Are Pets Animals Too?

July 19th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

It says in the Bible that a good man cares for his “beast.” ‘Does this just mean animals that are “useful” such as cows that give meat and milk or does it mean all pets, such as dogs and cats.  

P.S. Like your show very much. We watch it every day when possible. There is so much knowledge and practical advice.

Titus R. 

 

Dear Titus,

There are certain topics that are almost guaranteed to lead to controversy, including vaccinations, the 2016 election results, and abortion. We have tackled all of those in various settings. But if you really want to get people’s emotions roiled, talk about their pets!

You don’t mention what Bible verse you are referencing, but there are many Scriptural references to treating animals well, among them Deuteronomy 25:4 with its prohibition on muzzling an ox while it is treading grain and verses that include animals in the Sabbath day of rest.

The prohibition against causing unnecessary pain to animals is included in the seven Noahide Laws. According to ancient Jewish wisdom these laws obligate all humanity regardless of religious or cultural background. They are the core of what could be called civilization. While we can debate what constitutes “unnecessary” pain, there is no question that the idea of gratuitously harming any animal is wrong.

We can safely say that pets do serve a useful purpose, be it a barn cat catching mice or an English Bulldog offering companionship. We will tiptoe towards controversy by saying that some people develop an unhealthy relationship with pets so that the animals replace friends, spouses and children, but we cannot envision any Biblical idea that would allow someone to mistreat an animal, even should the animal cease to serve a practical purpose.

There’s even something Biblical about those sanctuaries where retired circus and zoo animals safely live out their lives.  The ever present moral danger is starting to identify more strongly with animals than people.  For instance, the radical animal rights organization, PETA’s actions sometimes elevate animal lives above human ones.

Thank you for being such a faithful member of our TV audience at www.TCT.TV  We appreciate it.

Remember to feed your pet before you yourself eat,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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15 comments

Joe Douglas says:

I enjoy your commentaries and writings. I have shared (and given you credit) the Thought Tools discussions with not only my Church Community but to friends in the secular realm. I often (pleasantly) argue with my bride of 30 years some of your teachings in that “Ancient Jewish Wisdom” is not in the Bible. My typical come back is “Why did it take Moses 40 days to retrieve two tablets”. Thanks for what you do. Joe Douglas, Villa Rica, Georgia

Susan Lapin says:

Joe, that’s an excellent question that we try to answer with our teachings. Give your bride a hug from us.

Edie Swenson says:

I want to say our precious loved animals will be with us in heaven. It’s an inner knowing. I get resentful when I hear strict pastors answering this question with an immediate response that we are to be more worried about our salvation and our relationship with Jesus that we are to be worried or preoccupied with out pets, and out of the corner of their mouths making comments about animals that reveal they do not have a relationship with animals. When life leaves us alone in an empty house the comfort a pet can bring is wonderful. It’s separate from human relationship and is not the same subject I don’t think. Something tells me inside that the animals that are loved by us stand apart from the unfortunate ones that exist. I personally believe there is a spiritual animal kingdom going on that we don’t know about really. I’ve seen it in my dreams more times than I can count.

Al Hoffman says:

A good man cares for his creatures. You recall Noach too.
Well done.

Susan Lapin says:

That was pretty much Noah and his family’s task on the ark. Good point, Al.

jenny says:

My mother once said as parents, we give our children toys just to bring them comfort and joy and because it makes us happy. That is also why God gives us pets. Not to replace our need for Him, but because he loves to see us happy. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.

Susan Lapin says:

Jenny, your mother sounds like a wise woman.

bob aronson says:

Teacher- thanks for plugging my English Bulldog….have you all laughed at this as hard as I have?

Susan Lapin says:

Ah, Bob – we don’t publish links as a standard practice, but if anyone googles Geico and bulldog they will see the funny commercial you’re recommending.

Debbie Sauers says:

2 Samuel 12 starting vs 1 might be helpful to this discussion

Susan Lapin says:

I don’t quite see the connection, Debbie, but the chapter is always worth reading.

celesta says:

Ah, such a wonderful choice of a question to answer!!! I always think of King David, the man “after God’s own heart”, who even in his arguably worst state (when he had just had faithful mighty man Uriah killed in battle to cover his tryst with Bathsheba) was incensed into a righteous rage of avenging innocence when Prophet Nathan posed to him the allegory of the rich man taking the poor man’s precious pet lamb, who “…grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.” (2 Sam 12:3) This was the only thing that pierced through King David’s hardened-heart-at-the-time and brought him back into his kingly mode of protecting the innocent and administering right justice – A PET. The thought of a person’s pet being wrongly violated was the key to bringing King David to repentance and back to his senses, the tender shepherd boy that he still was at heart. I.e., you want to make King David furious, tell him about someone harming a pet!

Not only did King David, as a young shepherd boy, rescue the young kid(s) from the mouth of a bear and of a lion, but also he mentioned that he did not even have the intention to kill the lion until the lion rose up against him. ONLY THEN did King David take that lion’s life (1 Sam 17:35).

SO much can be said about the animals – the spiritually aware dogs who did not wag a tongue when the children of Israel left Egypt; Balaam’s poor longsuffering donkey, whose lifesaving loyalty was unwavering even to her abusive, scurrilous master (she turned away from the angel with the sword, not because her life was ever in danger, but because her master’s life was in danger – (Num. 22:33 – the angel would have slain Balaam and left the donkey alive); all of the attributes of God’s creatures that He expounds upon in the latter chapters of Job; the fact that Jesus was born unbeknownst to all of humanity, but the gentle humble animals in the grotto were silent and pure witnesses, bringing to mind Isaiah 1:3; the heartiness of “Caleb”; the empathetic, ministering dogs in Luke 16 who cared for the thrown-away beggar, Lazarus, who couldn’t even get a crumb from the crummy rich man; the translation of the Greek word for “WORSHIP” – “PROSKUNEO”, which literally means “a dog as licking the master’s hand”; endless examples that show us how much we can learn from those animals who exhibit righteous traits (and how much we can learn from those animals who exhibit less savory traits as well). The animals are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Hand of God as well. And if a sparrow does not fall WITHOUT THE FATHER, then how much does THE FATHER CARE FOR HIS ANIMALS??? And I know of few better examples of “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24) than a faithful pet dog. God’s Creation is marvelous in all ways, and there are many animals who are FAR MORE GUILELESS than humans. God alone knows all the reasons that He assigned animals into the life of mankind, but I am assured that we are to be responsible towards, loving to, and protective of ALL beings who have been stationed under man’s authority and dominion. Thank you for addressing this topic!!!

Debbie Sauers says:

Thank you Celesta

Karen Jones says:

Celesta , that was so helpful ! Thank you for your study of this .

Tina says:

Celeste, I like what you said. I do believe that domestic dogs and cats are gifts from God to mankind so that no one would ever be lonely. God is so good.. and He made them so smart. They recognize us, they love us, they save us, sniff out bombs, sniff out cancer, give us endorphins and so much more. I believe they will be with us in eternity. At least I hope so.. 🙂

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