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What Jewish Texts can be read while burying a pet?


Rabbi Goldwasser

Rabbi Jeffrey Wolfson Goldwasser

Question: What Jewish Texts can be read while burying a pet?

In trying to engage the children in a ritual surrounding the burial of a pet. I was wondering what texts could be read. We belong to a Reconstructionist congregation, if that has any relevance to the situation. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Thanks for your question about a ritual for children to mark the burial of a pet.

Jewish tradition does not offer much for commemorating the passing of an animal. This is not because Judaism does not recognize the bond that can exist between humans and animals, but because the death of an animal does not have the same weight we recognize in the passing of a human being, created in the image of God.

I would offer these texts from Jewish tradition as suggestions for reading at your ritual:
"God said, "Let the earth bring forth every kind of living creature: cattle, creeping things, and wild beasts of every kind." And it was so. God made wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth. And God saw that this was good." Genesis 1:24-25

"Ask the animals, and they shall teach you; the birds of the sky, they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, it will teach you; the fish of the sea, they will inform you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of God has done this? The soul of every living thing and the spirit of all flesh is in God's hand." Job 12:7

I would make one negative suggestion, and that is to avoid the temptation to use the kaddish. The mourner's kaddish has great meaning for many Jews who might find it deeply offensive to recite it for an animal. Leave the kaddish for the humans, but do offer your children an appropriate opportunity to express their sense of loss.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser

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