10 Cheshvan 5781 / Wednesday, October 28, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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Kedoshim: The Rabbi and the Cat    

Kedoshim: The Rabbi and the Cat

Hashem knows that we can't begin to know what other people are going through unless we're in their shoes, and their shoes never fit us properly...


At eight-thirty in the morning, Reuven stood at the bus-stop on Chazon Ish Street in Bnai Brak, about to catch a bus to his Kollel. He had his nose in a book, using his time as productively as he could while waiting for the bus. Suddenly from behind him, a loud clang of rock hitting metal startled him. He turned around, and he saw a rock careen off the side of the big green “frog”, the metal neighborhood waste bin that stood in the parking lock between two apartment buildings adjacent to the bus-stop.


A black cat stood on the top of the “frog”, its inquisitive nose inside its open lid examining what was available for breakfast. From the corner of his eye, Reuven saw a rock thrown from the balcony of one of the third-floor apartments in the direction of the communal waste bin. The rock hit the pavement near the frog missing its intended target, and soon a third and a fourth rock were airborne. Reuven looked up and he couldn't believe what he saw: Rabbi Hillel, a young Rosh Kollel and one of the neighborhood's most promising Torah scholars, was throwing the rocks at the cat. The fourth rock landed squarely on the top of the frog almost hitting the cat, sending the feeding feline bolting for safety.


Reuven couldn't believe what he saw. What, hasn't Rabbi Hillel ever heard that kindness to animals is a law of Torah? What kind of hobby is throwing rocks at cats? Wasn't he ashamed? What kind of Torah scholar throws rocks at animals? If that's the type of cruel human he is, he shouldn't even be learning Torah...


As the questions were flying through Reuven's brain, Rabbi Hillel appeared at the bus-stop, briefcase in hand. He knew that Reuven had seen him throw the rocks and imagined what could possibly be going through his mind.


“Reuven, you must think that I'm crazy...”


Embarrassed, Reuven replied, “The truth is, Rav Hillel, that I don't know what to think. You are not some Palestinian kid in Ramallah, you're a Rosh Kollel! That's not exactly a display of Torah midot (character traits). You don't owe me any explanation, but in all candor, I'm disappointed.”


“Reuven, are you willing to hear my side of the story? It's not healthy to doubt another human in your heart, especially if you are judging him unfairly, for Hashem judges us the way we judge others.


“What could possibly be justified about throwing rocks at cats?” probed Reuven.


“I'm glad you asked,” Hillel answered. “Four years ago, my wife had a traumatic miscarriage. She took out the trash one morning and a big black cat on the top of the “frog” startled her so badly that she lost our expectant child in the sixth month. Since then, we've been trying for more children but to no avail. Several weeks ago, we received the wonderful news, thanks to Hashem, that she is once more an expectant mother. This morning after breakfast, she went downstairs to throw the trash out. I glanced out the window and my heart went up to my throat – here was the same traumatic, potentially tragic situation all over again. I saw that big black cat on top of the frog. Luckily, we have a rubber plant in our living room. The first thing that came in my mind was to grab some rocks from the planter and throw them at the cat. I didn't want to yell down at my wife because that might have startled her just as badly. I had no time to run down three flights of stairs and across the parking lot to chase the cat away. With Hashem's mercy, I succeeded. Reuven, this was pikuach nefesh – saving a life. What could I do? How could I risk the life of another unborn child?”


Reuven felt like a creep. Had there been an open manhole on Chazon Ish Street, he'd have jumped in. He profusely apologized to Rabbi Hillel, and thanked Hashem for this important lesson in Jewish ethics.


We seldom are aware of all of the circumstances that dictate and shape other peoples actions. Our sages teach that it is impossible to truly know what's in another person's heart. Therefore, the Torah commands us in this week's Torah portion, "...and you shall judge your comrade fairly." (Leviticus 19:16). Hashem knows that we can't begin to know what other people are going through unless we're in their shoes, and their shoes never fit. So, if we ever judge anyone else, we should at least do it fairly giving them complete benefit of the doubt. Even better, as Rebbe Nachman advises, is to avoid judging others altogether.


There's one more simple moral to our story: if there are cats in your neighborhood, and your wife is expecting, then why not take out the trash yourself? May all our stories have happy endings, amen!

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  1 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  What a great story!
Dassie4/20/2015 3:28:38 PM

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