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A Story from the Midrash
From The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism by Rabbi David Sears

Alexander [the Great] of Macedonia once came to the land beyond the Dark Mountains[1] and sent for King Katzia. When the latter arrived, Alexander was engaged in a legal discussion. King Katzia presented him a gift of a golden platter containing a golden loaf of bread. [Thus, he alluded to his anxiety that Alexander wished to plunder his kingdom.]

"Do I need your money?" Alexander asked him.

"Perhaps you do not have enough food to eat in your own country, that you must come here?" King Katzia asked.

"I have only come here to learn how you judge disputes," Alexander replied. He sat down beside King Katzia.

One day a man came before the King with a complaint against his fellow. He said, "This man sold me a dung-heap in which I found [hidden] treasure. I bought the dung-heap, not the treasure." [Because he did not wish to steal, he was reluctant to keep the treasure.]

The other man said, "I sold him the dung-heap and all its contents." [He, too, did not wish to keep the treasure, due to his scrupulous honesty.]

King Katzia asked one of the disputants, "Do you have a son?" The man replied affirmatively.

"And do you have a daughter?" he asked the other, who again replied affirmatively. The King then declared, "Let them marry one another, and divide the treasure between them."

King Katzia noticed that Alexander seemed disturbed. "Did I rule unfairly?" he asked. "If this case came before the court in your country, how would it be adjudicated?"

"The judge would condemn them both to death, and the king would keep the treasure," Alexander replied.

"Does the rain fall in your country?" King Katzia asked.


"Does the sun shine upon it?"


"Do you have small cattle?"


"Cursed be that man [who would render such evil judgments]!" [King Katzia] declared. "It is only due to the merit of the small cattle that the sun shines and the rain falls upon your country. For the sake of the small cattle you are saved!"

Hence, it is written, "[Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your judgments like the great deep;] man and animal You save, O God" (Psalms 36:7). That is, You save man for the sake of the animal (Midrash: Bereishis Rabbah 33:1, acc. to Eitz Yosef).


[1] This probably refers to a kingdom in Africa; cf. Tamid 32a.

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