There are so many questions about Judaism that begin with, “What do Jews believe about…?” Or “Don’t all Jews believe…?”
The easiest answer is the old joke that you ask two Jews a question and you get three answers or often four or five or more. We have a wonderful religion that not only allows us to question, but also actually demands us to think and question and even struggle and argue with God. Remember there is a hierarchy in decisions: Torah law first, Rabbinic law second and custom third. However, as we all know, often custom takes precedence. We do what our community and our family does.
Now when you want an answer, your best bet is to go to a rabbi but remember that it isn’t like finding a second opinion from a doctor if you don’t like the answer. When you get an answer from your rabbi, believe him! Today many of us choose to go to the Internet (good idea?). Well, again, you may have to figure out who is speaking and where are they coming from in terms of belief and understanding. However, you can find answers.
All of this leads me to the topic I found enlightening this week — from myjewishlearning.com, there was a great lesson on “Judaism and Pets: Questions and Answers.” There is a commonly held misperception that Jews and pets (especially dogs) don’t go together. For all of us dog lovers, don’t worry — there is no Jewish prohibition against owning pets!
Rather than give away the answers and in hopes to drive you to myjewishlearning.com which is a great website (there are lots of others that I have recommended over the years — I suggest reading many even on a daily basis to give you different thoughts and ideas), here are the some of the questions posed so find out the answers:
Is it true that Orthodox Jews don’t have pets?
Can Jews own pets and still comply with traditional Jewish laws?
Can I spay or neuter my pet?
Can one take care of their pet on Shabbat?
Can you feed your pet nonkosher food?
Are there any Jewish rituals for mourning a pet?
Do pets have souls?
Can I euthanize my pet?
All valid questions for those of us who have pets and love them dearly — find the answers. And here is another website to check out for animal lovers — jewishinitiativeforanimals.org.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.