`118 Chazal on Emotional Distress to Animals
Chananya Weissman
August 2, 2021

Chazal knew a lot more about health and nature than many people want you to believe. Their teachings on these matters are not historical relics, but remain the basis for practical halacha in many areas. Although the medical treatments prescribed in the Gemara are generally not practiced, for a variety of reasons, don't be fooled: Chazal were real experts, their wisdom is timeless, and, unlike the drug-pushing, hot-air-blowing, self-proclaimed enlightened folk, Chazal had real integrity.

The Gemara in Bechoros 38B discusses the case of an animal with constantly dripping eyes. This is a blemish that would render it unfit for sanctity as a first-born, and instead of giving it to a Kohen, the owner would be allowed to keep it. However, this condition must be examined to determine if it is permanent or transient; if transient, the animal would retain its sanctity.

The Gemara prescribes a dietary regimen over a period of several months that is supposed to cure the dripping eyes. If the treatment fails, then it qualifies as a blemish. However, the treatment must be scrupulously followed, otherwise its failure is not proof of a blemish. Even a slight variance in the amount of food that is administered, or the frequency, or whether the animal drinks water before or after eating is enough to impact the efficacy of the treatment.

Then the Gemara discusses other such variables, and here's where things get really interesting. If the animal is free while being fed, the treatment would definitely be effective, and therefore if the eye dripping continues, it would be a blemish. But what if the animal was tied?

If the animal was together with another animal, the treatment would similarly be effective, but what if the animal was alone?

What if the animal was in the city, instead of in the field?

Would the discomfort caused by the lack of freedom, or loneliness, or the air quality of the city render the treatment ineffective? These questions are left unanswered.

Chazal were deeply attuned to the connection between the mind and the body. They recognized that even a slight disturbance to an animal which does not have da'as (sense) makes a profound physical difference. If an animal is momentarily "locked down", or "socially distanced", or deprived of fresh air, it is enough to retard a months-long medical remedy. Even momentary emotional distress can have far-reaching health implications.

What do you think prolonged, severe, constant emotional distress can do to a human being? What does such distress or, to be more precise, torture do to the elderly, or children, or people with pre-existing conditions? What are the health implications of prolonged confinement, loneliness, and a stale environment?

According to Chazal, who were true experts and saintly men of integrity, the health implications would be devastating. They knew this from tradition dating back to Har Sinai, sage wisdom, and an impeccable commitment to the truth. The "experts" of today have access to troves of information and new discoveries, but they lack a spiritual connection, substitute pride for wisdom, and sell "truth" to the highest bidder.

These hot-air-blowers with their advanced technology, large corporate grants, and stuffy academic journals know less about basic physiology than our sages expressed with a side question in a little-studied tractate.

No, we still don't follow the medical treatments in the Gemara, but anything that could be observed was known to them, along with a great deal that could not.

Chazal would never have prescribed confinement, loneliness, and stale conditions for even an animal, let alone an entire world. They wouldn't have supported the idea for even a moment, let alone indefinitely. And, of course, they would be right.

Those who believe in the Torah and its greatest sages must oppose lockdowns, social distancing, masks, and the other assorted forms of torture that only cause harm.

Those who don't believe in the Torah and its greatest sages had best reconsider.