Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Do Frum Jews Hate Pets?

Is it just me or is there an inverse relationship between frumkeit and pet ownership? How many frummies do you know with pets? Personally I love pets, I always grew up with animals in the house so I find it a little strange that so many frum people I know just don't own animals. In fact if I think back I don't think one person in my high school class besides me had a pet. (Watching the panic my dog could induce in frum people and kol sheken Rabbis was priceless)

I know plenty of MO types (and tons of non-Jews) with animals but what do frummies have against them?

My first though was that pets are for people with one or two kids (and old cat ladies) not for people with an already burgeoning zoo of 10-11 kids. But I find that even frummies with few kids or old people with no kids also don't have them. Why are there no old cat ladies wearing shaitles!!!

Apparently there is a Gemara somewhere that says you can't own a bad dog (does anyone know where that is) but I kind of don't think that's what its all about.

I found this post on Daat Emet. Someone asked Daat Emet "Why don't Chareidim raise pets, like cats and dogs, in their houses"

Basically DE answers that Chareidim are only concerned with "useful" things. You have twenty kids because its a mitzva. You learn Torah because its a mitzva. You eat, and sleep, and go to the bathroom because its a mitzva. Anything that you don't need to survive or to do a mitzva is basically a waste of time. Enjoying yourself is a waste of time. Since owning animals apparently doesn't get you any mitzva points they fall into the category of other pointless things that waste time.

I can imagine all of that about grumpy Israeli Charedim but American Chareidim are a little more chilled out then that. I mean most American Chareidim will allow you to do things just for a little bit of fun. You're allowed to waste some time reading (as long as it's written by Yair Weinstock) or playing baseball.

Is it a hatred of animals? If you've ever seen what Yeshiva guys in Israel do to the ubiquitous stray cats (skila, sreifa, hereg, v'chenek) you start to wonder if there isn't an open animosity towards animals (not to mention the way animals are treated in shlacht houses.) Maybe frummies don't have pets because they secretly (or not so secretly) hate all animals?

So what's is it? Is it because they have too many kids? Is it because its not a mitzva? Is it because they hate animals?

Anyone have any other ideas?


The Hedyot said...

All those reasons are true, but there's also the fact that they consider pets muktzah. I grew up with cats and when I frummed out in high school my rabbeim would always remind me how it was assur to touch the cats on shabbos.

Also, I think a main reason is that, to them, it's simply too "goyish" to be an animal lover. It's like a liberal fad, and we all know that frum people don't allow themselves to get into any goyish liberal fads, like fashion, education, and the internet, right?

S. said...

My guess is that although ownership of animals was very very common in Europe, and of course some semblance of a pet relationship existed, it was mostly functional. You had a cat to kill mice, you had a dog to bark if an intruder entered your property. I suppose studying the history of pet ownership would be useful here, but I suspect that by and large the model of pet ownership today was not what it was even a hundred years ago, however much people did like their dogs and so forth. Since heimishe Yeeden no longer live in rural areas, and the functional aspect of animal ownership is barely maintained, and since the present model of animal ownership is very much modern and Western, it is no wonder that pets aren't popular. That said, my impression is that most don't have pets because most don't have pets, that is, it's a kind of conformity, similar to why men don't wear rings. There's nothing really objectionable about it per se, but as part of a community you don't deviate too much.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>but there's also the fact that they consider pets muktzah.

So what if they're muktzeh? A flash light or a hammer is also muktzeh on shabbos but people still own them? I guess if you wanna walk the dog on shabbos it could be kind of a pain but cats are pretty low maintenance.

>and we all know that frum people don't allow themselves to get into any goyish liberal fads, like fashion, education, and the internet, right?

Lol "none of that secular education for you! Its just a goyish liberal fad! It will pass just like that evolution stuff!"

Shilton HaSechel said...


If pet ownership originally had to do with their utility on the farm then it makes perfect sense.

The Jews in Europe almost never were allowed to own land and didn't usually work on farms (at least that was always my impression). Perhaps because of this they never developed the same bond that non-Jews have with animals.

According to this, the Jews who do own pets are just imitating European culture.

Have you ever seen a picture or even a record of a Jew with a pet back in the heim?

S. said...

Like most things, it depends. In certain places and times Jews did own (or were allowed to lease) land. For example, the very interesting autobiography by Joseph Margoshes (link) which detailed his youth and adulthood in rural Galicia in the late 19th century, where he married a wealthy Jewish leaseholding farmer, and became one himself (and these were guys with long beards). Obviously they had loads of animals, and the same way you could like a dog today, you could like a dog in Galicia in 1870. That doesn't mean that you took the dog to the Vet when it got cancer, but people have always liked animals. In other parts of Europe, even if Jews couldn't own land, they still had rats and mice to kill, and they still needed hens to lay eggs, and all of that. There were loads of animals in Jewish Europe. Owning an animal was not goyish at all. What probably is "goyish" is the modern, contemporary model of pet ownership. Since there is no longer any reason to own a goose or even to own a dog (get an alarm) animals are owned for pure pleasure and companionship. In a sense this contradicts various frum ethos. Back in the heim, of course people liked their cats and dogs, but they didn't wear ribbons and sweaters and they didn't sleep in the bed, and I doubt the situation was very different outside of very wealthy and/ or circles of nobility.

Re pets, here's an anecdote pertaining to Galicia in the late 19th century. The most infamous Galician maskil was Yehoshua Heschel Schorr, who was a very cantankerous person. His only son died. Some time later, he had a dog, which it seems was a pet and companion in the modern sense. One time he showed his dog to a Chossid and asked him "What do you think of my kadish'l?" (ie, son; but he was mocking the institution of kaddish). The Chossid replied, "More than I think of your father's kadish'l!"

Shilton HaSechel said...

So I guess the question is : when and why did the modern conception of pet ownership begin?

and why did this "shift" from a purely functional pet to a pet "companion" not occur in the frum Jewish world. (Presumably because of the frum ethos as you said)

Any pet historians (is there such a thing) out there?

S. said...

I don't think animal ownership was every purely functional. Why couldn't a farmer really like his dog? They were friendly 200 years ago too. I'm just saying that I suspect that by and large the reasons why people own animals today were not the only reason they owned them then. So it was probably more like a shift from "Animals fulfill specific functions for humans, and they're nicer than rocks" to "Come here Poochie! Give Mama a kissy wissy."

I'm not surprised it didn't shift in the frum world. People probably didn't even realize how much they enjoyed their dogs or cats. They knew they had to have them, so they did. They enjoyed them because kids are kids, and dogs are nice. When Jews moved away from rural areas or overseas, there wasn't a reason to get an animal. When they saw the relationships people have with their animals, they probably recoiled, finding it very un-Jewish. So a tradition of pet non-ownership emerged.

(By the way, I bet that on balance there are a lot more fish and birds in frum homes than you realize. Probably not so much dogs or cats. I think, if this is true, that's worth thinking about.)

S. said...

>Any pet historians (is there such a thing) out there?

I can guarantee you there is such a thing. :-)

Shilton HaSechel said...

Fish don't count as pets. Its like hanging up a painting in your living room ;)

The thing is non-Jews also left rural areas but for some reason still held on to the "pet tradition" even though there was no reason to get an animal. Why didn't frum Jews do the same thing? (Are you saying since the non-Jews beat them to it, it got branded as an un-Jewish concept?)

G*3 said...

> my impression is that most don't have pets because most don't have pets

I think that’s pretty much it. Most of the people who have pets as adults probably had pets as kids, or at least had friends who had pets that they played with. Someone who has no experience with pets is not likely to want one. (Not so much that they don’t want one as it wouldn’t occur to them to get one.)

Personally, I think pets are more trouble than they’re worth, but obviously many people disagree.

Undercover Kofer said...

Also, pets are for people who are lonely. So you buy a pet because you are leading the wrong lifestyle (not getting married / not getting any children).

And don't forget, pets are considered to be impure, so why bring them home?

Lastly, there is, of course, the inyan of frummies being scared of pets. Perhaps because of all sorts of stories about the Holocaust where Nazis used them to scare people.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Pets are for people who are lonely

Lol any pet owner will loudly disagree

> pets are considered to be impure

If by impure you mean tamei live animals are totally tahor. In fact apples are probably more tamei than a cat.

>the inyan of frummies being scared of pets.

I always figured frummies were scared of pets because they never grew up with them

Baruch Spinoza said...

I think the answer is very simple. It is just what is convenient and what is not. If you have ten kids (because you are not allowed to, oh my science, use condoms) then you do not have time to look after pets, like dogs. Also, how are you going to walk a dog on shabbos? So it is simply inconvenient to have pets, especially dogs, if you are an Orthodox Jew.

However, I have Orthodox Jew friends who own cats. So they never have to walk them or anything like that.

I own a dog, but I never really was on the derech to start with ^.^

Baal Habos said...

We were taught that Tamei Animals are Kusheh Leshikcha.

Tamir said...

Apparently there is a Gemara somewhere that says you can't own a bad dog (does anyone know where that is)

Maybe you mean the one in Baba Kamma 15b, which says( just before the next Mishna):
רבי נתן אומר מניין שלא יגדל אדם כלב רע בתוך ביתו ואל יעמיד סולם רעוע בתוך ביתו ת"ל לא תשים דמים בביתך,
in translation:
"R. Nathan says: Whence is it derived that nobody should breed a bad dog in his house, or keep an impaired ladder in his house? [We learn it] from the text, Thou bring not blood upon thine house".

Or, the one in Shabat 63a-b, which says( starting at the end of Amud Alef):
אמר רבי אבא אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש כל המגדל כלב רע בתוך ביתו מונע חסד מתוך ביתו שנאמר למס מרעהו מרעהו חסד שכן בלשון יונית קורין לכלב למס רב נחמן בר יצחק אמר אף פורק ממנו יראת שמים שנאמר ויראת שדי יעזוב,
in translation:
"R. Abba said in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: He who breeds a wild dog in his house keeps loving kindness away from his house, as it is said, To him that is ready to faint [lamos] kindness should be shewed from his friend; and in Greek a dog is called lamos. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: He also casts off the fear of Heaven from himself, as it is said, and he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty".

On the subject of raising dogs, there is a Sugia in Baba Kamma 83a, which the Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Nizqei Mamon 5:15[9]( and Shulchan Arukh, in a slightly different phrasing) brings leHalakha saying, in translation ( here) :
"Similarly, our Sages forbade raising pigs in all places. Also, [our Sages forbade raising] dogs unless they are tied by a chain. One may, however, raise dogs in a city near the border. During the day [the dogs] should be chained, and at night let loose.

Our Sages said: 'Cursed be one who raises dogs and pigs, because they frequently cause a great degree of damage'".

There is more on the subject of raising dogs in Halakha:
גידול כלבים ונזקיהם,
and in:
עמדת ההלכה לגבי גידול כלבים.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Thanks Tamir, for the sources!

I'm surprised Chareidim don't riot to have dog ownership illegalized in Israel in light of these Gemaras (give 'em time)

David said...

In frummieland, emotions are tightly programmed. They're told when to be happy, when to be sad, who to love, and who to hate. The love of an animal is something you just feel and enjoy. Therefore ifs dangerous because its an unauthorized emotion. Unauthorized emotions may lead people to think for themselves, feel for themselves, and perhaps become aware of outside realities. This would threaten the tight control chazal and current rabbis feel is necessary to hold the whole structure together.

kisarita said...

-tumah and taharah, like pigs
(the muslims have the same thing)

-association with goyim may also be the source of the knee jerk fear response

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