A Dog’s Life
‘Raising Dogs Is Like Raising Pigs’
(Bava Kamma 83a)
Our daf discusses raising dogs. R. Eliezer Ha’Gadol considers this activity the equivalent of raising pigs, which is contrary to halacha and a Jewish lifestyle. The Gemara questions his stringency and suggests that R. Eliezer Ha’Gadol maintains that although raising dogs is normally prohibited, a person may raise them (under certain condition, e.g., securing the dog on a leash during the day) if he lives near a dangerous border.
Is It A Mitzvah To Feed Dogs?
The Gemara (Temura 30b-31a) states that one may not redeem a sacrifice that became trefah (and is thus unfit to be offered or eaten) by paying its worth to hekdesh and then feeding its meat to dogs. It should be burned instead. The assumption that one would feed this meat to dogs is either because one usually gives discarded meat to dogs or because the Torah says “…and meat in the field, trefah, you shall not eat; you shall throw it to the dog” (Shemos 22:30). The Mechilta states: “The verse teaches you that Hashem does not withhold any creature’s reward, as we are told: ‘… and to all the children of Israel [in Egypt] a dog did not bark.” Hashem said, ‘Give him his reward.’” In reward for their silence, the dogs are fed trefah meat.
A search of the Mishneh Torah, Tur and Shulchan Aruch, however, yields no mention of a mitzvah to feed trefah meat to dogs. In fact, the Rema states (Yoreh Deah 117:4) that it is permitted to sell trefah and nevelah meat to gentiles. The author of Minchas Chinuch remarks (mitzvah 73) that the Rishonim and Acharonim do not mention the mitzvah to feed trefah meat to dogs, nor do those who enumerated the mitzvos. Tosafos (Yoma 36b, s.v. “Lav d’nevelah...”), though, is obviously of the opinion that “you shall throw it to a dog” is a commandment. Thus, one who fails to do so is ignoring a mitzvah!
An Ill Person Should Eat The Nevelah
The author of Divrei Emes tends to follow Tosafos’s opinion and therefore introduces an amazing chiddush: A Jew who is so seriously ill that his life is in danger should eat nevelah meat before trefah meat (if no other meat is available and eating meat is vital for his recovery). Why? Because if he eats the trefah meat, he is ignoring the positive mitzvah of feeding trefah meat to dogs (see Responsa Beis Yitzchak, Orach Chayyim, 95:3).
In Pirkei Avos (Avos 2:1), the Sages state, “Consider the loss of a mitzvah against its reward.” Even if a person suffers a loss by feeding his meat to a dog, he should remember that he is performing a mitzvah with a great reward. This mitzvah, however, only applies to cheap meat (as indicated by Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 20a, s.v. “Rabbi Meir”) and if the loss is slight. If, however, one can easily sell the meat to gentiles, one is not required to feed it to dogs (see Machatzis HaShekel, 498:8, which states that only in earlier times, in the land of Israel, where few gentiles were found, was it considered a mitzvah to give trefah meat to dogs).
Feeding A Stray On Shabbos
It is interesting to note the following statement of the Meiri (Shabbos 19a): On Shabbos it is forbidden to feed animals unless we must do so, e.g., they belong to us. Obviously what is meant are domestic animals that are totally dependent on humans for their sustenance. The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayyim 324:7; see Mishnah Berurah, s.k. 31, for dissenting views) maintains that dogs are different – that a person may even feed a dog that does not belong to him “since it is a mitzvah to feed it.” The Meiri states that although there’s no positive mitzvah to feed a dog, the Torah teaches us general modes of behavior, which includes the proper care of dogs.Rabbi Yaakov Klass