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According to Leviticus 22:28:

Whether it is a cow or ewe, do not kill both her and her young on the same day.

Why couldn't animals be offered together with their parents on the same day?

3 Answers 3

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Righteous Animal Treatment of [Leviticus 22:28] is explained by Moshe in Deuteronomy 22 regarding prohibition of exterminating a species.

[Devarim | Deuteronomy 22:6] : "If a bird's nest chances before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and [it contains] fledglings or eggs, if the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young." (כִּ֣י יִקָּרֵ֣א קַן־צִפּ֣וֹר | לְפָנֶ֡יךָ בַּדֶּ֜רֶךְ בְּכָל־עֵ֣ץ | א֣וֹ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֶפְרֹחִים֙ א֣וֹ בֵיצִ֔ים וְהָאֵ֤ם רֹבֶ֨צֶת֙ עַל־הָֽאֶפְרֹחִ֔ים א֖וֹ עַל־הַבֵּיצִ֑ים לֹֽא־תִקַּ֥ח הָאֵ֖ם עַל־הַבָּנִֽים)

[Devarim | Deuteronomy 22:7] : "You shall send away the mother, and [then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be good for you, and you should lengthen your days." (שַׁלֵּ֤חַ תְּשַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־הָאֵ֔ם וְאֶת־הַבָּנִ֖ים תִּקַּח־לָ֑ךְ לְמַ֨עַן֙ יִ֣יטַב לָ֔ךְ וְהַֽאֲרַכְתָּ֖ יָמִֽים)

  • Ramban comments on [Devarim 22:6] stating : "we should not have a cruel heart and be discompassionate, or it may be that Scripture does not permit us to destroy a species altogether, although it permits slaughter [for food] within that group." [https://www.sefaria.org/Deuteronomy.22.6?with=Ramban&lang=bi&aliyot=0]

Why couldn't animals be offered together with their parents on the same day?

The action would be regarded as though you exterminated that entire species.

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  • Link doesn't work, strangely. Please edit. Good explanation, though. How do I type out your name in English, btw?
    – Philip
    Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 1:30
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Ellicott encourages an act of mercy:

Not kill it and her young both in one day.—According to the ancient canons, this prohibition to slaughter the dam and its youngling the same day was not only designed to remind the Israelites of the sacred relations which exist between parent and offspring, but was especially intended to keep up feelings of humanity. Hence the ancient Chaldee version begins this injunction with the words, “My people the children of Israel, as our Father is merciful in heaven, so be ye merciful on earth.”

Similarly, Pulpit:

A lesson of charity is added. A young animal and its mother are not to be killed (though reference is specially made to sacrifice, the general word, not the sacrificial term, for slaying is used) on the same day, just as the kid is not to be seethed in its mother's milk (Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 14:21), nor the mother bird be taken from the nest with the young (Deuteronomy 22:6). Thus we see that the feelings of the human heart arc not to be rudely shocked by an act of apparent cruelty, even when no harm is thereby done to the object of that act. Mercy is to be taught by forbidding anything which may blunt the sentiment of mercy in the human heart. Leviticus 22:28

Likewise, Benson:

This Maimonides considers as a precaution of humanity, lest the dam should be brought to the altar while she is yet mourning the loss of her young, slain perhaps before her eyes. And, indeed, there is a degree of cruelty in the very idea of imbruing the hand in the blood of both parent and offspring at the same time. Therefore Jonathan, in his paraphrase, considers this as a symbolical precept, to teach the Israelites to be merciful, as their Father in heaven is merciful.

Why couldn't newborn animals be offered with their parents?

To do so would be cruel and against mercy and charity.

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It is possible we may never know the full implications of this prohibition. This seem very much akin to the passage in Deut 14:21, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” One reason for this seems to be that it would render the kid unclean.

I agree with the comments made by the Cambridge Bible Commentary on this. This prohibition seems to suggest a natural order of propriety or decency like the laws in Leviticus 22:27-28 which says,

“When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be accepted as a sacrifice of an offering by fire to the Lord. But whether it is an ox or a sheep, you shall not kill both it and its young in one day.”

However, since this prohibition was directly linked to the offering of first fruits in Exodus 23:19, this may have been a prohibition against a particular pagan practice for the purpose of securing a good harvest for the coming year. According Clarke’s Commentary,

“It was a custom of the ancient heathens, when they had gathered in all their fruits, to take a kid and boil it in the milk of its dam [mother]; and then, in a magical way, to go about and besprinkle with it all their trees, and fields, gardens, and orchards; thinking by these means to make them fruitful, that they might bring forth more abundantly in the following year.”

If this is true, then the prohibition would certainly make sense because God was the surety of the produce of their harvest, not some pagan ritual. This prohibition would have been a restriction against Israel practicing such things. If this was the intent of the prohibition, then God was not about to share credit for their harvest with other gods, nor would he permit Israel to petition other gods for what the Lord said he would do for them. They were to understand that the Lord was the only causative factor in a successful harvest.

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