By: Rabbi Ari Enkin / Does one recite the blessing of “baruch dayan ha’emet” upon the death of the beloved family dog? The Biur Halacha writes: When one is informed that one’s wine has spoiled one recites the blessing “dayan ha’emet”. This is also true if all of one’s possessions were burned or if one’s animal died and all other similar situations in which one is distressed. Based on a simple reading of the above...

The Death of a Dog…Baruch Dayan Ha’emet?

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Does one recite the blessing of “baruch dayan ha’emet” upon the death of the beloved family dog?

The Biur Halacha writes:[1]

When one is informed that one’s wine has spoiled one recites the blessing “dayan ha’emet”. This is also true if all of one’s possessions were burned or if one’s animal died and all other similar situations in which one is distressed.

Based on a simple reading of the above it appears that one who was exceptionally attached to one’s dog is permitted to recite the blessing “dayan ha’emet” upon it’s passing.

However, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein argues that this ruling of the Biur Halacha should not apply to “a man’s best friend”.[2] He notes that the other cases listed by the Biur Halacha are all ones of financial loss. Back in the day, one’s animals were often one’s only source of income. The death of one’s animal, especially a cow or goat, was often the first step towards poverty.

The only reason one would be inclined to recite “dayan ha’emet” upon the death of one’s dog would be out of a feeling of love and sadness not out of monetary loss. As such, it would appear that reciting “dayan ha’emet” upon the death of a dog is inconsistent with the parameters set by the Biur Halacha for its recitation and would therefore be unjustified. It is only upon the death of a human loved one is the blessing “dayan ha’emet” recited out of a feeling of love and sadness.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Zilberstein rules that one is permitted to recite “dayan ha’emet” upon the death of a valuable guard dog whose passing might make one’s valuables vulnerable to robbers until the dog is replaced. Similarly, a blind person may recite “dayan ha’emet” upon the passing of his guide dog because it is considered to be a situation of financial loss as such dogs are very expensive to replace and to train.

 


[1] Biur Halacha 222 s.v. “dayan”

[2] V’ha’arev Na Vol. II p.169

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

48 comments

  1. I recall a story where Rav Schach z”l was asked about sitting shiva or some other mourning type of thing upon the passing of a dog.

  2. IIRC one of the reasons for the heter to eat animal meat after the flood was the inability of the generation of the flood to differentiate between human and animal life.
    KT

  3. It is not clear from the quotation of the biur halakha that the reason for saying “dayan haemes” on an animal is financial loss. back then, animals were not necessarily of huge value relative to ones net worth, but people did become attached to them, just like to day.
    This psak impresses me as having negative attitude towards pets, common in the frum world.

  4. Moshe-

    No, its not *completely* clear, but Rav Zilbershtein’s peshat certainly makes sense.

    And manke no mistake. His ruling has nothing to do with the Pets-in-the-frum-world issue.

    Ari Enkin

  5. “all other similar situations IN WHICH ONE IS DISTRESSED.” -Biur Halacha (emphasis mine)

    How can you say by extrapolation that the Biur Halacha’s criterion is financial loss, when the Biur Halacha as quoted here EXPLICITLY says the criterion is something else?

    (BTW: From the title I thought this post would object on the grounds that dogs do not have consciousness or a soul, and it is improper to say that God has performed judgment on the dog. But as I see here, the reasoning is that God performed judgment on YOU, by taking away your happiness and/or wealth.)

  6. Shlomo-

    Its Rav Z. Not me. But he does make sense. Context….

    Ari Enkin

  7. These Enkin posts are getting more and more ridiculous.

  8. Misunderstood-

    OK. Would you like to choose a topic or genre for next week’s post?

    Ari Enkin

  9. I don’t understand. There is a clear ruling from the Biur Halacha: if your animal dies you can say dayan emet. Nothing in the ruling says anythinng about financial loss. Now, if R. Zilberstein wants to rule otherwise and base his ruling on financial loss, he should go ahead and do so. But to put that ruling in the mouth of the Biur Halacha by twisting the BH’s words is simply wrong. Not being a pet lover, I have no dog in this particular fight, but, unfortunately, I think this type of halachic reasoning (or, perhaps, halachic non-reasoning) is used in more serious areas, and we therefore have to be careful to reject it.

  10. I am more concerned about another aspect, though since I haven’t checked those sources in a while, I cannot even claim to have any valid opinion on the matter.

    That said, I have a distinct feeling that the blessings of Shehechiyanu and Dayan haEmet are first and foremost recognitions that it is G”d who is the Source of our experiences, even our most overwhelming emotions. Thus, there is a halakha that one recites shehechiyanu when being overjoyed upon seeing a friend or relative one didn’t see for thirty days. But barely anyone knows that. Making a shehechiyanu on fruits and vegetables (yes, vegetables, the paradigmatic example in the Talmud is a pumpkin) is less clar – when we don’t particularly rejoice, which depends on time and place – yet that is much more observed.

    The common thread seems to be that we thirst for exact parameters on when to say something, even though that something seems to be predominantly anchored in emotions. I, however, am not convinced that the Biur Halakha’s list is exhaustive and definitive. I would rather say that he lists cases where even an emotionally deadened person would be obligated. But, as you write, you base yourself on R’ Zilberstein’s published psaq.

    Separately, as someone who has no pets and loves animals in the wild, I can’t comment on the other aspect in the comments ;-).

  11. Could we take a step back? i’m an am haaretz and i’m not clear why there would be a problem to say “baruch dayan haemet” when anything minorly wrong happens, or even sarcastically. you do not say Hashem’s name in vain, so what is the issue?
    in any event, i agree with Mr. Kaplan and Shlomo that the limitation to financial loss is really a huge jump, and should not be forced into the Biur Halacha (and i also don’t have and never had a real pet).

    please explain why saying an extra baruch dayan haemes is ever an issue, although there is a positive idea to say it at particularly distressing times.

    also, as a general comment on the topic, i hope people are aware that (in my opinion, which can’t mean much) it is a gross sin to say those three words when you hear bad news directly from a person bearing it. i see this happen every once in a while (sometimes even to an avel, which is hilariously stupid), and wish that such people’s “frumkeit” didn’t overcome their religiousity. If it is incumbent on you, it doesn’t mean you should cause others to suffer any more.

  12. Since you want suggestions of topical subjects I have many on my list.
    Perhaps you can start with how much a kesuba is today and how it can be kosher with no-one knowing this. Not the choson or kalla or eidim or the rov hamsader.
    I consider all of them posul.
    No one knows (except people like me who have studied the subject) what a ‘zokuk’ is. What kind of a coin it once was, and how much silver it contained.
    Chasunot are B’h happening daily, but non with a kosher kesuba.

  13. Aaron-

    Great idea. Never tackled that. I think Rav Broyde has something on it.

    Ari Enkin

  14. Meir-

    Saying “Baruch dayan ha’emes” is of course never a problem. It can be said for any type of bad news.

    Maybe it wasnt clear, but we are discussing saying “Baruch atah hashem….dayan ha’emes” – the legitimacy of which is subject to interpretation.

    Ari Enkin

  15. Meir-

    I am unclear why you shouldnt say the three words when hearing bad news directly from an avel.

    Ari Enkin

  16. Rav Folger-

    Next week (bl’n): Shehecheyanu on seeing a friend.

    Thanks for the idea!

    Ari Enkin

  17. I agree with Joseph Kaplan. Too much pilpulistic word-parsing for my taste. Not everything written by a rabbi is a gemara.

    How about cosmetic surgery as the next topic. Its not as risky as it used to be. Tummy tucks, hair plugs, and so on. For both ladies and men.

  18. “Shehecheyanu on seeing a friend.”

    What happened to “mechaye hameisim”?

    BTW the opposite of “Dayan HaEmes” is not “Shehecheyanu” but “HaTov veHaMeisiv”.

  19. hatov vehameiTiv, of couse

  20. Elliot-

    Sure thing.
    …in the queue.

    Ari Enkin

  21. Ari,

    saying it within the hearing of the avel can be hurtful to the avel. i had a friend who’s dad died when he was young and he told me he will never forget the people who immediately said that to him and how much more it hurt and got him angry. it’s easy to say when you’re not the one who just lost your loved one, but you should not say it loud enough for the one who is currently in shock and suffering with loss. i would think that would come under general derech eretz.

    Same thing for the idiot (there is always one) who comes into a beis avel and starts talking about how it is all G-d’s plan and it is for the good etc. It’s what we should believe, but don’t be preaching to the man who just lost his family, and stick to lighter topics (again, in my opinion). I would think this should be halachic common sense.

  22. O Drimin Dhu Deelish, my kind Kerry cow,
    As black as the night with one star on her brow,
    For Drimin Dhu Deelish, the silk of the kine,
    For Drimin Dhu Deelish I mourn and I pine.

    * * * * *

    O silk of the kine, when amongst us you stood
    No milk was as fine and no butter as good,
    But oh, ’tis chill water and oh ’tis dry scone,
    Since Drimin, since Drimin Dhu Deelish is gone!

  23. “saying it within the hearing of the avel can be hurtful to the avel.”
    while yout story indicates that it “can” be hurtful, i personally didn’t find it so at all. it’s just what people say when they find out about death. it doesn’t mean that they think your loss is all fine and dandy – it means that they recognize it is beyond human comprehension. it probably shouldn’t be the only thing they say – “i’m so sorry, baruch dayan haemet” is about all there is to say, though…
    saying BDE is different than trying to explain that one should not be so sad because God has a plan – the latter is, i agree, completely inappropriate. I don’t know what you mean by “lighter topics” but I definitely did not appreciate people who came to shiva to socialize. These experiences are all individual and it is hard to articulate a categorical rule.

  24. Joel Rich’s comment (#2) was more important than some realize, at least educationally. There is much confusion about animals/pets nowadays. Many, many pet owners (especially dog owners I know) think of their animals as akin to humans. They believe their animals have an afterlife, or will be with them in an afterlife, as expressed for instance in the poem The Rainbow Bridge.

    I am a devoted pet owner. A few months ago we put down my search dog and constant companion. I don’t know how many hundreds of miles in the mountains we shared, or how many hours/days working together. I cried like a baby, and held him as we put him out of his misery from a sudden and fatal illness. For catharsis, my wife and I even buried him in our backyard.

    But everytime we spoke of what we were doing, I emphasized that it was NOT because of a mistaken belief in the status of the animal; or some ‘animal afterlife’. Several times I vocally and clearly thanked Hashem for the good years with this dog. But we did NOT say baruch dayan haemet.

    Nowadays, most people associate ‘baruch dayan haemet’ only with the death of someone close. I have no sources, but as an educator I sense it is very important that we not allow confusion on this issue. Even while we want to the halacha to be correctly known; I would not encourage someone to say baruch dayan haemet for a pet. Even while we might explain that it is permitted/possible; I would actively discourage this practice. Many, many pet owners already have confused notions about their animals. While we preserve the integrity of the halacha, we have to also address other educational issues.

    I write this with my surviving dogs (and cats) nearby. I hope we have them with us for a long time. But at no point should we confuse the distinctions between people (even total strangers) and our animals. Just last night in the beit midrash a participant was shocked to hear me say that taking a sick or wounded animal to the vet on Shabbat (we are learning masechet Shabbat) would be a forbidden violation of Shabbat. We have to clarify the distinctions as a part of Torah’s truth, and I think that is a real challenge today.

  25. I don’t think that the psak makes much sense.

    Dogs cost an estimated £20,000 – £65,000 depending on the bread. The psak is that you don’t say the bracha over a dog as a dog is not something with monetary value. This is clearly false. From a financial pespective people treat their pet as a significant asset and invest a huge amount of capital in it. Even though it may be worth very little to everyone else.

    A safer torah is worth $40,000 to a frum Jew and $50 to a goy. Financial value is simply a measure of opportunity cost and thus our subjective value systme.

    This links in with the points raised by Arie Fogler and others – the attempt to objectivise halacha and divorce it from emotions. It is usually possible to show the ramifications of our subjective emotions on the Rabbi’s ‘objective’ perameters. Usually money $-)

    See this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1292819/Mans-best-spend-The-shocking-cost-owning-dog-lifetime.html

  26. I asked Rav Glickman about this. He laughed and said you would only sit one day of shiva since one day is seven days in dog years. I take it he thinks the whole discussion is silly.

  27. >“Dogs cost an estimated £20,000 – £65,000 depending on the bread.”

    A dog can cost that much….. or it can be rescued from an animal shelter and be a breed of almost no financial value. Most family pets aren’t prized for their market price but rather the emotional connection that people feel with it.

    >“From a financial pespective people treat their pet as a significant asset and invest a huge amount of capital in it.”

    That’s irrelevant to actual value. An owner might invest countless thousands of dollars into maintaining an old car out of a sentimental attachment. The car itself might only fetch $50 if offered to buyers. An object can have great personal value to an owner but nonexistent monetary value on the market.

    >“A safer torah is worth $40,000 to a frum Jew and $50 to a goy. Financial value is simply a measure of opportunity cost and thus our subjective value systme.”

    An object’s value is what it can earn on the market. If somebody lacks information about the value of an object, that ignorance doesn’t undermine its actual worth. It just means that an ignorant seller is unlikely to see that worth in a transaction. (i.e. think of all the people who never took their old candelabra to Antiques Roadshow.)

  28. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg)

    Qohelet would seem to indicate that something happens to animals’ life-forces after they die just as something happens to humans’. Unless you think he’s saying that nothing happens to either…

  29. “Dogs cost an estimated £20,000 – £65,000 depending on the bread.”
    A dog can cost that much…..

    I assume the figure refers to cumulative costs over the animal’s life (vet bills, food, shelter, etc)

  30. Meir-

    I would think that saying B.D.H. in the presence of an avel would be somewhat comforting. By saying it you are acknowledging that their pain is so real and legitimate that it merits a blessing.

    Of course, if you are saying B.D.H. like most people say “Hi How Are You” (i.e. with no feeling or meaning whatsoever and just to comply with a social niceity) — then yes — it should not be said.

    On that note – for whatever it is worth, I only say “How are you” to people when I truly mean it.

    RE: the idiot (there is always one) who comes into a beis avel and starts talking about how it is all G-d’s plan.

    I think you meant “Certified Idiot” 🙂

    Ari Enkin

  31. Shteg-

    Dont know what your talkign about.
    But I learned in kaballa 101 that animals have a nefesh not a neshama. Only neshama bearing life forces have an olam haba of some sort.

    Ari Enkin

  32. MLD-

    RE: I asked Rav Glickman about this…he thinks the whole discussion is silly.

    Rav Yitzchak Zilbershtein didnt think so.

    Ari Enkin

  33. Suggested future topic – having pets in general and halachas in their regard (eg. whether or not a pet can be picked up on Shabbos).

  34. Toronto Yid:

    Its been dealt with before.

    See: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/halacha/jachter_1.htm

    Ari Enkin

  35. Yi’yasher kochakhem R’ Steg and R. Enkin,

    Your conversation has now merged the “Dog Death” sugya with the “Brain Death” sugya. This is because RHS points out in Bi’ikvei Hatzon no. 37 (the chapter right after the chapter posted a few days ago by our Rosh Yeshiva R. Student – maybe R. Student could post it also to ensure that I am not misquoting it) based on the Tanya that a there are (at least) two levels of soul – neshamah and nefesh. The human has both, whereas the animal has nefesh. When a person is brain dead, he has lost the neshamah (manifest in autonomous respiration), but he still maitains the nefesh (manifest in continued circulation). [This is also seemingly reflected in Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 25:5 which declares that the neshamah is in the brain but that “the mainstay of inclinations and thoughts” is in the heart. I am assuming that “the mainstay of inclinations and thoughts” = heart.]

    Indeed, in the chapter of Bi’ikvei Hatzon that R. Student has now posted (i.e. no. 36), we find a similar comment attributed to RYBS. On p. 250, first paragraph, RHS quotes RYBS as suggesting that when a person is brain dead, he has lost the status of “Adam” and has now become a “Behemah”. RYBS proposed that it would then be permissible to kill the “Behemah”, but he added that we don’t have enough mekorot in the gemara for such a proposal. [The same quotation is cited by RHS in his 1988 symposium with RMDT, recorded at http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/711848/Rabbi_Moshe_D._Tendler/Definition_of_Death_II ]

    [I hasten to add, however, that based on the testimony of R. Binyamin Walfish on the HODS website, RYBS later came to the conclusion (like RMF) that brain death is indeed definitely death. The key question therefore becomes whether we possess the capacity to adjudicate between the dispute featuring RMF and RYBS vs. RSZA. In my opinion (and of course I may be wrong, as always), this needs to be adjudicated by a consensus of Gedolim meeting face-to-face.]

  36. Sorry for my typographical error… the last sentence of the second paragraph should read

    “I am assuming that “the mainstay of inclinations and thoughts” = nefesh”

    Thank you. [Brings new meaning to the verse “Adam Uvehemah Toshi’a Hashem”.]

  37. “Its been dealt with before.”

    So has everything you’ve written about here.

  38. R’ Skeptic,
    You are absolutely correct. This highlights the magnificence of Oral Torah study. “Just as with a fig tree, whoever agitates the tree, he finds new fruit, so too with words of Torah, whenever one revisits them, one finds new insights.”

  39. Sorry, R’ Skeptic. I forgot to cite the source of that quotation. Eruvin 54a-54b. Thank you.

  40. I would imagine that financial loss is deserving of BDE because it came about through a Divine calculus of sechar and onesh. The bracha of BDE is an acknowledgment that your loss is a decree from the Divine Judge.

    If so, then the loss of a sentimental object (like a pet) could be equally understood as the result of that same calculus. If you are pained by it, then it is most likely an onesh from the Dayan Emes and you are accepting the pain and acknowledging its justice with that bracha.

  41. MiMedinat HaYam

    i recall an article on arutz-7 few years aho, that some “mityashvim” wanted to bury their bomb sniffing dog. (hopefully, not in a cemetary.) (didnt die “in the service”.) a “shayla” was asked, and the rov permitted, but only since it performed a valuable servi e to the community. (not because one was particularly attached to the dog.)

    2. cosmetic surgery is old hat. unless you have a different take on the issue.
    value of “zakuk” is irrelevant; perhaps it should be substituted with dollars. (another topic. and why RMF standardized the text of all ktubot in america when he came here.) (i recall a wedding in tel aviv where the chatan asked for tosefet ktuba (unique in israel; not allowed in america — that might be a good topic) of NIS 1Million “tzamud”. the mesader kiddushin (rav lau, sr) said that is making a mockery of the ktuba — later i found out both sides could very well have afforded that (in american assets.)

    3. the sterling value obviously includes the upkeep. he mispelled it to bread.

    but perhaps you should post on having a domestic animal / dog in the home. too many otherwise shomer shabat neighbors here have dogs in the home. despite the many issues. they may need a reminder of the issues.

  42. MiMedinat HaYam: “otherwise shomer shabbat…” ???

    There is nothing ‘shabbat violating’ about owning and caring for a domesticated animal. There ARE some differences among poskim about what is allowed, or the care should be provided; but there is no inherent violation of Shabbat in having animals at home. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach wrote about walking dogs on Shabbat so they could poop outdoors; and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu answered all my questions about animals on yom tov or Shabbat and never expressed any disapproval.

    “otherwise shomer Shabbat…”??? Could it be that you are the one in need of halachic clarification?

  43. Regarding burying a dog in a cemetery:

    See this week’s Mishpacha Magazine!!

    Ari Enkin

  44. MiMedinat HaYam

    to r scher:

    by otherwise SS, i meant observant. no implication on shabat there.

    i recall an article in tradition approx 1991 laying out why it is improper for a jew to own a pet dog or other “major” pet. fish is ok (pesach fish food excepted). ditto birds.

  45. R. MiMedinat: interesting. I’ll have to look for that article. When I was a young newlywed, I spoke with Rav Mordechai Eliyahu on the topic of pets, and specifically cats (dogs weren’t practical in Kiryat Moshe). After perfunctorily ascertaining that I had no weird reason for owning cats (such as darkei haemori of some sort), and hearing that we simply like the company of pets and even the occasional benefit of keeping rodents at bay, he expressed no further reservations. He did note to me that he thought that Cohanim should not raise a behaima t’maiah. Over the years we had some practical questions, and he never again questioned our having pets.

    Similarly, I asked Rav Shaul Yisraeli a few questions about pets, including if it was permitted to put a pet down rather than allow it to die naturally (and possibly suffer). He never challenged our having pets at home.

    My ‘anthropological impression’ has always been that the severe objection to pets, especially dogs and cats, is largely Ashkenazi; and is probably influenced by the culture and historical experience of eastern Europe.

  46. Is it possible that bad news is only financial.Are we not missing a bigger point.Also what was Rav Yisrealis answer

  47. That’s a puppy. A very cute puppy, but not the dog you would necessarily feel a lot for if it died. Unlike the dog you’ve had for 10-13 years, white around the muzzle, limping, incontinent, maybe blind, but you just can’t bring yourself to put him down.

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