Kindness and mercy are always in favor. To help those in need, to champion the cause of those who cannot speak for themselves -- these are always actions that evoke an approving reaction from those who hear about them.
It is a natural human reaction, found in any spiritually healthy human being, to want to relieve suffering. But without the discipline and direction that must be supplied by a value system that is anchored in Hashem, strange contortions can result.
How else to understand the fact that five members of Shinui filed a private, 70-page proposal for a law to ensure environmental enrichment for pigs. The proposal goes into great detail about the specific needs of hogs who must be given "a variety of materials" such as straw, hay and compost so that they can root around in them "to enrich their leisure time." A dog must be given no less than 20 square meters if he is confined more than five hours, and his leash must be at least five meters long. Cats, chickens, house pets and more, are all given detailed requirements. (One section demands that no animal be held in a round cage.)
The law was really the initiative of the number two man in Shinui, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, who is barred from proposing laws that are not approved by the government.
This is the same party and the same leader who have taken every opportunity to worsen the conditions of religious children. They are not worried if our children do not have the amount of room in schools that Education Ministry experts recommend. They push for measures that force our children below the poverty line.
Poraz is consistent and proud of his positions. Several years ago he gave a Knesset speech in which he suggested that it is not proper to call large families "blessed with children" (bruchot yeladim) but they should just be termed "with many children" (merubot yeladim). Less than a week later he sent a letter to all 120 MKs asking them to join a Parliamentary lobby for animals.
This is the value system of the Interior Minister, who oversees the civil and social needs of the citizens of Israel.
When he spoke at the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the Laniado Hospital which he established in Netanya, the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt"l, explained this point at length.
"It is clear to anyone who thinks into it," explained the Admor, "that without emunoh in Hashem, . . . there is no basis and foundation for any of the civilized manners and [proper] behavior between people. The `refined' manners that the idol worshipers and atheists introduce, will not stand up to the normal pressures of life, and when the manners conflict with personal interests, or they involve personal unpleasantness, they will immediately abandon all their ideals about human relationships."
Along these lines he explained the pesukim in Tehillim (89:2-3): " . . . from generation to generation I will tell of emunoh. Because I said, `A world of chesed will be built . . . "
It is true that one of the foundations of the world is chessed, but it is only after emunoh is firmly established in my heart that I can go on to talk about the chesed of the world. Without emunoh in the Torah and its Giver, there is no basis for chesed, all of these lofty ideals and genuine healthy emotions will be distorted into their opposite.
"We saw with our own eyes in those bloody years how in the `enlightened' and `progressive' countries of Europe . . . were found the worst depths of human depravity."
The Rebbe also mentioned the words of Rabi Akiva: "I saw a nochri who bound his father before his dog and fed him" (Rashi on Devorim 12:31). Certainly he had mercy on his hungry dog and those feelings were stronger than his feelings for his father, so he did what he did.
The conclusion of the Klausenberger Rebbe was that even an institution like a hospital and other organizations that care for the sick, which might seem to be "biased" in a proper direction, must nonetheless be founded and managed by people whose chesed comes from their Torah, and not from their own ideas that may lead anywhere.
This is an important lesson which was again made clear in the strange behavior of the Shinui party.
Torah is the basis of life -- in this world as well as in the next.