One thing I’ve never told my readers: I am a disciple of a Hassidic rebbe.
Which rebbe might he possibly be? I can hear my readers asking. Perhaps the Maid of Ludomir, Hannah Rahel Werbermacher, who took on the function of a rebbe despite the fact that she was a woman and not related to any rabbinic figures of her day?
No. It’s the Ailurolover Rebbe, of course!
The Ailurolover is an obscure figure in Hassidic history. He is best known for his strong belief was that just as the redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt came through cats, our redemption from our present exile will come through cats as well. Therefore, he says, it is incumbent on every Jew, and indeed on every human being, to be as kind as possible to cats—and, by extension, all other animals.
Yes, tza’ar ba’alei hayyim (treating animals kindly) was one of the Ailurolover Rebbe’s favorite mitzvot, and he never tired of talking about it.
Now, you may ask: how did the redemption from Egypt come about through cats?
The following story about Bithia, the daughter of Pharaoh who found Moses as a baby in the Nile River, should explain. According to Jewish tradition, Bithia’s historic bath in the Nile was a symbolic renunciation of her father’s wicked ways, which allowed the slavery and suffering that she saw every day. However, according to a little-known tradition cited by the Ailurolover Rebbe, she decided on this drastic step only when she was already on her way to the river. Her actual reason for going there was slightly more mundane. Here is the story, redacted to one hundred words:
Bithia bent to her task. Like all royal children, she must serve in a temple, and today her job was to empty the litter pans.
Examining their contents, she smiled. Praise Bast, no more worms! Her formula had worked.
Outside, a whip cracked and a man groaned. Bithia’s eyes filled. “Lady Bast—or any god who may be listening—please put an end to that,” she prayed. “If only I could do so myself.”
Her work done, she summoned her maids. “I need a bath,” she said, leading them to the riverbank...
... for a dip that changed history.
But of course we can’t leave this post without some cat pictures. Here is Her Ladyship with a poofy tail after a German shepherd poked his head into the yard:
Here is Missy, after the same incident:
Here are both cats in the same frame:
And since Lady is also part of my life, here she is close up: