Sunday, August 9, 2020 -
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Pets and Judaism: A special bond

Ozzie the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cantor Marty Goldstein, Oscar the bearded dragon lizard, Beth Goldstein and Max the cat.

The connection between human beings and their pets is like a love sonnet composed for someone who can neither read nor speak yet understands each line.

Despite our best efforts, few human relationships compare in terms of reciprocity, warmth, trust, constancy and unconditional affection.

Of course, not everyone welcomes the idea of sharing his or her home with an animal. There are those who can’t live without pets and others who wouldn’t buy that cute little doggy in the window if you paid them.

The affinity is similar to the taste of black licorice — either you love it or you don’t.

Judaism is ethically, morally and behaviorally pro-animal. For example, feeding a pet before yourself isn’t merely a thoughtful gesture. It’s pure Talmud.

Tza’ar ba’alei chayim — preventing the suffering of living creatures — is the fundamental principle behind positive and negative commandments concerning animals in the Torah and Talmud.

According to Judaism, human beings have dominion over the animals (Gen. 1:26). However, this does not give humanity the right to inflict indiscriminate pain. We may hunt for food but not for pleasure.

The Torah delineates the rights of beasts of burden. Animals rest on Shabbat. One may not plow a field using animals of a different species because this may induce hardship.

Jews are not permitted to kill an animal on the same day as its young. Jews are commanded to ensure the mother is out of sight before taking her eggs.

The Talmud recognizes a direct link between an individual’s treatment of animals and how he or she treats human beings. If your friend is mean to a defenseless creature, you might be next in line.

According to Jewish law, Jews are permitted to violate the Sabbath to a limited extent to rescue an animal that is in pain or at risk of death.

And the list continues.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer |

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