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Sunday, 8 June 2014

The mitzvah of going to the zoo


Rosh Hashanah 31

On a recent visit back home to Australia, we were walking along the pier at Darling Harbour.
“Should we take the kids to the Sydney Aquarium?” I asked Batya.
“Sounds great!” the Rabbanit responded. 
I went inside to purchase tickets and walked out five minutes later with a huge frown.
“It’s over a hundred bucks for all of us!” I exclaimed.
“It’s worth it,” replied Batya, “after all, it’s a mitzvah!”

Is there a mitzvah to visit an aquarium?

Every day of the week, we recite a different Psalm that was originally chanted by the Levites in the Holy Temple.  This is called the Song of the Day.  Rabbi Judah quotes Rabbi Akiva who explains why each Psalm was chosen for that particular day.

The Psalm for Thursday reads, “Sing joyously to the Lord, our strength, sound the shofar for the G-d of Jacob!”  Rabbi Akiva explains that this Psalm was designated in praise of the Almighty who made the birds and the fish on the fifth day of creation. 

Rashi elucidates further: When a person sees the multitude of different species of birds [and fish], one is inspired to offer praise to the One who created them. 

Did you ever wonder why G-d created all sorts of weird and wonderful species of fish, fowl and beast?  What purpose do they serve in this world?

Rabbi Akiva’s explanation is that the Almighty fashioned all these creatures in order that we should marvel at the expanse of creation and be inspired to praise Him!  And so if G-d has created different kinds of fish, then it is incumbent upon us to seek them out and become awestruck by their beauty, consequently breaking out in Heavenly praise!

Going to the aquarium is a mitzvah!  G-d created all these different kinds of fish so that we would utilize the opportunity to wonder at the world and connect with Him.  Next time you take your children to the zoo or to the aquarium, don’t just teach them the what of the animals.  Teach them the why of the animals!


Praise Him!  Develop your relationship with Him!  And teach your children how to appreciate the great wonders of His world!