Rabbi Yehoshua Alt
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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
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Elephants and Monkeys
For those traveling to the zoo for a Chol Hamoed trip, here is an article you can appreciate. The Gemara says that if one sees an elephant or monkey, he recites the bracha of משנה הבריות, diversifies creatures. In fact, to be able to say the bracha of משנה הבריות, diversifies creatures, some great people went to the zoo in order to recite it on an elephant and monkey.
The Melachas Shlomo explains that we say it on elephants and monkeys since the דור המבול was punished by being turned into elephants and monkeys. That is, the monkey is similar to man and elephants understand the language of humans.
The Minchas Elazar (1868-1937) recited this during his stay in Berlin. The Steipler (1899-1985) took his children to the zoo in Ramat Gan to one of the gardens that had monkeys, where he recited the bracha of משנה הבריות.
Here are some other accounts of great people visiting animals.
1) The Chida (1724-1806) describes strange and scary animals he saw in London where they also had animals from America. In his sefer Maagal Tov, the Chida tells of his visit to a taxidermy exhibit in Holland featuring a vast array of animals and insects.
2) The Sefer Ohaiv Shalom relates that when R’ Shalom Kaminka traveled to Vienna to seek out doctors, he also visited the zoo.
3) The Divrei Chaim (1793-1876) while he was in Vienna visited the zoo of the palace.
4) R’ Tzvi Hirsch Shapira (1850-1913), known as the Darkei Teshuva, went with his disciples to see strange animals.
5) The Leket Yosher testifies about his rebbe—the Terumas Hadeshen (1390-1460)—that he once took a walk on Shabbos particularly to see the lions, when a pair of lions were brought to the city, because he had never before seen a lion.
 Brachos 58b.
 Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 225:8. The bracha isבָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם מְשַׁנֵּה הַבְּרִיּוֹת.
 Seeשו”ת יביע אומר , 4:20.
 Minhag Yisrael Torah 1, 225:5.
 To Kilayim 8:6.
 Orchos Rabbeinu, 1:94.
 קדמות מדבר, מערכת ב, 22.
 2, p. 89.
 See also the Sefer Mevaser Tov, Yeshuos Avraham, p. 226.
 1, p. 66.