I really enjoy hearing your podcast. We recently lost our dog of almost 14 years of age. It was hard on my entire family and me. We are all still grieving the loss of our dog.
What is the Jewish perspective of dogs with regards to if they go to heaven after they die? Do dogs go to heaven? The Midrash says that dogs were rewarded for not barking when G-d’s people were leaving Egypt. Ex. 11:7. I would really love to hear your perspective on this topic.
Thank you in advance for your response.
Vincent from Texas
You will probably not be surprised to hear that this is one of the most frequently asked questions we get. People do get very close to their pets and there are amazing stories reflecting dogs’ loyalty and service to their owners. As you note, dogs are singled out for not barking as the Israelites’ time in Egypt came to a close. After 14 years of an affectionate relationship, you would be hard-hearted indeed if you were not grieving.
Judaism absolutely assures us of a vital spiritual life after we leave this temporary world. That eternal life depends on one’s behavior in this world. However, there are no direct references in the Five Books of Moses to that world and ancient Jewish wisdom spends very little time speculating about it. Our focus is on behaving correctly in this world. We leave details of what happens after death and in the World to Come, to God. Knowing that such a world exists is fundamental to Torah; knowing what happens there is not.
Given this minimal treatment of heaven we would not even suggest to you any details of what happens to people in Heaven. When it comes to pets, we have always liked the answer given by a Catholic clergyman friend of ours. When a parishioner told him that she did not want to go to Heaven if her beloved dog wouldn’t be with her, he answered, “Madam, if your happiness there will depend on your dog being there too, then I am sure he will be there.”
May your family get solace and joy from each other,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Ask the Rabbi & Susan post.
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