The Journey to Unity – 174
Sabbath Rest for the Animals:
“Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it. Six days shall you labor and
accomplish all your work; but the Seventh Day is a Shabbos to the
Compassionate One,
your God. On it you shall not perform any kind of work – not you, your son,
your daughter, your servant, your maidservant, or your animal; nor the
within your gates.” (Exodus 20:8-10).
Dear Friends,
There is a mitzvah Divine mandate – not to cause our animals to do work on
Shabbos. The book “Nefesh Kol Chai” cites some halachic sources which state
that this mitzvah is connected to the Torah’s prohibition against “tzaar
baalei Chayim” – causing needless suffering to living creatures. Why,
should causing our animals to work on Shabbos be a form of tzaar baalei
chayim? After all, does not the Torah give us permission to cause them to
under humane conditions during the six days of the week? If so, then why
can’t we cause them to do some work on Shabbos under humane conditions? The
of the answer to this question can be found in the following verse which
serves as another source for this mitzvah:
“Six days shall you do your tasks, and on the seventh day you shall cease,
so that your ox and your donkey ‘yanuach’ – will have restful contentment”
(Exodus 23:12).
The Hebrew word “yanuach” is related to the word “menuchah” – restful
contentment. According to a midrashic commentary known as the “Mechilta,”
the word
“yanuach” is therefore teaching us that in addition to resting from physical
work on Shabbos, our animals are also free to go into the fields and graze
without being disturbed. The classical commentator, Rashi, cites this
teaching of the Mechilta, and a noted commentator on Rashi offers the
following explanation:
“On Shabbos, our animals are to have contentment of the heart” (Be’ar
Yitzchak, cited by Sha’arei Aharon).
In this spirit, “Nefesh Kol Chai” states in the name of the Ohr Somayach
that on the Holy Shabbos, the Torah wants animals “to have contentment and
This is the mandate of Hashem the Compassionate One.
Regarding this mandate, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:
“On the Seventh Day, the human being refrains from exercising his own rule
over any of Hashem’s creatures and humbly subordinates himself and his world
to the Creator. While he observes the Shabbos, the Shabbos teaches him to
respect every other creature alongside himself, as all are equal before
and all are His children. This dismantling of the human being’s rule over
all creatures is one of the objectives of the Shabbos – the day on which the
human being shows homage to Hashem – so that the animals who work and bear
burdens should have rest from working for the human being.” (Commentary to
Exodus 23:12)
Yes, during the week, we have limited dominion over the animals in our
possession, which includes the right to have them work for us under humane
This right, however, is taken away from us on Shabbos, as the animals are
given the right to rest during the entire Shabbos and to experience
of the heart. As a result, any attempt to force them to work on Shabbos is
considered to be needless suffering – tzaar baalei chayim!
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
Related Teachings:
1. There is an ancient story about a non-Jewish man living in the Land of
Israel who became inspired to accept the Torah after witnessing how a cow
once belonged to a Jewish man would not work on Shabbos. This convert later
became a Torah sage. The story appears in the archive on our website (lower
section), and the following is a direct link:
2. As the custodians of the earth and its creatures (Genesis 2:15), human
beings only have a limited form of dominion. We discussed this issue in a
letter of this series titled, “The Limits of Human Dominion,” and it appears
in the archive on our website (lower section). The following is a direct
Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

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