Posts filed under ‘Pets’

Zoo Torah: Feeding Pets First

Feeding Pets First

“I shall provide grass in your field for your animals, and you shall eat and be satisfied.” (Deuteronomy 11:15)

“Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: It is forbidden for a person to eat before he has fed his animal, as it [first] states, “I shall provide grass in your field for your animals,” and afterwards it states, “and you shall eat and be satisfied.” (Talmud, Berachos 40a)

This requirement is explained in different ways. Some explain it to be based on gratitude. Since a person’s animals are of benefit to him, he should express his appreciation by feeding them before he has his own meal.[1] Others explain that since a person’s animals are dependent upon him for food, such a commandment is necessary to prevent him from forgetting to feed them. Yet another explanation, in the case of working animals, is that since it is their hard labor that enabled the food to be produced, they deserve to eat first.[2]

According to some, the requirement that one must feed one’s animals before eating has the status of a Biblical law.[3] Others rate it as a Rabbinic obligation,[4] while still others take the view that it is a praiseworthy practice but not obligatory.[5] There are many details of this requirement, all of which are subject to extensive discussion amongst halachic authorities.[6] We shall summarize the pertinent laws. The requirement to feed one’s animals first applies to all creatures in a person’s possession. There are some authorities who rule that the prohibition of causing pain to animals only applies to working animals. But feeding animals is an obligation with all types of animals when they are held in a person’s house and are dependent upon him for food. This would apply to all forms of life, including birds and fish.[7]

A person need only give his animals food first if they are actually hungry. Thus, for example, if a person has a python that only eats once a month, he need only offer it food once a month. Some also state that the obligation is also not binding if the creatures have their own means of obtaining food.[8]

In addition, some state that a person is only required to give his animals food before eating if it is the ordinary time to feed the animals.[9] Thus, for example, if a person wakes up early and wants to eat, he may eat even though he has not yet fed his animals. Likewise, a person need not feed his animals every time he sits down to a meal, since most animals need only be fed once a day.[10] Some authorities also state that if a person is suffering and weakened from hunger, he may eat as much as is needed to remove his suffering before feeding his animals.[11]

The requirement of giving one’s animals food before eating applies even if a person travels away from home.[12] Arrangements must be made so that the animals are fed first. However, if a person accidentally finds himself away from home, and it is impossible for him to feed his animals, it is not prohibited for him to eat.[13] It should be noted, though, that according to many authorities it is permitted to drink prior to feeding one’s animals or giving them to drink.[14] Several reasons are offered for this. One is that thirst is of great distress to man.[15] Another is that only with eating is it likely that a person will forget to feed his animals if he tends to his own needs first.[16] (Taken from “Man & Beast: Our Relationships with Animals in Jewish Law and Thought.” See online at for more details and further resources on this topic.)

NOTES [1] Maharam Shick, Mitzvah 80. [2] Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Ein Ayah, Berachos, Vol 2, chap 6, p. 180. Still other reasons are given by Alshich, parashas Acharei, and Yad Ephraim 167. [3] Shailos uTeshuvos Maharam MiRotenberg 4:302, cited in Magen Avraham 271:12. See too Sefer Charedim 14 and Shailos uTeshuvos Avnei Tzedek, Orach Chaim 109. [4] Shevus Yaakov 3:13. Biur Halacha 167:6 s.v. umikol makom demonstrates that Ramo and other authorities reject the opinion that this is a biblical prohibition. [5] Rambam, Yad HaChazakah, Hilchos Avadim 9:8 describes it as an example of praiseworthy conduct beyond the requirements of law that was practiced by the early sages. See too Sefer Mitzvos HaGadol, positive commandment 87. [6] A very detailed discussion, with sources for all the subsequent rulings, can be found in Eshkoli, Tzaar Baalei Chaim, pp. 436-502. [7] Rabbi Yaakov Emden, She’elas Yaavetz 1:17. [8] Rabbi Yaakov Emden, She’elas Yaavetz 1:17. [9] Hagahos Tiferes Yaakov to Tiferes Yisrael, Shabbos 16:13. See discussion in Shatzman, Nefesh Kol Chai, p. 179. [10] Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, cited in Shemiras Shabbos keHilchasah 41 note 19. [11] Yad Ephraim, Orach Chaim 167:18; Shulchan HaTahor, Maamar haRachamim vehaChemlah 4. [12] Shailas Yaavetz 1:17; Shailos uTeshuvos Mishneh Halachos 6:216. [13] Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, cited by Rabbi Zilberstein, Melachim Amanecha p. 260. [14] Sefer Chassidim 531; Magen Avraham 167:18; For further discussion, see Eshkoli, Tzaar Baalei Chaim, pp. 438-439; Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld, “Jewish Pet Care,” in Torah from the Internet (New York: Judaica Press 1998), parashas Chukkas pp. 187-193). [15] Shailos uTeshuvos Chassam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat 119; Shailos uTeshuvos Har Tzvi, Orach Chaim 1:90. [16] Shailos uTeshuvos Har Tzvi loc. cit.

=============== (c) Copyright by Rabbi Natan Slifkin 2009, All rights reserved. This essay may be further distributed free of charge, provided that the header and footer information is preserved intact.



August 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm Leave a comment

Are pets muktzeh?

Here is a link to a discussion amongst laypeople as to whether pets are muktzeh.

August 11, 2011 at 2:59 pm Leave a comment

שאלות ותשובות על צער בעלי חיים- הרב רביד

Here is a link to questions and answers provided by HaRav Ravid on Tsaar Baale Chaim.  If you need it translated, just post a comment.


August 10, 2011 at 6:07 pm Leave a comment

Shemirath Shabbath- A Guide to the Practical Observance of Shabbath

The following are quotes from the English translation of Rav Yehoshua Y. Neuwirth’s book:

12.20. In regard to ants and other insects which one finds, for example, on the kitchen floor, in the sink, or on the dishes,

a. one should not wash them away in a manner that will cause them to die,

b. not put down poison with the object of exterminating them,

c. nor deliberately tread on them, even in the process of walking.

20.9 One is allowed to move a keli she-melachto le-issur [an object which is used for performing an activity that is forbidden on Shabbath]

b. if one needs to use it (in a permitted manner) for an animal.

20.27. a. Peels, seeds (pips) and bones are not muktzeh and may be moved, if

1) they are fit for human consumption or

2) they are fit for animal consumption and there is an animal in the vicinity to whom they could be given.

20.33. a. 1) Food which is forbidden to eat both during and after Shabbath, but which is fit for a non-Jew to eat, is not muktzeh mei-chamath gufo.

2) Consequently one may move a piece of cooked meat which does not comply with the halachic requirements for consumption by a Jew, since it is fit to be eaten by a non-Jew.

b. 1) The same applies to non-kosher food which is fit to be fed only to an animal (if there is an animal in the vicinity to whom it could be given).

2) One may, therefore, move a piece of meat which is unfit for human consumpton, but which is fit to be given to an animal, even if the meat is uncooked.

20.40. a. Animals are muktzeh.

b. See Chapter 27, paragraphs 21 to 30, for the care of animals on Shabbath and Yom Tov.

21.2 a. Although, as we have seen in Chapter 20, paragraph 27, peels and bones which could be fed to an animal are not muktzeh on Shabbath, on Yom Tov one should adopt a stricter approach and treat as muktzeh

1) peels of this kind which have been separated from fruits or vegetables on Yom Tov and

2) bones of this kind from which the meat has been removed on Yom Tov…

c. 1) Furthermore, food which is fit for human consumption, but spoils on Yom Tov to the extent that it becomes fit only for animals, is muktzeh.

21.3. b. 2) one may not

a) eat an egg which was laid on Yom Tov,…or

d) move something which is muktzeh in order to feed it to an animal.

22.6. a. An animal which is alive at the commencement of Shabbath is muktzeh because of its inherent state as a live animal and not because of an act performed by any person.

b. Consequently, if the animal dies on Shabbath, it ceases to be muktzeh and one may cut up its carcass to feed to a dog.

c. 1) As can be seen from Chapter 21, paragraphs 1 and 2, a stricter attitude is taken on Yom Tov to the rules of muktzeh than on Shabbath.

2) Thus, an animal which has died that day should not be handled on Yom Tov, unless it was fataly ill when Yom Tov began.

22.42. Matters of a Repulsive Nature

a) Anything which one finds offensive because of its repulsive nature may be removed on Shabbath, even with one’s hand-despite the fact that it is muktzeh-from a place where it disturbs one and thrown in the garbage or down the toilet.

b) Instances of items which could fall within this category are excrement, refuse, bones (including those which are not fit even for animal consumption), a dead mouse and the carcass of a cat.

c) Items of this kind ay be removed not only from the house, but also if they are, for example,

1) in such a position in the street (in a place where there is an eiruv) that they disturb passers-by, or

2) in a place where their smell is a nuisance to people in the vicinity.

You can buy the book at or

August 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm Leave a comment

From Calves to Kittens


Rabbi Judah the Patriarch was sitting one day before a synagogue in Sephoris, concentrating on his studies, when he was approached by a young calf. The unfortunate beast was on his way to be slaughtered, and was evidently aware of his predicament. He began to moo pathetically to Rabbi Judah, as if crying out Save me! The great sage was unimpressed, and perhaps irritated about having his studies interrupted. He shrugged the matter off and remarked to the animal What can I do for you? This was what you were created for.

The narrators of the story had no particular problem with the notion of a great Jewish sage conversing with a dumb quadruped; they were, however, disturbed by the contents of that exchange. At this point in his life, Rabbi Judah began to suffer from severe toothaches that continued to plague him for thirteen years of his life, and Jewish tradition decided that the affliction was imposed upon him as a punishment for his unsympathetic treatment of the helpless calf. In those days of primitive dentistry, a chronic toothache was as painful an experience as an individual could dread to have. When we combine that fact with the classic Jewish beliefs in the atoning power of suffering, and in the influence that great saints and community leaders can exert on the fates of their contemporaries, we arrive at the intriguing conclusion that Rabbi Judah’s anguish was beneficial for the Jews of his generation. The Talmud relates that throughout those thirteen throbbing years, not a single woman in the Land of Israel miscarried, or even experienced pains during childbirth. Rabbi Judah’s pain was everyone else’s gain.

Years later, a rodent happened to scamper past his daughter–or, according to an alternative version of the story, a household servant found a rat while cleaning the house. By this stage of his life, Rabbi Judah had become sensitized even to the situation of filthy (and non-kosher) little critters, and he ordered the lady not to kill it, invoking the words of the Psalmist (145:10) his tender mercies are over all his works. The Babylonian Talmud relates that this display of humane compassion earned him relief from his ailment, though this fact is not stated explicitly in all the versions of the tale. I find it interesting that Rabbi Judah’s retort to the calf took the form of a quote from an earlier sage, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai. The full text of Rabban Yohanan’s adage, as preserved in Pirkei Avot, was: If you have learned much Torah, do not take credit for that achievement, since that was what you are created for.

On one level, Rabbi Judah’s implied comparison may have been a kind of motivational pep talk addressed to the calf, urging the beast to welcome his destiny as the performance of a valued bovine mitzvah. Nevertheless, there was a whimsical cynicism in the equating of the two conditions, implying that it is as normal for a Jew to learn Torah as it is for an ox to be slaughtered.

Some of the commentators to the Talmud were uncomfortable with the assumptions that seemed to underlie the story. After all, as long as nobody was proposing that we all adopt vegetarianism (and, in spite of some recent efforts to draw the tale in this direction, this does not seem to be a credible reading of the evidence), Rabbi Judah’s remark was a perfectly honest, albeit a tactless, one. As such, it does not seem to deserve such a cruel retribution. Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz formulated this difficulty in stark terms: Rabbi Judah was correct in what he told the calf, since it is indeed a privilege for a dumb beast to be elevated in its status by being allowed to become part of a human diet, helping to strengthen the limbs of its superior on the food chain.

Under normal circumstances, if the person who was going to partake of the calf’s flesh had been an upstanding citizen, then Rabbi Judah’s retort would have been beyond reproach, and the beast should have jumped at the opportunity to be digested into the body of a rational being. However, according to Rabbi Horowitz, the owner of this particular animal happened to be a boorish glutton whose ranking in the spiritual hierarchy was no higher than that of an animal. Consequently, in this case Rabbi should have acknowledged that the calf was justified in trying to make a break for it; and his unfeeling dismissal of the plea for help was indeed deserving of punishment.

In a similar vein, Rabbi Samuel Edels (Maharsha) tried hard to identify details in the story that would justify Rabbi Judah’s attitude. He argued that cattle, since they are kosher beasts, actually occupy a relatively aristocratic rank on the zoological scale, and therefore merit some respect. Furthermore, it was simply untrue for Rabbi Judah to suppose that the slaughterer’s knife is the inevitable fate of the entire species. In the normal course of events, a healthy young calf could anticipate a satisfying career pulling a plough, before his eventual retirement to the abattoir. The rabbi’s response was therefore inexcusably flippant; and the ensuing affliction could not be removed until he had shown respectful compassion for one of the lowliest and despised creatures in nature, a rat or a weasel.

This last aspect of the story also has its peculiar twists and turns at the hands of later narrators. In the diverse traditions of the tale that are preserved in talmudic and midrashic literature, the critters to whom Rabbi Judah extended compassion in the end are variously identified as rats, weasels, or generic creeping things. However, somebody recently quoted to me a version of the tale in which the reference was to kittens. Subsequent investigation revealed to me that the kittens version was in rather widespread circulation on that great repository of authentic Jewish wisdom, the Internet. I have not yet succeeded in tracing the ultimate source for this peculiar modification of the story’s plot. At any rate, the variation might be symptomatic of the limitations of our own compassion. Unlike Rabbi Judah, who eventually learned to be considerate even of disease-spreading vermin and rodents, the author of the tale’s sanitized version was probably convinced that modern readers are still unable to extend their kindness to embrace anything more repellent than a cuddly little feline. Speaking for myself, I consider it most advisable to ensure that my dental plan is up to date.

Source: From the Sources by Eliezer Segal

August 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

Halachic Aspects of Family Planning

In this article by Rabbi Herschel Schachter in Halacha and Contemporary Scoiety, there is a discussion of sterilizing animals and its’ source in the Talmud:

A Jew may not sterilize any human, animal, or even insect.56  Not only is this prohibited when the actual operation is performed by a Jewish doctor, but also when a non-Jew is engaged to do the act of sterilization.  The Talmud states 57 that if a Jewish person brings an animal to a non-Jewish veterinarian to be sterilized, the Rabbis penalize the violator and force him to sell his animal to someone else so that he does not benefit from his sin.  Both the Gemara and the Shulchan Aruch rule 59 that it is forbidden to engage a non-Jew to perform any act of sterilization.

The Torah verse 60 forbidding sterilizing animals speaks specifically about male animals.  Although the Sifro there comments that this prohibition does not apply to female animals, the Rambam states 61 clearly that the Sifro only excluded the sterilization of female animals from the punishment of malkot (lashes) but that the act itself in nevertheless prohibited.  According to the Vilna Gaon, 62 this prohibition, applying even to female animals, is biblical in nature.

When the sterilization is effected through the taking of medication, orally or by injection, the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch distinguish between a male and a female animal.  To cause a male to become sterile is forbidden even by non-surgical methods, while such methods are permissible with a female.

56. Rabbeinu Gershom to Bava Bathra (80a)

57. Bava Metzia (90b)

58. The Gemara in Bava Metzia tries to determine exactly what prohibition has been violated in this situation.  One opinion suggests that just as Amirah L’nochri (asking a non-Jew to perform a prohibited act for a Jew) was forbidden by the Rabbis on Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Cholo Shel Mo’ed, it was similarly proscribed for all Torah prohibitions.  According to Ravad, Hilchot Kilayim (1;3) one would also not be allowed to ask a non-Jew to plant kilayim for him in his field, or according to Tosafot Rosh Hashanah 24b, have a non-Jew make a sculpture of a human figure.

The other view in the Talmud is that the Rabbinic edict forbidding Amirah L’nochri is limited to Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Cholo Shel Mo’ed, but the Torah law forbidding sirus– castration of animals-applies even to non-Jews in accordance with the view of the Tanna Rabbi Chiya.  Therefore, a Jew asking the  non-Jew to perform the act of sterilization for him constitutes a violation of Lifnai Eveir, inasmuch as the Jew abets the non-Jew in the commission of a sin.

the Rambam has a unique opinion on this matter.  he explicitly allows having a non-Jew plant Kelayim in one’s field.  This obviously indicates that Amirah L’nochri is only forbidden in the areas of Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Chol Ha-Mo’ed.  At the same time, the Rambam seems to assume that asking a non-Jew to castrate an animal may possibly constitute a biblical violation.  According to the Rambam, the Gemara in Bava Metziah drew a comparison between the two prohibitions of sirus (castrating animals) and chasimah (the law forbidding one to muzzle an animal while it threshes grain).  In both instances the Torah forbids the result brought about (Issur Chalot) and not merely the actual act itself (Issur P’eulah) (See Beis Efraim, Orach Chaim no. 56, Tshvos Zofnas Paneach, NY no. 131 and 233).  because of this distinction, even Gromo (indirectly bringing about the result) would also be forbidden in these two cases.  It is for this reason that the Talmud raises the possibility that even asking a non-Jew to muzzle one’s animal and thresh with it for him, or to castrate one’s animal, may also be Gram-Sirus and Gram-Chasimah which would be biblically forbidden.

59. Even Ho’ever (5:14)

60. Vayikra (22, 24)

61. issurei Biah, (16, 11)

62. Even Ho’ezer end of chap. 5, nos. 25 and 28.

August 8, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Dog neutering arouses halachic controversy

National campaign for neutering dogs encounters opposition of Ramat Gan chief rabbi, who claims Torah forbids such surgical procedure on animals. Veterinarian: Surgery prevents cancer
Kobi Nahshoni

The national campaign to encourage the neutering and spaying of dogs, has won great PR so far, but this week it found itself facing criticism from an unexpected source. The chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, stated that the Torah forbids surgical neutering or spaying (ie, the removal of the dog’s testicles and the female dog’s uterus), and only allows for “hormonal neutering.”

 In a ruling published this weekend, the prominent Zionist rabbi wrote that Chazal (the sages of blesses memory) distinguished between surgical neutering, which involves the removal of the breeding organs, to a hormonal procedure, which only neutralizes the ability to give birth. “It’s true that surgical neutering is a one-time thing, simpler and perhaps also cheaper, but the Torah forbids it and only permits hormonal neutering,” he ruled.

Veterinarians recommend surgery (Archive photo: Erez Erlichman)

 Rabbi Ariel went on to list the halachic difficulties involved in raising a dog, and called on the public to “thoroughly mull whether to get a dog at all.” He stressed that a large dog can only be raised in peripheral areas, and even them be kept on a leash at all times. The owners of quiet dogs must also make sure to prevent any damage, harm or inconvenience their pet may cause others, make sure it does not “sully the streets,” and consider the limitations on neutering.

 ‘Surgery prevents diseases’ 

Dr Nissim Ariel, head veterinarian of the Let the Animals Live foundation, told Ynet in response that the surgical procedure has beneficial results other than neutralizing the breeding capacity. He said that research over the past 20 years had found that female dogs that had not been spayed tended to develop carcinogenic tumors and uterus infections, and that spaying significantly reduced these risks. With male dogs, neutering prevents prostate problems, while the hormonal treatment multiplies the risk for carcinogenic tumors by tenfold.

 The foundation’s director-general and legal counselor, Reuven Ladiansky, added that “the Halacha unequivocally forbids causing suffering to animals. In Israel, there’s an especially high rate in the natural increase of dogs and cats, many of which unfortunately find themselves abandoned on the streets, exposed to disease, hunger and thirst, severe abuse, being hit by cars or even put down by the authorities.

 “The Let the Animals Live foundation recommends that every dog owner in Israel neuters their dogs. This is a relatively simple procedure, followed by short recovery period, that is a suitable and humane way to reduce the cat and dog population and reduce the suffering of animals in Israel.”

Source: Ynet news

August 8, 2011 at 7:19 am Leave a comment

Older Posts