Last night marked the first night of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the event that heralded the Jews’ exodus from Egypt.
Moses had warned Pharaoh Ramses II that a rain of 10 plagues would descend upon his land unless he obeyed God’s command to release generations of slaves from bondage. Pharaoh answered with a chortle and a smirk - right up until mad-cow disease claimed his herds and waves of locusts reaped his crops down to stubble. Still, no pesky pestilence could sway Pharaoh to release generations of slaves whose sweat and toil produced the grandest monuments to he and his predecessors. Not even great balls of fire from heaven phased him.
As Moses dictated, Pharaoh’s command that the first born of Israel be slain boomeranged on him. His young heir to the throne dead and his legions thinned, Pharaoh capitulated. The next morning, Moses and his ten tribes went packing toward the promised land.
One problem along the way: Moses and his throng got stuck at the mother of all toll booths - the Red Sea. Meanwhile, a seething and humiliated Pharaoh was closing in on them. Moses’ once faithful followers began to turn on him to which he spun around and yammered: “Ten times the Lord has shown you his resolve to free you - and still you don’t believe!”
We will resume our story in a minute. In the meantime, it is worth enumerating the (at least) 10 ways in which companion animals have lead us out of bondage and given us a better life:
- They enhanced the hunting skills of our human ancestors without which we may not have even survived.
- They guarded our palaces and homesteads and rang out the most reliable “intruder alerts” long before digital-age gadgets did.
- They patrolled our granaries and other food storehouses to keep disease-ridden rodents out.
- They kept our herds together ensuring sustenance for our clans.
- They have borne our loads as we crossed frontiers in search of new homes.
- They have given us the gift of enhanced fortitude including improved cardio-vascular, mental and spiritual health.
- They alert us to changes in our body chemistry so we can take needed medicines to save our own lives.
- They guide us through the darkness when color and light have run dry from our eyes.
- They sniff out bombs and contraband that seek to snuff us out or hasten our descent into hell.
- They teach us compassion, selflessness and how to nurture (whether and how we follow through is a totally different matter).
In these (at least) 10 ways companion animals have demonstrated both their utility AND their nobility to us and still too many of us don’t believe that they are worth our respect, devotion and love! We “responsibly” breed them in unsustainable numbers, toss out the runts, train them to do our vicious bidding (and then blame them for it) and kick them to the curb when they are “too old.”
Back to our Passover story. God “opened” the sea allowing the newly-freed seekers to pass, then “closed” it around Pharaoh’s charging chariots. Moses then led his followers to the base of Mount Sinai where he ascended to receive God’s Ten Commandments. Impatient to receive these laws, his followers chose to break every conceivable law in a spate of mayhem and debauchery seldom matched in history.
Fuming at the would-be Israelites’ orgiastic antics, Moses held the chiseled tablets over his head and yelled, “You are not worthy of these Ten Commandments!” before hurling them down on the heads of those who sinned. What followed was a flurry of spontaneous human combustion and circuitous wandering in the desert for 40 years until the generation that sullied itself was consumed.
Recent years have seen an elevation in the status of companion animals. Needless euthanasia and breed prejudice has decreased. The number of people who believe pets are family has increased. But we have a long way to go to prove ourselves worthy of being led out of bondage.
Shouldn’t be too difficult for a “freed” society to get its pets to the promised land.