? Companion animals are needy – who wants to walk a dog in the middle of a blizzard or a downpour? Expensive – not necessarily to buy, but the vet bills will kill you. Inconvenient – want to go on vacation? Who takes care of the fish? But we love them and we anthropopathize them with human feelings so that they love us back, and we are grateful to God for their playful nature, cuteness, and fuzziness (except for the snakes).

Many years ago, before I came to Grand Rapids, I lived in New York, down the street from the Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine, the largest Cathedral in the world. They hold a Blessing of the Pets each October in which they parade animals from elephants to giraffes, tarantulas to white rats, terrariums of snakes and bowls of fish, llamas, sheep, cows, pigs, goats, horses, dogs and cats and everything in between, down the main aisle, nearly two football fields long. Animals are followed by dancers waving banners representing seasons and other aspects of nature. The service is a celebration of God’s creation and a time to give thanks. Thousands of people sat with their pets on their laps or under their chairs, praising God for creation in general, and for those aspects which they had taken as their own in particular. Following the service, they went out onto the grounds where an army of priests individually blessed animals of all kinds, with the words, “May the Lord bless you and guard you; May the Lord shine His face upon you and be gracious to you; May the Lord raise His face to you and grant you peace.”

God loves animals. As we say in Ashrei, Potei’ah et yadekha umasbia l’khol hai ratzon, “You open Your hands, and satisfy every living thing with favor.” Psalms 145:16

in memory of Mr. Macho Lipsner Krishef, June 3, 2011- December 4, 2020

Hebrew Words of the Month:

  • Kelev – dog
  • Hatul – cat
  • Nahash – snake
  • Dag – fish
  • Kipod – hedgehog
  • Oger – hamster
  • Arnav – rabbit

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