Rabbi's Message

  • May 15, 2015


    I wanted to share a fascinating Dvar Torah from Rav Yochanan Zweig shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Talmudic University of Miami, Florida. Have a great Shabbos!!

    "The Sabbath produce of the land shall be yours to eat...And for your animal and for your beast that is in your land..." (25:6,7)

                   During the Sabbatical year, the Torah renders all produce of the land ownerless. The verse teaches us that the owner is permitted to take from the produce for his own and his animals' needs, provided that he allows equal access to everyone else as well. The Torah says "lachem" - "for you" prior to "livhemtecha" - "for your animal", placing the owner's eating before that of his animal. This appears to contradict the halacha taught by the Talmud that before partaking of a meal, a person should first feed his animals. A similar question is posed by Reb Naftali Amsterdam in Parshas Chukas where Hashem instructs Moshe "Speak to the rock so that it may bring forth water and give drink to the assembly and their animals." Why are the people given water to drink before their animals? 

    If a person has only one portion of food, there is no question that his eating supersedes that of his animals. The Torah requirement is that when a person has sufficient food for both himself and his animal, the responsibility to his animal comes first. If the food does not belong to the owner of the animal, but it is being given to him as a gift, the person giving the gift does not have a responsibility to his friend's animal. In fact, it could be viewed as disrespectful to feed an animal prior to its owner. Therefore, during the Shemittah year, when a person does not own his produce, but Hashem is gifting it all to him, he may eat prior to his animals. Similarly, when Hashem gives Bnei Yisroel water to drink, His responsibility is to the people first.

    With the understanding that feeding an animal prior to its owner is only applicable when the owner owns the food, and not when someone else is providing it, there may be grounds to question a ruling made by the Magen Avraham (a commentary on Shulchan Aruch). The Magen Avraham asks why Rivka gave Eliezer water to drink prior to his animals, he therefore concludes that a person is required to feed his animals first only in regard to eating, and not drinking. Perhaps the question does not begin, for Rivka was providing Eliezer with the water. Therefore, her responsibility was to the person first and not his animals, and no distinction between eating and drinking is necessary.