Should We Give Up the Dog or the Apartment?

By Ellen

Peleg and I have a dilemma, and we’re asking the Beyond BT community for their input.

Last September I was approaching my car after work, and I noticed a dog romping around, unattached (to a leash) and without a collar and name tag. An old childhood fantasy suddenly reared its head, and I found myself wishing there was no owner and I could take it home. My mother, a Holocaust survivor who had hidden in an oven deep into a wall, had miraculously been spared by a Nazi’s search dog’s search into the oven, and like the dogs in Egypt who remained silent as the Children of Israel escaped, this dog, too, emerged from the oven without so much as a “yip”.

Nevertheless, she remained frightened of dogs all her life and we remained dog-less. The woman whom the dog trotted over to begged me to take the dog home to “foster” since she already owned 2 dogs and she worried that this homeless creature would end up in a “kill pound”. She promised she’d try to find it a permanent home. So I ambivalently accepted the leash, doggie toy, and food she gave me, and I took it home.

Surprisingly, not only was my husband accepting of its temporary presence, he grew so attached to her that we ended up adopting her. Our frum landlord said nothing since there was nothing in the lease saying we couldn’t have pets, but it became clear that not only did they disapprove of the dog, most of our frum neighbors in our Brooklyn neighborhood were at worst scared to death, and at best, somewhat askance at their new neighbor, named Twinkie (Yiddish name Twinkel). The kids were intrigued with her, and some even ventured to pet her. We checked out in our sefer regarding hilchos Shabbos (Shmiras Shabbos by Rabbi Yehoshua Neuwirth) that dogs could be walked even outside an eruv on Shabbos (without the name tag), although cleaning up after her is a problem because we’d have to carry the bag (and its contents). To resolve this issue, my husband goes out after Shabbos and cleans it up.

Now the dilemma: yesterday the landlord came to renew the lease that was up, and was willing to keep the current rent in place, BUT, we have to get rid of the dog, no ifs, ands, or buts. The reason given was her barking whenever anyone enters our two-family house (we’re on the first floor and the landlord is on the second). When I called today to ask if we found a way to get her to stop barking (dog obedience school or something) (he’d never heard of such a concept) he said he’d speak to his brother-in-law (co-owner of the house) and get back to me. Later I ran into the owners’ mother-in-law, who actually lives in the house (the landlords do not), and I proposed the same to her. She hemmed and hawed, kept blaming the dog-ban on complaining neighbors, and then finally blurted out that she was embarrassed to have a dog in the house, that everyone that comes to the house (and gets barked at from behind closed doors) says to her: “You have a dog in the house? Why do you let them?” She continued with FFB finality: “WE (as in REAL frum Jews) don’t have such things, dogs, cats…” When I told her in Europe many Jews owned dogs and cats, she shrugged. I, of course, felt relegated 30 years backwards to BTland, too “prost” to be considered part of the mainstream (B”H my kids are married, otherwise they could never get a shidduch).

So what’s the word out there? Am I halachically out of line? Minhagly out of line? Do we get rid of Twinkie and stay in the apartment? Or do we keep her and take ourselves “chutz la’machaneh” (which translates to an apartment building where pets are allowed, in a reasonably frum neighborhood) but we’ll have to pack all over again and leave some friends behind (which translates to a few blocks away)? Am I now a goy?

Please help. We have to have an answer in a week and a half!

85 comments on “Should We Give Up the Dog or the Apartment?

  1. Ellen and Peleg – I was amazed to see that you moved to Bayswater! It’s a wonderful neighborhood, my husband Ira and I have been here bli ayin hara for nearly 23 years, since February 1987. Our kids grew up here in Bayswater. The people here are truly nice, nobody is judgmental, there is a wide spectrum of frumkeit here and nobody looks down on anybody else. I hated it in Brooklyn too. Just one example: I can’t recall anybody ever here in Bayswater asking me what my husband does for a living, yet in Brooklyn that was always the very first question anyone would ask. It reminds me of Parshas Lech Lecha, the idea that you can tell what a person’s values are by the first question he or she asks someone else. In Parshas Lech Lecha, the very first question to Avrohom is not a decent one such as, “Hello traveler, do you have a place to lodge tonight, did you have supper?”, but the incredibly intrusive “Is she (Sorah) your wife or your sister?”

    Getting back to the original dog issue, a number of people here in Bayswater own dogs, it’s not a big deal as long as they don’t run free or tip over the garbage cans. I think the biggest problem in dog owning is Pesach, feeding the dog food that’s not chometz and not a mixture of milk and meat (although it can be fed meat from a nonkosher animal, such as horsemeat). But nearly every pet seems to have a Pesach issue with pet food, including goldfish, rabbits and parakeets.

    Anyway, I’m going to try to look up Ellen L. and Peleg in my Bayswater Directory, which attempts to list all the local yidden in one handy dandy little booklet. I live on one of the cul-de-sacs off the main street, which is known as a “court” around here; eleven of the thirteen houses on our C-shaped block are frum. See you and your dog by the bay!

  2. Charlie, absolutely 100% l’chathila it is permissable to make a b’racha in the presence of a cat or other animal, assuming (as in any case) no discernable filth.

  3. This string of posts was exactly what I needed to read today; my family is struggling with this precise issue! And yes, it does seem strange to even think of leaving a wonderful Torah community on account of…a dog?…..but it’s really symbolic of so much more. My children cry, actually weep, in longing for a dog. For them, it would be deeply therapeutic. And at this point I’m afraid the lack of a dog is more likely to sour them on Yiddishkeit, than to encourage their spiritual growth. We still haven’t made our decision, but the process of thinking about it is making us really take a look at where we are holding, and at what will be the best chinuch for our children. I see friends that tried to conform with community norms, and had their children resent the restrictions and turn away….I’m trying to learn from their painful experience, and perhaps make a “descent for the purpose of ascent.” Anyway, finding these letters tonight is just one big gift….Thank you, HaShem! And thank you, all of you who took the time to post so thoughtfully. Best wishes to Ellen and Peleg and their family.

  4. And the post has gathered enough comments to enter posterity!

    Was that an intentional “post”erity? (I’m pushing for 80).

  5. comeon, Charlie. The point has been rehashed many times. PRACTICAL needs make alot of things permissable. Sometimes even Mitzvahs are invovled. This doesn’t necessarily mean “lkhatkhilla”. There are
    Mitzvahs regarding multiple wives and slaves, yet we all know these are discouraged. There are Mitzvahs regarding returning stolen items but this doesn’t mean we should steal to fulfill them!

    Animals ARE different, as discussed above in quite some detail. One source no one has discussed is the Mishna about learning wonderful Middos from many of them — even the most tamei. But this does not mean its desirable to go out of your way to cultivate relationships with them.

    In the meantime, our dear friends Ellen and Peleg have been able to use this thread to get on with their lives. Twinkie seems to be a tikkun for them in all kinds of neat ways. And the post has gathered enough comments to enter posterity!

    Can’t we now let, er, a dead dog lie!

  6. “a cat kept getting into the sukkah and prevented him from saying it”

    I was unaware that it was asur to make a bracha in the presence of a cat. Can anyone cite a source?

    Two years a feral kitten came into our Sukkah begging for food. We eventually adopted it and it now lives indoors.

    “the well known Kabbalistic and chassidic concern with the problematic cosmic energies involved with tamei animals”

    How is this concern addressed with animals for which Jews have a long tradition of association, such as donkeys, camels, and horses? HaShem must have expected us to own donkeys, as there is a specific mitzvah to redeem a firstborn donkey. And Avraham Avinu’s camels became an opportunity for Rivkah to demonstrate chesed.

  7. Years ago we had a cat who used to come to the table when kiddush was being made. He also used to try (unsuccessfully) to get into our succah, even crawling across the schach. I told this to someone, maybe it was my rav, I’m not sure, and the person told me a story about a man who kept trying to make the “layshayv basukkah” bracha, but a cat kept getting into the sukkah and prevented him from saying it. Finally after numerous attempts, he went ahead and made the bracha with the cat present, and afterwards the cat raced out of the sukkah and into the street, and was killed by a car.
    Powerful story (woo-woo?). Here’s another woo-woo, the dog who didn’t bark saved my mother’s life, and I saved this dog’s life. Middah k’negged midah?

  8. I’d like to simply note that Charlie’s question about Sources for dog issues were superbly addressed in the link he later provided (66).

    Y. koiach!

    My conclusion: When domesticating animals has a PRACTICAL purpose that does not cause a significant nuissance to others, it’s certainly permissable. Dogs stand out with a propensity to be such a nuissance, but there are ways to get around that. Still there are some very significant authorities who point to an inherently impure element (Sheilat Yaavetz,17:”a waste of time and precisely the [abhorrent] behavior of the uncircumcised!”).

    These Halachic perspectives are by definition behvorially oriented. They do not refer to the well known Kabbalistic and chassidic concern with the problematic cosmic energies involved with tamei animals. There are major implications for those who seek dog-raising primarily for companionship.

  9. “I’m scared,”

    Chazak v’amatz! If your shinuee Makom is, as you say, for growing spiritually, Ellen, I’m sure you’ll see much Mazal. If Twinkee was a stimulus for that, then he certainly deserves your care.

    Just keep it all in perspective. K’lev should lead to b’lev!


    ;- )

    I’m really happy for you

  10. Hi, fellow bloggers. It’s me, Ellen, the person with the dog dilemma. It’s interesting to watch these threads take on a life of their own, but I wanted to bring it back to from whence it came. We have resolved our issue, and I want to thank everyone for putting in their bit, because through all of you Hashem gave me His answer. You were able to see that the dog was the tip of our iceberg. Both Peleg and I are native Midwesterners, and though I’ve been here in Brooklyn for over half my life, I’ve never fully adapted.

    Part of it is outside the Jewish box, the less frenetic, more laid back, friendlier, slower paced lifestyle I’d grown up with.
    But the other consuming piece is what more than a couple of you pointed out, and that is my never fully integrating into the frumkeit that is Brooklyn’s. And while there are many, many different versions of frumkeit here, none of them were quite something I could find a place in, because of that feeling that many of you could relate to, that as a BT I’ll always feel not quite the same as FFB’s, whether they impose it on me or not. For many years when I was raising my children I was steeped in Brooklyn, on a wonderful block with many of us sharing the same goals. But things changed as the kids got older, with 2 of them going off the derech (B”H one of those two is back in his own unusual non-Brooklyn style), and there I was, feeling once more like the outsider, as many of my neighbors were moving on to making shidduchim, and making shidduchim, and more making shidduchim. Though B”H I, too made shidduchim, I had to reexamine where I came from as those 2 children embarked on their very painful journey. And I was no longer “Brooklyn”, thus complicating my spiritual path.

    So along comes Twinkie, followed by an “it’s either the dog or you”, and the icing on the cake, the landlady’s “WE don’t have such things as dogs or cats…”. At my wit’s end I put this out on the blog (never did it before, and I didn’t know if this even belonged on this blog). And you guys were Hashem’s vehicle to push us past the fear of change, and we’re moving out of Brooklyn! I’m scared, it’s leaving very good people behind, some close friends, the familiarity of the neighborhood, etc. but my spirituality is being stifled here, and like someone reminded me “meshaneh makom, meshaneh mazel”. We’re going to Bayswater, which is an offshoot of Far Rockaway in Queens, near my youngest son, his wife, and my grandchildren. There is grass and trees and a big backyard, and space in between the houses, and a number of baalei tshuvah, and a place where I can investigate and grow spiritually in a direction that won’t necessarily be judged in the way it is in Brooklyn.

    So, bottom line, thank you, all of you, for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to move on. Hashem’s ways are mysterious, who would have ever believed He would speak to me through a dog and a blog? That actually makes a nice title for a new thread…

  11. ‘In terms of “changing Halacha”, it’s one thing to permit the assur and a completely other to codify that which was previously Middas Chossidus.’

    It is not permitted to “codify” a minhag chasidus unless it is a minhag that has been pretty much universally accepted, at least by the community for which the codification is written.

    And “the way things are done” has a lot of power in Judaism. We don’t change things for no reason, and often don’t change things even when we have a good reason. Furthermore, when we move into a new community, we are required to conform to the minhagim and halachic rulings of that community, even when they are more lenient than what we used to follow. As a tourist I could wear my kippah in those communities. But were I to move there, I would not do so unless the local Rav told me that I should.

  12. Charlie — I still hope to get to your Sources question. It’s jsut that when I’m learning I have different priorities. G”W soon.

    Meantime,your comparison with Con. movement is a little funny. Do you have any question that I could mean that? In terms of “changing Halacha”, it’s one thing to permit the assur and a completely other to codify that which was previously Middas Chossidus.

    I brought the Kippa issue as an example. True, there still are those who rely on the past lack of chiyuv — and when it’s for the sake of not arousing the ire or undue scrutiny of the goyim with whom you must live, then this is the correct thing to do. It may be also in practical cases of work. But ask any authority (or study the sources yourself) and you’ll see that the historical development of this particular “middas chossidus” has become such that under NORMAL circumstances it would be a lack of Yiras Shomaym not to wear.

    I don’t know who that Rav is who warned you not to judge. It’s certainly a generally wise rule of thumb. But beware the convenience of of nonjudgmentality where there’s a stake in maintaining “the way things are done”.

    Ck out very first R’ma on Sh. Aruch: “Lo yitbayesh mipneh Bnei Adom Ha’Maligim alov b’Av’ H’ yit'”

  13. yy,

    You wrote:

    “Judaism is founded on Torah-shel-Baal-Peh, which is a never ending development.”

    Not completely. Rabbis of today do not have the power to change halachah that has been accepted for centuries. That is one thing the differs us from the Conservative movement. If the Torah did not declare an animal to be a source of tumah, and neither did Chazal, then it isn’t a source of tumah. And no rabbi can change that any more than a rabbi can make a pig kosher.

    ” Does that mean that a G-d fearing Jew is free to decide when and if to donn a kippa?”

    Possibly. I visited two small frum communities in Europe last summer. I did not see anyone other than myself wearing a kippah on the street in either city. Prior to my visit, I was warned by a rabbi that I must NOT think for even a second that because they do not wear kipot outside of synagogue that they are one iota less frum than me.

  14. YY wrote, “Bob — see my comment #30, pts 3-6. Do you need specific pages? It could be done. It’s just that I’m not a detailed-memory man and am not sitting in a library.”

    Without your particular spin, these don’t read in a way that supports a case against pets.

  15. Bob — see my comment #30, pts 3-6. Do you need specific pages? It could be done. It’s just that I’m not a detailed-memory man and am not sitting in a library.

    Mordechai — thank you for not discounting. i make no pretense of representing “mainstream”. I’m only sharing pshat, drush and remez, perhaps, as I’ve learned it with my Rebbeim and understand it as applicable to the issues at hand. Occassionally I’ll refer to supports via the sweep of Jewish history. Only Ratzon H’, not “mainstream”, is my concern (tho I readily admit I can get it wrong).

    Yes, Jewish bareheads have an historical Torah Observant basis. Still, if you learn the contemporary Halacha you’ll see it is highly discouraged and the reality is that the vast majority of Jews intuitively realize that. Still, there are exceptions and that’s why I brought the example. There ARE many good exceptions for having pets… but they should be discussed with one’s own Rav.

  16. Gary said: “I have seen tremendous acts of holiness by non-Jews and non-observant Jews. I have seen surprising acts of coarseness and pettiness by people regarded as Tsaddikim Gemurim.”

    Me too, Gary. Oy, me too…

    Still, we have a Torah and it teaches us not always to believe what we see. Obviously, if there was something of a sceintific nature, that’s a whole different story (please, this is NOT our topic!).

    Re. Tsaddikim Gemurim — that’s relatively easy. Just b/c others think them so does not nec’y make it so. The pt here is NOT to promote anyone as a T.G. but to understand the principle. One well known implication is Rashb”y’s kever.

    That Non-O Jews do holy things is even easier. Assuming that our definitions of holiness are the same, at the moment you spot him / her doing that it’s a MITZVAH and thus at that moment they’re no longer non-O!

    Allow me to digress. I once taught Machsheves Yisroel in a totally secular Israeli high school. We were learning about the idea of nes (miracle). We discussed the philosophical possibilities for it back in forth, incl. the issue of a perfect Creator “needing” to intervene in this world to prove a pt. One answer we studied was that it can be a reward to the righteous.

    Suddenly one brazen young skeptic blurted out: “Oh yeah; then how would you explain the NES of the 6-day war occuring via soldiers the majority who were not religious?!!”

    H’ was with me on that one. Out of my mouth rolled: “How do you KNOW they weren’t religious?? Maybe one’s Kibud Av v’Em was impeccable. Maybe another’s Tsedaka was the purest of pure. May whole troops specialized in brotherly love….”

    ALL Jews are holy, Gary. It’s true that we need the Torah to bring it out, but it can also happen intuitively. Still, the principle remains that vast majority of us do not give every single ounce of our energy over to the spirit and law of Torah and thus upon death there’s undoubedtly lost kedusha potential.

    As for gentiles, sorry. That’s a very different, giant topic. All I can say is that it is axiomatic that while there may be many ACTS of righteousness by them, there is not KEDUSHA by them. It doesn’t make them worse and in fact in a way they have it much better. Much less chance of wasting their potential.

  17. YY, you seem to have a narrow definition of sources. The problem here with your exposition is that you do not use any relevant documentation. I would expect even what you take to be Oral Torah on this matter to have been documented somewhere by now.

  18. To yy,
    I do think I should correct a misunderstanding,
    R. Ginsburgh did NOT say one should get oneself a dog or pet.

    But nevertheless what he did say shows the dog in a positive light.

    Jewish people have a dislike & fear of dogs which stems from the persecutions in Europe. The goyim would set their dogs on the Jews to frighten them.
    Today there are many medical & Geriatric opinions
    that pets are beneficial to the health of the elderly in lowering blood pressure etc.

  19. YY, I find it interesting that you chose a kippah as an example. I’m sure you know that many frum Jews a generation or two ago did not wear a headcovering in public or at business, and covered their heads only for things like learning, davening, birkat hamzon, etc. In fact, Rav Meir Kahane wrote a then famous article in the Jewish Press castigating someone who had impugned the ‘God fearing’ status of a Jew who didn’t constantly cover his head. I still know frum men who do not cover their heads at work, and this is completely permissable. I hardly think it is ‘mainstream’ Torah to say that a person behaving in a halachicly sanctioned manner is not God fearing.

    I think you need to consider that the Hassidic approach you are promoting is a) often not in accord with the older tradition in Kabbalah found among the Sefaradim, and b) in any case not representative of the mainstream of Jewish thought and practice over the centuries.

    I am not discounting; only pointing out that this approach is not what is typically seen as ‘mainstream’.

  20. YY wrote: “Tuma is, in essence, lost potential for kedusha. By the gentile, it was never there. By the Tsaddik gemur, it’s totally actualized.”

    I have seen tremendous acts of holiness by non-Jews and non-observant Jews. I have seen surprising acts of coarseness and pettiness by people regarded as Tsaddikim Gemurim.

    Let’s refrain from blanket condemnations and approbations.

  21. One last food for thought: Has anyone noticed that all the animals that people tend to build relationships with are TAMEI! And vice versa. Cows, chickens, sheep — who expects them to be our “friends”? Horses, dogs, cats — pshhh, these have “neshamas”!!

    I often find it instructive to keep in mind which types of human bodies become tamei. As far as I’ve been taught (sorry, no sources at hand), ONLY the body of the common Jew becomes tamei. Not a gentile and not a Tsaddik gemur (implications for Cohanim). Similarly, everyone asks why the holy of holiest acts of childbirth causes tuma?

    What emerges is a principle I’ve seen discussed in many sifrei Kabbalah and Chossidus: Tuma is, in essence, lost potential for kedusha. By the gentile, it was never there. By the Tsaddik gemur, it’s totally actualized. By the childbearer, it’s one of the unbelievable mysteries of creation that her body is at one moment totally filled with potential and the next bereft of it.

    Many tamei animals do indeed have tremendous potential for spiritual development. If trained properly (cf. donkey of R’ Pinchas in the Gemora, etc, etc) they can serve as irreplaceable keilim for kiddush H’. Still, in essence, in the world as we know it, they remain tamei… and we must be respectively careful of when and how to spend time with them.

  22. Rex (37) and Charlie (52) ask about Biblical and Talmudic sources, implying that without them there’s no authoritative basis for how to deal with our subject.

    Now while I think it’s an important topic to research, it’s escaping the crux of our issue. Judaism is founded on Torah-shel-Baal-Peh, which is a never ending development. No matter how many codes of law we manage to record, there’s always going to be the LIVING Torah of Rebbe Talmid that sheds light on the fine lines of serving G-d, in the here and now, for every individual.

    Take the Kippa, for example. Where are the sources for that, you may ask. SHOW me a passuk or at least a gemora. Hmm. You won’t find it! Does that mean that a G-d fearing Jew is free to decide when and if to donn a kippa?

    Sifrei Halacha call it “Middas Chossidus”. Does that mean, to quote Mordechai Sher, it’s only for those whom a particualr authority seeks “to promote a special discipline for them, and them ALONE”? Perhaps once, when the collective consciousness was such that the average Yid didn’t feel in need of external props to support his Yiras Shomaym. Nevertheless, the history of Torah-true observance has proven that it IS necessary and thus this “Middas Chossidus” has become such a norm that we’d all instinctively question the Yiras Shomaym of a bareheaded Yid.

    That said, I will try, bl”n, to look into the sources for our issue. But I’m not in the best of positions to do so. Perhaps those of you with Talmudic search engines can do it faster.

  23. I think that Peleg needs to seriously reconsider the way he refers to other Jews, rabbis, kabbalists etc., however judgemental they are.
    As far as the dog is concerned, I think that the question is not whether to HAVE it in the first place, but whether to KEEP it. If it is already a member of the family, it is wrong to abandon it now. Besides, if MY mom was a Holocaust survivor saved by a dog, I would have also seen it as a sign and would have kept a dog. even if Peleg thinks it is just a woo-woo.

  24. yy,

    I was asking regarding the “inherent tumah of certain animals”. I’ve not seen anything in Chumash that would make a live animal a source of tumah, only certain corpses of dead animals. If a live animal is a source of tumah biblically, there has to be a source on Chumash. And if it is a source of tumah rabbinically, there has to be some place in Shas where this is defined. The only time I’ve ever noticed animals being referred to as tamei is in the context of kashrut — but we don’t keep cats or dogs for the purpose of eating them, chas v’shalom. Please let us know the sources for a live animal being a source of tumah.

  25. P.s. Mordecai — re. your question on that Gemora,do we really need to explain the applicability to general Judaism? There are ALL kinds of exceptions that are allowed for Shalom Bayis that would be disasterous if taught as a convenient option for the klal.

  26. No, Mordecai, I would not even think of changing the intent of your words. Read carefully. I commented, emphasizing what “I believe (…) undermines the thesis” you had been promoting in the Rav’s name. It could be that our Rosh Yeshiva (see my original comment) and he may have a sharp point of departure on how to relate these Kabbalistic truths to the benoni. But my point was that his totally non-halachic concern with Cohanim raising dogs flies in the face of the general thesis that a few have been tossing around here, namely that there’s about no need to be concerned with being in constant contact with the inherent tuma of certain animals.

    Listen my friend, you speak of “a special discipline for them, and them ALONE that wasn’t just about pets.” This is a famous line of hashkafic departure about how much of the pnimius is relevant to the Am. I fully accredit you with elu v’elu if you can own that as ONE approach. But at the same time I think it’s abundantly evident that there IS an issue here of how an animal’s tuma can affect a Yid and any attempt to whitewash that is highly irresponsible.

    No, I have NO agenda of keeping peleg or anyone else dog free. But I do believe, as I last noted, it’s one of many risky spiritual realms within our big world that a responsible Jew should not use his own Daas to decide how and when to interact.

  27. yy, a real respect for the source of the information and guidance would carefully note what was said and how it was applied. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu did NOT extend this concern you bring up to others. Over the many times that I spoke with him on these matters (is it permissable to have such animals as pets, are they muktzah, etc.) he never once expressed any reservation about our having these animals beyond the first time that he wanted to clarify our interest in keeping cats as pets. What he said about cohanim in subsequent conversations was by way of learning. And I want to again emphasize that he didn’t say it was forbidden for cohanim to have pets. For those cohanim whom he knew and could influence (I know this also from R. Shmuel Katz, a cohen, who I knew back then in the yeshiva and neighbourhood) he sought to promote a special discipline for them, and them ALONE. That wasn’t just about pets. I recall conversations about behaviour and costumes on Purim, and all manner of things where he encouraged cohanim to status and ‘lifestyle’ that is unique. So please, do not change the intent of his words or my transmitting them by ‘fitting them’ to your agenda. Of course, you may promote any view that you see relevant and fitting; but don’t take the words of others out of context to support that viewpoint.

    By the way, Rav Eliyahu clearly told me in one of our conversations that he was more concerned with what a pet might drag home (cats especially like to bring home ‘prizes’ and ‘gifts’), than the presence of the pet itself.

    You do know, speaking of hazal’s perspective on dogs, that the g’mara specifically mentions playing with pet dogs as a way that a husband could help his wife prevent boredom? I don’t know how common it was; but the g’mara certainly didn’t disapprove of it in that instance. It is compared there to playing a game that was likely chess or something similar.

  28. E.L. (36) — I think you summed things up well. It’s certainly the pshat for getting through the confusing double messages about “Well, frummies have always had” vs the clear (ok, “non-Halachic” but still authoritative) sources about serious spiritual concerns with surrounding ourselves with animals, tamei ones in particular, and dogs at the top of the heap.

    Also noteworthy: If you’re looking for objective guidance, beware those who outright confess to having their own pets.

    Mordecai Sher’s ref. to Rav Eliahu’s concern about Cohanim, I believe, totally undermines the thesis that may bandied about re. no need to take non-halachic sources seriously. The tuma IS a concern and should be particualrly so for sensitive souls. Dogs DO have an outstanding status for chazal, whether it be abt their tendency to be ‘viscious’ or ‘chutzpadik’ or associated with dinim which should make everyone hesitate before mimicking the American ideal of a child and a half plus a dog!

    All that said, it’s clear that when special needs are involved, a competant Rav should definately be consulted and no need to feel guilt. It CAN be a powerful tool, perhaps like internet, that we must know when and how to use.

    To CHAVA (34) — no, it’s not simple. But until you quote Rav G. personally saying that it’s a spiritual MAILAH to have dogs, I repeat that the Th”m and neemanut claims must be taken viewed very carefully.

    Personally, I’m still holding by the Calev / k’Lev Vort! Ck out Rash”y’s pshat on his “ruach acheret”.

  29. “We do have a pet though, a rabbit who lives quietly in a cage in our basement unless my husband lets him out for his daily romp on the porch. He’s warm and furry too.”

    Who – the husband or the rabbit?

    The gemara expressly forbids keeping a vicious dog but apart from that, it devolves into largely hashkafac rather than halachic lines.

    We lived on a farm for many years, farming with horses, raising chickens, having huge livestock guardian dogs, barn cats, etc.

    We now live in Baltimore with one dog (giant schnauzer) – There are planty of yeshiva types who own dogs large and small – most of the neighbors don’t mind and the local kids can’t get enough of her – there is even a kid who got severely bitten by a small dog with an ireesponsible owner and the kid is severely traumatized – we are helping him work it through B”H. If halacha is genuinely an issue for you, then a firm mastery of the halachos involved is critical – questions invariably arise in connection with shabbos (animals love to get sick on shabbos – trust me!) muktzeh issues, hotza’ah, etc. Fina a posek that you trust and with whom you are comfortable to steer you in the right direction.

    At the risk of overreaching, it sounds like you need to do some “cheshbon hanefesh” – soul searching as to “where you are holding” (I hate that expression) and where you’d like to be. I cannot help but sense some challenges in your words which as other commenators keenly observed go beyond the dog thing and I pray that you get the “siyata d’shmaya” – the Divine guidance – to tackle them head on.

    kol tuv


  30. Aren’t we all in a state of tumah nowadays (some type, even if not tumas meis of the type that specifically Cohanim avoid) ? I thought that was the basis for rulings keeping Jews off the Har HaBayis.

  31. Charlie, I didn’t know how to translate ‘behaimah t’emaia’. Rav Eliyahu never gave me a halachic source for this; but I also didn’t discuss it that thoroughly with him. And it was close to 30 years ago, and before I started writing things down when I went to him.

    As far as certain families of Cohanim changing their family name, I think we should put out a Kol Koreh/public exhortation and see what happens. ;-P

  32. I think you got that from me, not Arthur.

    And I was citing Rav Mordechai Eliyahu saying that he PREFERRED that a Cohen not have a ‘tameh’ animal in his home. And this was something that, as far as I know back then, he only advised to very attuned individuals who could relate to what he was saying. His perspective was the the Cohen has to be living in preparation for working in the Beit Mikdash – the holy Temple in Jerusalem. If someone couldn’t relate to that notion, he didn’t suggest it.

    I’ve heard of REALLY strict authorities who suggest that some families of Cohanim change their names so they won’t be thought of/mentioned as a ‘tameh’ animals – Cats/Katz.

    ;-0 Just kidding on that last bit…

  33. Arthur,

    A Cohen can’t own pets? I have never heard of that in my life! Where does it say that?


  34. I currently live in Highland Park. If Ellen and Peleg are interesting in spending a shabbat here and looking around they should contact the moderators, who I give permission to release my email address and other contact information they have (or you could just look in an on-line phone book under Lennhoff for our phone number). I suspect we may be booked for the rest of June, but call us anyway. Oh, ironically I have to ask you to not bring your dog – out two indoor cats would be frightened out of their wits!

  35. Re: companionship – Better to treat dogs like people than to treat people like dogs.

  36. Ellen and Peleg just a little story I wanted to share after reading this very interesting and quite amusing discussion–one of the best on this blog in a while. My husband grew up an orthodox home in England and his family kept a dog called Ollie and when the Rov–Dayan Pesach Braceiner ztl, a wonderful European Talmid Chochum and loyal Vishnitzer Chossid used to come to the house to give shiur Ollie would slide under the table to listen.Dayan Braceiner used to say that he—Ollie the dog, was a gilgul, some poor unfortunate soul forced to return to this world in the guise of man’s best friend. Best of luck in sorting out this dilemma.

  37. EL wrote: “However, one purpose that pets are not supposed to fulfill in Judaism is companionship.”

    Let’s see some specific source material on this point, if there is any. What I’ve seen above on this looks like speculation/justification pulled out of the air.

  38. I don’t think it’s accurate to bring examples from Europe or from great Rabbis who rode in horseback carriages as a proof for pet-owning.

    First of all, the Jews in Europe probably NEEDED the dogs to protect their homes (and their lives) from the goyim.

    Secondly, the horse-back carriage was the mode of transportation back then–cars weren’t invented yet.

    That being said, every question really is a personal matter. What is your reason for having the pet? Some people have a valid need for a watch-dog, or for pet therapy. And, if the neighbors should frown upon them, it’s really just too bad.

    However, one purpose that pets are not supposed to fulfill in Judaism is companionship. If this is what you’re lacking, it’s better to find other human beings to do chesed with than to find an animal. Helping cats and dogs is not even mentioned as the lowest form of chesed on the Rambam’s hierarchy of tzedakah.

    Regarding whether to move to a less frum neighborhood. It certainly may be disappointing that a frummer neighborhood is not tolerant of a pet, even if there is a need for it. Yet, look at the overall picture. Is it worth a drop in your Jewish environment, overall, just to keep a dog? I should hope not.

  39. I’m glad Rav Slifkin weighed in here a bit. I see some opinions bandied about in a guise of being authoritative, that should be taken with a large grain of salt.

    Disclaimer: I write this in my study, surrounded by my beloved books, with Pazzy (sled dog) and Oro (Labrador Retriever) sleeping on the floor next to me. Hoshana (Border Collie) is probably on my bed right now. Alfie and Aryeh (the cats) are somewhere back in the house. The hens have to stay outside. Even I draw the line somewhere. ;-)

    My best advice to Ellen and Peleg is first, sort out the issues. There are questions of Torah here; but there are also social and psychological questions. It is normal to be confronted with a need to compromise in order to manage with the neighbours, landlord, boss at work, etc. We had only cats for years because we rented places that limited our options. That wasn’t a religious issue; it was just a reality of needing to rent in certain areas close to work, beit knesset, etc. We couldn’t have dogs again until we could afford a house with a yard.

    Have a heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind talk with your rav. Seperate out the issues!

    It is my unhumble opinion that much of the dismay that East European Jews, especially Hasisdim, display about animals/pets is rooted in superstition. We had upstairs neighbours in Yerushalayim who wouldn’t even allow their child to enter the building if one of our cats was in the entryway.

    When the g’mara discusses how a husband mustn’t condemn his wife to a life of boredom, one of the suggestions there is that she raise dogs.

    I have spoken to poskim about pets a number of times over the years. The first was Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, who is widely regarded as a ‘kabbalist’ as well. His only concern with our raising cats was that it shouldn’t be because of some superstition! When I told him we simply like animals, and find some utilitarian benefit as well in keeping mice away, he said there was no problem whatsoever. He does, btw, prefer that Cohanim not have a tameh animal in their home.

    Rav Shaul Yisraeli answered a number of questions for me, as well, about spaying and other issues. At no time did he suggest to me, a student in the yeshiva, that I shouldn’t have these animals.

    Similarly, when I spoke with Rav Gedaliah Dov Schwartz about neutering my search dog, he was well versed in how people in Europe took care of their animals, and what poskim had written in dealing with all manner of questions regarding animal care. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach wrote a t’shuvah about walking a dog on Shabbat, but no where does he suggest that one simply shouldn’t have a dog.

    Rav Slifkin already noted that different rabbanim will take different positions on this issue. Let’s not ponitificate on the doom awaiting someone who has a dog or cat. The sources in halacha don’t well support such a notion, and quite a few important rabbanic authorities passed up the oportunity to tell people not to raise these animals.

    Again, Ellen and Peleg – speak with your rav. Calmly. Sort out the issues. No doubt you’re very attached to this dog by now, and that will influence greatly how you think and feel about all this. Anything else would be abnormal, methinks.

  40. TO yy,
    Nothing I posted was my own torah!
    The reference I made to Moshe R was exactly as it was presented in the Shiur.
    When the term kelev ra is used by our sages, I am sure this is referring to wild dogs!
    Also it is worth knowing that there was a Chassidishe Rebbe in Yerusalaim who had dozens of cats & they roamed his home freely-he said they were gilgulim!
    Apart from what I have said till now, I have a son in law who is a Gabbai to the Nadvorna Rebbe in BENE BARAK- He told me the following story: A woman came to the Rebbe in a state because her son spends all his time with a stray dog. The Rebbe told her she should take the dog into their home.
    So its not so simple.

  41. It is clear from your question, and from your husband’s comments, you are in a community that is not a good match. Move to a community that is accepting of your entire family – including the dog. As mentioned above, today it is the dog and tomorrow it will be something else – find a less judgmental and more accepting community. … We have a dog and two cats, our home is Kosher, we keep Shabbat, live in an Eruv; and our Rabbi’s wife, although afraid of dogs herself, has the foresight to not want her children to be afraid, so we are assisting with this…. We are blessed with an accepting community of FFBs and BTs from around the globe. It is my wish for you that you find the same.

  42. “Like everything else that is permitted but not demanded by the Torah, the sincerely observant Jew should contemplate all the angles and ask rabbinic guidance before making decisions…”

    The fact is that some rabbis will say that it’s perfectly fine to have a dog, and others will say that it is wrong. In terms of the sources in Jewish literature, there are also different schools of thought, just as with many things in Judaism.
    The question is what kind of rabbi to ask, and is really a more basic question about which stream of Orthodoxy one wishes to affiliate with. And about whether Brooklyn is the right place for you.

  43. Chava, there are some confusions in how you present your well-intended sources.

    1)That dogs might arise at T.H. (there’s a woo-woo for you!) says NOTHING about the value of investing in domesticating them. The chazir (pig) is also said by chazal to have that name since it will be Chozer (return) to being kosher in the end of days!

    2)Chas v’shalom to equate it’s neemanus with Moshe! Dogs due it as a tikkun for the chutzpah in their nature, Moshe’s was lishma.

    3)See Deut.23:19 to just get an impression about the unique problem that TORAH has with dogs. The pshat requires serious learning…

    4)Midrash teaches that Dogs can be counted on to bark exactly at midnight due to their nature being bound to the cosmic energy at that time. Kabbalists explain that midnight is the severest time of the 24 hr cycle; time of greatest “dinim.” Nesivos Sholom explains this is the miracle of the dogs being silenced at Makas Bachoros — not that the dogs were so special but that the dinim which normally wreak havoc then were vanquished!

    5)Yerushalmi Talmud brings that the “image of a dog” would appear in the Temple when sacrifices were NOT accepted (explained in Yesod HaAvoida, p.126).

    6)Famous Zohar tells us that the last generation before Moshiach will have the “face of a dog”. They don’t mean this complementarily!

    7)In the Arizal’s Bnei Heichala hymn, song at the third meal of Shabbos, the dinim which we’re now putting in their place are referred to as kalbin d’chatzifin, audacious dogs!

    8)Finally, you may want to consider the simple meaning of the anme: K-lev, heart-like. That’s their great appeal AND danger. They seem so very heartful, so very loyal, so very passionate (pant-pant-pant). In certain situations, it can have spiritual value to cultivate such an animal. But there IS reason to be concerned about the influence it can have on your Neshama.


  44. It all depends on what kind of relationship one wants to have with neighbors. A dog owner will not prove these neighbors wrong in their own minds, and will find that they can make his family’s life rather unpleasant.

  45. Peleg:
    “If the idiots think she is scary, that is THEIR PROBLEM, NOT MINE. I’m not responsible for their foolishness and I won’t make allowances for it.”

    Scary dog or not, there are people who have been frightened previously – or injured – by a dog and are therefore nervous around any. Our neighbors across the street had a very sweet – LARGE – dog that bit one of their kids once because some game got out of hand.

    While I don’t suggest you make ‘allowances’ like getting rid of the dog because someone else is afraid of dogs, some empathy in face to face contact with those who do not like – or do fear – dogs might be helpful. And maybe the neighborhood isn’t a good fit if there is already this kind of resentment?

  46. A few points to ponder:-
    1)I listened to a shiur from Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh Shlita,
    Dogs are the only animals that will arise at Techias
    Hameisim. Not only will they arise , but they will arise as human beings. They merit this because they
    did not bark at Yetzias Mitzraim.Also dogs are called “Neehman” (faithful), just like Moshe Rabeinu is known as Eved Neehman.
    2) I saw in the “Handbook of Jewish Thought”- R. A. Kaplan zya –
    If you want Hashem to be kind to you you have to be kind to all people & animals too.
    If one has bonded with a pet is it decent to then send the pet away.? Dogs are very sensitive!
    One could of course find another apartment.
    Whatever you decide, may it be for the best.

  47. Ellen

    the point you pose is an interesting one but i do not feel it has been addressed correctly.

    you want a dog and for whatever reason right now this is important in your life. I am sure that a pet does not take the place of a child but i can see how some might not understand.

    I know of nothing halachicly wrong with pet ownership as log as you are not a cohen.

    I think the problem you have is not with the dog but with the neighbors. today it is the dog, and tommorw it will be something else. do you really think you should live with people who will only accept you as they are?

    just my two cents
    I am religious and I have had dogs
    I dont right now

  48. Agree with ML above, it obviously is not just about the dog. I think it is a natural tendency for a BT to look at Torah sometimes as “what will it take away from me next!” When that happens it is probably time to take a step back, look at where you are, meet with your Rav (he should be someone you have a warm feeling about and like, not just someone who tells you what to do) and decide how and what pace you want to continue. As much as we all love this blog it is not a substitute for that.

  49. Peleg, I don’t really think this is just about the dog. After reading your comment I think you should move regardless of whether or not you keep the dog. It sounds like the environment is just not right for you.

    Find a place, most likely out of Brooklyn, where you have more freedom and less judgmentalism. There are many wonderful communities like that; Highland Park, NJ being one that I know well.

    Several years ago a BT couple moved to the community from Monsey. They had been on the BT fast track and had just gone too far too fast. They came to HP took few steps back and really found their place. The husband later told me that he believed if he had remained in Monsey they would have lost everything.

  50. >”That’s totally MY problem, isn’t it?”

    Pretty much so, yes, Peleg. But your wife did ask for our perspectives.

    >”If you ask me, she has a good influence on my soul, and to heck with what the Kabbalists say.”

    So why are you even bothering with such a blog? Is this an argument between you and the wife playing itself out?

    >”a fun, intellectual exercise … a lot of woo-woo …stoned outa their gords”

    Now you’re descending, my friend. A cry for help was called and we tried to offer a hand. Don’t want it, don’t take it. But please don’t bite it!

    Have you ever sat down with a sober, authoritative Kabbalist?

    >”he sounds like he needs to get out more”

    why is that?

    >”since I’m a person who thinks a pet is fine thing, it puts me way out of the mainstream, and so, even if I wanted to cultivate such relationships, it’s hard to find many takers.”

    sounds like a catch-22. Those relationships are founded on the principle of spirituality first. If you put your pets first, I can see how it’s a no-go. That being said, there IS room for pet life to be compatible with Torah life, like many others mentioned. But it’s an exceptional situation that requires shikul HaDaas, lucid calculations, to be done probperly.

    I really do feel with both of you. You’re in the midst of a few, very real conflicts with your Torah devotion: Social norms, Halachic questions (noise, lease) and spiritual reality. I pray that your marriage and faith only get stronger as you find your way.

  51. Peleg wrote,

    “Are these all social norms or just stupidity and small-mindedness? ”

    I’m not sure, but I am very glad to live in a neighborhood that pretty much accepts anyone as part of the community if they keep Shabat and have a kosher kitchen.

  52. You alone will have to make this decision. Either find the dog another home or you will have to take your family and the dog to a dog friendly apartment.

    Rafael, I grew up on a farm and had so many animals and pets, but I still love animals.

  53. Abe – Judaism already has an exquisitely well developed program to make us into human beings whose interactions with one another are the most fulfilling, satisfying, loving, and respectful – it’s called mitzvos. and if we haven’t managed to become all we can be within that framework, it doesn’t mean the system isn’t there. we need to work on it. but realizing all that it can be is a big step towards that end.

  54. Its funny but I feel the exact opposite about having a dog. I am a BT. Over the years, my parents had about 15 dogs, as well as parrots, amazon, freshwater and saltwater fish, and an assortment of other creatures. I could not stand to have any pets, and especially a dog (or cat). My parents still have 2 dogs. Its nice to see then when I am over at their place but otherwise, fagget about it!! I say: get rid of Rover and move on with your life.

  55. I’m Ellen’s husband. Here are my comments. She’ll certainly have some of her own.

    tzirelchana said:
    “…we do many things that the strict halacha doesnt require (or refrain from things that the halacha permits) – wearing stockings all the time is one and covering my hair in the house is another, to conform to social norms. I sometimes wish it were otherwise, but its a small price to pay for being part of a Torah society.”

    Are these all social norms or just stupidity and small-mindedness? I am getting so tired of all of the irrationality and over-concern with “What will the Jones’s think?” mentality. It is gotten so out-of-hand that is destroying a lot of the good stuff in Torah society. Frankly, I am getting to the point where I’ve had just about enough of it and the exits are beinging to look rather inviting.

    yy said:
    “…there’s a question of how often and loud the dog actually barks…”

    Not all that much. She only barks when she hears someone entering the building, and then she often doesn’t bark, even then. She’ll bark at the window when the kids are playing in the drive between the houses because she hears the noise, sees them running around and wants to join in the fun (she’s only about a year old, very playful and frisky). But it’s not as if she’s barking all day, and at night, she’s quiet or sleeping.

    and he goes on:
    “On the deeper level, however, is the question of how dogs typically influence the Jewish Neshama.”

    That’s totally MY problem, isn’t it? If you ask me, she has a good influence on my soul, and to heck with what the Kabbalists say. It’s interesting stuff,Kabballah, a fun, intellectual exercise to try to figure out what they are really trying to say, but mostly, it sounds like a lot of woo-woo or counting the angels on the head of pin. I’ll betcha rock musicians aren’t the only ones who have done some of their best work stoned outa their gords.

    and finally:
    “We don’t want to cultivate RELATIONSHIPS with animals! Those energies should be preserved for G-d and fellow Jews”.

    Like there isn’t room or time for my pet and my friends. I don’t know who that RY is, but he sounds like he needs to get out more. And don’t forget, since I’m a person who thinks a pet is fine thing, it puts me way out of the mainstream, and so, even if I wanted to cultivate such relationships, it’s hard to find many takers. Now, I’m not out of the mainstream because I have a dog, but rather I am out of the mainstream (and damn proud of it), so I have a dog.

    Rabbi Yonason Goldson:
    “Like everything else that is permitted but not demanded by the Torah, the sincerely observant Jew should contemplate all the angles and ask rabbinic guidance before making decisions…”

    Jeez!!! It’s only a dog. How does it become a major Torah concern? And ask rabbinic guidance for it? Oh, come on. G-d gave me a brain, for a purpose — He didn’t give me a rabbi. And from what I hear coming out of the mouths of most of’em, I think I’ll stick with the tools that G-d gave me and ignore the advice of the untrustworthy.

    “According to Torah, it is forbidden to scare people, except to make them to teshuvah (repentance) or save them from danger.”

    She is NOT a scary dog. She is just frisky, a bit excitable, and very playful (oy, when she feels like it’s time to play, she is such a noodge :) ). I can grab her lower jaw and she won’t clamp down — rather it just annoys her and she shakes my hand out of her mouth.

    If the idiots think she is scary, that is THEIR PROBLEM, NOT MINE. I’m not responsible for their foolishness and I won’t make allowances for it. It a dog, not a tiger, afterall. I wonder if those foolish people get the same thrill out of going to the zoo that other people get watching horror movies or on amusement rides.

    “This is always true when we spend money on things that are not Ratzone HaShem, the Will of G_d.”

    So, now you are telling me what G-d’s will is for me? Really? That’s cool. Tell me how you can know that, so I won’t have to find out what His will is from uppity self-righteous Jews anymore.

  56. I wouldn’t say to keep your dog at ALL costs, but I recommend doing so at a reasonable cost, and maybe even a slightly unreasonable cost. You’ll also be keeping a healthy part of your independence.

    As a BT who has owned as many as five dogs at a time (and now is down to just one cat), I never came across anyone among my “very frum FFB” neighbors who suggested that I get rid of them. They have asked me about my dogs many times as a matter of curiosity, or interest in me as a person. When I tell them about the work, and the fun, they recognize that having and caring for animals is something important to me. However, I never perceived disdain or dismissiveness in their responses.

    I also have many “FFB” friends that have pets, including multiple members of multiple species.

    I see that some people have a fear of dogs that doesn’t seem consistent with their second-or third-generation upbringing in modern New York City. I’d rather not speculate on what is behind that. On some occasions, a few of these folks have taken the step to have limited contact with members of my now-diminished menagerie. They rarely seem worse for the wear.


  57. quietann, as Bob pointed out that is a non-starter. There’s a frum woman on Kibbutz right near us who has an entire petting zoo. Including horses. I know of a family in Detroit, no less, who owns horses. There are pet dogs everywhere in my community.

    What else you got?

  58. 1. Great Torah authorities have ridden on horseback or in horse-drawn vehicles.

    2. It should be clear that not all Orthodox communities frown on pets.

  59. The bizarre (IMO) attitude towards pets is one of the reasons I will never become a BT. I have a horse and two cats, and they are a source of great joy for me, plus the horse gives me the kind of exercise I love most. Have had pet cats all my life and can’t imagine giving them up.

  60. If we can’t have an adult level discussion we can at least have this one as a substitute.

  61. Isn’t it interesting that this subject is being explored during the one Parsha with a hero named… KaLEV?!

    Abe — do you really want to make a case for “necessary substitutes”? Again, this edges us onto the slippery slope of belief that if we can’t get to Torah, it must come to us. Or at least look the other way as we seek quasi-Torah stimulii.

    Davka, this is what Kalev stood up for. E.Y. IS a hard place… but if H’ wants us there, we can do it!

    True relationships take effort and time.

  62. This may be a duplicate, in which case I apologize:

    I agree that if the neighborhood as a whole can’t deal with dogs it will be difficult for you to keep it. I find the idea that loving a dog means you have less love for your fellow Jews to not be borne out in real life. It is a possible problem, but it is more likely, IME, that loving anything makes you more capable of loving in general.

    If you do decide to give up the dog, what will you do with it? Please be careful to ensure that the remainder of the dog’s life without you will be better than it was when you found him. This is part of humanity’s responsibility that Hashem gave to us to rule over all the animals.

    May Hashem guide you in your difficult decision.

  63. Rabbi Goldson remarks,

    …. it’s virtually impossible not to hear kids (and, again, adults) remark, “I love my dog.” This may be at the heart of the issue. Is a pet becoming a substitute for genuine human emotional connection? Is it spiritually healthy to conflate feelings for an animal with feelings that should be reserved for family, friends, and the Creator?

    I would ask Rabbi Goldson, what is the plan of the leadership of the Torah world to foster an emotionally healthy society with caring, genuine relationships between people? Until there is a plan to focus us all back on our community and on each other, then not only is having a pet a substitute for human connection, having a pet may be a vital and necessary substitute, as the secular world discovered decades ago.

  64. The house rules apply even if dogs are OK to have in principle, so why fight it?

  65. Lots of frum people in my neighborhood have pets. We ourselves have five cats! Having pets gives us the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of providing for our animals before ourselves, and caring for animals can make ourselves more compassionate. Chazal got inspiration from animals as is seen from works like Perek Shirah. The landlord does have the right to have a “no pets” clause in the lease, though, for any reason or for no reason. I wish you and your dog the best!

  66. Hi,

    I don’t think this is a strict Halachic issue. There are plenty of frum people with dogs and I’m sure you’ll find whom to rely on in that area.

    However, I do think it’s an issue of menchlechkeit. My guess is that your landlords didn’t have a “no pets” clause in the lease because they probably never imagined such a scenario. In certain frum communities the very idea of having a dog as a pet is completely off their radar. And I’ve seen first hand that many of these people, full grown adults, are terrified of dogs, even small ones.

    It’s clear from your reaction that there was no malice on your part. But now, even if you can finesse the landlord to agree I’m not sure it’s the most “neighborly” thing for you to keep the dog.

    If you’re attached to the dog and you really want to keep him I think you should move to a building and neighborhood where you and he will be more accepted. From someone who’s moved about 10 times, it’s not the biggest deal. (When we were younger, and living in Brooklyn also, we once moved to save $25 in rent!)

    Btw, I love dogs, but unfortunately I’ve never been able to have one. My mother said, “you can get a dog when you get married” and my wife says, “you can get a dog when we get divorced” :)

  67. My advice: ELIMINATE THE DOG.

    Ellen said:


    According to Torah, it is forbidden to scare people, except to make them to teshuvah (repentance) or save them from danger.

    A Jew who frightens people unecessarily can lose is place in Olam HaBa, according to page 10 of the English translation of the Yalkut Meam Loez tractate AVOT, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.

    Also, by getting ride of your dog, you lower your expenses, which gives you more money that you can use to help Shomer Shabbat Jews.

    Obviously, helping Shomer Shabbat Jews is infinitely more important than helping a dog, and earns you infinitely more reward in Olam HaBa.

    If you do not get rid of the dog, then after 120 years, the Heavenly Court will show you all the money you spent on the dog, and how that money should have been spent helping Jews who were loyal to the Torah, but was not.

    This is always true when we spend money on things that are not Ratzone HaShem, the Will of G_d.

  68. I’ve noticed of late a dramatic increase in the number of frum families with dogs in my neighborhood. I don’t believe there is any prohibition, and we adopted a rabbit a few years back to help our daughter overcome her fear of animals (which seems rampant among the frum — even among adults).


    I’m mystified that so many people seem to have the surplus time and money that a pet dog requires. I don’t have enough time for my wife, my kids, or my learning, and the last thin we need is another expense.

    More fundamentally, it’s virtually impossible not to hear kids (and, again, adults) remark, “I love my dog.” This may be at the heart of the issue. Is a pet becoming a substitute for genuine human emotional connection? Is it spiritually healthy to conflate feelings for an animal with feelings that should be reserved for family, friends, and the Creator?

    Like everything else that is permitted but not demanded by the Torah, the sincerely observant Jew should contemplate all the angles and ask rabbinic guidance before making decisions, particularly when those decisions affect the atmosphere within the home and around the children.

    Concerning the matter of pets, I think this self-reflection stage often gets skipped over.

  69. Ellen, thank you for sharing your extremely well presented dillemma. There are many issues involved and while this format will unlikely help you (or any of us) undo all the painful kinks that are involved in such BT FFB cross-cultural exchanges, just airing them out is a step forward.

    “Am I a goy” I think really expresses the ptoblem. I feel that pain down to my toes. Why must we otherize each other so much? Why are Torah-true values so often presented and us vs them; in or out. It’s a PROCESS of growth and we need real education in helping one another find our role along that continuum.

    Your practical question is complex. There are norms; the landlords and neighbors also have rights; there’s a question of how often and loud the dog actually barks… all of which are not about Yiddishkeit, per se. They are plain, subjective bein-adom-l’chaveiro calculations. A non-ideology associated Rav, with accepted Daas Torah, should be able to help you sort that out.

    On the deeper level, however, is the question of how dogs typically influence the Jewish Neshama. There are plenty of sources that are highly critical of what the kelev is all about. Heavy duty tuma. True, it can be handled in a kosher way, but it’s seen b’dieved. Consult with Kabbalists on that one.

    Finally, let me share with you what the Rosh Yeshiva in our community once told me years back re. our questions of our Bat-Mitzvah girl wanting a cat as a means of expressing her affection. He suggested to get her a chicken in stead. “But how do you cultivate a relationship with a chicken?”, I asked with a smile.

    He responded with heart piercing sobriety: “THAT’s the point. We don’t want to cultivate RELATIONSHIPS with animals! Those energies should be preserved for G-d and fellow Jews”.

  70. Hi Ellen
    We have the same problem.We live in a frum community where dog owning is pas nisht. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times, I’ve had to push off my children who are desparate for the companionship of man’s best friend. Yes, Jews in Europe did have dogs. I’ve seen pictures in Roman Vishniac’s books proving it, but right or not right, I have steadfastly refused. As you already know our society is far from perfect and we do many things that the strict halacha doesnt require (or refrain from things that the halacha permits)–wearing stockings all the time is one and covering my hair in the house is another, to conform to social norms. I sometimes wish it were otherwise, but its a small price to pay for being part of a Torah society. Believe me, we lived in a non frum neighborhood for six years, where nearly everyone had dogs and walking down the street was a frightening experience, with all the fierce looking German shepherds around, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. We do have a pet though, a rabbit who lives quietly in a cage in our basement unless my husband lets him out for his daily romp on the porch. He’s warm and furry too. Good luck.

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