Tuesday, June 12, 2007
feeding a pet before eating one's dinner
The gemara (Brachos 40) writes that one should feed one’s animals before sitting down to a meal based on the order of animals before people in the pasuk v’nasati eisva hasadeh l’vhemtecha v’achalta v’savata. The Rambam quotes this din in Hil Avadin (9:8), where he writes that Chachamim haRishonim would feed their slaves and animals before partaking of their own meal, and he cites a completely different pasuk than the gemara as a prooftext. It would seem from the Rambam that this din is a midas chassidus, but not a binding obligation. At the opposite extreme, the Magen Avraham (siman 271) holds that the din is a chiyuv d’oraysa. My son has a pet betta fish and asked if he has to feed the fish before eating. I seem to recall that fish are different than other animals, but can’t find a source that says so. A possible distinction is that unlike a farm animal waiting for dinner, the fish is not any more hungry at human dinner time than later. Maybe the issue depends on whether the chiyuv is rooted in tza’ar ba’alei chaim, which would depend on the animal’s appetite, or a derech eretz hanhaga to train oneself to place others needs first, in which case even if the pet can eat later it should be fed first.