My online bat mitzvah student wanted her bat mitzvah to be more than just learning how to sing from the Torah. Sure, she wanted to learn Hebrew education, learn how to chant from the Torah confidently and feel great about herself. But she wanted her bat mitzvah to be meaningful and memorable. When I first started teaching my student I learned that she had a love of all animals. Her family has two cats, two dogs, a hamster and 7 fish. My student has always been upset knowing that there are those who are cruel to animals or neglect their pets. We learned as part of her bat mitzvah education that in the Torah, there is an entire code of laws (“tsa’ar ba’alei hayim,” the requirement “to prevent the suffering of living creatures”) which mandates that animals be treated with compassion. Jews are not allowed to “pass by” an animal in distress or animals being mistreated, even on the Sabbath.
My student spoke at her bat mitzvah ceremony that I officiated, that she was once at a Walmart, and as she was walking in the parking lot to go in, she heard a dog crying from a car. My student ran into the Walmart and demanded with her mom that the store make an announcement in the store for the owner of the car to immediately return to the car as the dog was suffering in the heat ! The owner of the dog, after hearing his name called and the car make and model went quickly to the car and saved their own pet! Now my student doesn’t know if the police were called and if the owner got into trouble. But she does know that because it was a hot summer day, had she not done what she did – that poor dog could have died.
My student learned with me that we can’t change the world all at once. We can’t eliminate cruelty to animals overnight. But we can look for opportunities each and every day to be kind and good. If everyone committed to doing at least one good action daily – just think how much better this planet could be?