Temple Rabbi Delves Into Spirituality of Animals

October 28, 2013

by John Patten Do animals have souls

Ask any pet lover and they’ll tell you when they look into the eyes of their pet, they see a soulful creature looking back. But many have asked Temple Sholom Rabbi Ron Isaacs if dogs have souls, and if so, is there an afterlife for pets? Rabbi Isaacs has asked himself the same question and others, and searched for the answers—many of which he compiled into a book now published by KTAV Publishing House and available through Amazon.com, as well as at the Temple.

“It’s mostly answers to questions I’ve received during my career,” he said, adding as a dog owner himself, he’s pondered the same questions about animals’ place in our lives, as well as in God’s world.

The topics range from questions such as can one bless a cat and are dogs mentioned in the Bible, to deeper examinations—including the morality of hunting animals and whether or not animals have souls.
“Judaism has a belief that human souls return to a place called ‘Olam HaBa’—World to Come,” Rabbi Isaacs said. “Since nobody has ever gone to the World to Come and returned, everything written about what happens in it is purely a matter of faith and speculation.”

He added Jewish mystics say all living beings—human and natural—have souls, but not all souls are created equal. Humans enjoy a divine spiritual soul enabling us to create a relationship with the Divine, and make moral decisions using our free will—something animals cannot do.

But Rabbi Isaacs digs deeper in his book. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do Animals Have Souls? Find out October 30 @ the JCC in Bridgewater, NJ!

October 27, 2013

Rabbi Ron Isaacs, AuthorDo animals have souls
Do Animals Have Souls? A Pet-Lover’s Guide to Spirituality
Wednesday, October 30
1:00pm
Hosted by the Birnbaum JCC
Free to the community

Click here for the full flyer.

Rabbi Isaacs’ presentation will offer Jewish views of animals, pet ownership, and interesting animal and pet questions that he has received and will answer, including: Can I say the Mourner’s Kaddish for my pet who has died; What’s a Bark Mitzvah; Is there a blessing for pets; Is there an afterlife for my dog; and is there such a thing as Kosher Pet Food?


Motzei Shabbat celebration in the wake of the 19th Yahrtzeit of Reb Shlomo Carlebach

October 23, 2013

OU Israel Center Nov 2 2013 jpg


Ten Questions with Bible Scholar R’ Ben Zion Katz

October 20, 2013

Reposted from TheTorah.comDocumentaryHypothesis-fullCover_1.5

1) How did you come across academic biblical studies?
I have been interested in these issues since my last year of high school, when I learned of E. A. Speiser’s Anchor Bible volume on Genesis from a young rabbinical student, and the following year at Touro College, where I took courses in Western literature and the Ancient Near East with Professor Albert Baumgarten. For me, this has led to a life-long passion where I have read much primary, scholarly literature in the field as well as material written for ambitious lay readers. The culmination of this study came upon my publishing a short book (A Journey Through Torah: A Critique of the Documentary Hypothesis [Urim, 2012]) in which I have set forth my thoughts on these matters.

2) Can you give us a short overview of your book?
In the first 2 chapters of my book I critically examine the linguistic and literary evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis. In chapters 3-8, I demonstrate that traditional Bible exegetes can also be quite critical, in ways that would probably not be acceptable in today’s yeshiva world. In the concluding chapter I provide an approach that I believe is traditional and academically sound, based on early sources that assume the pre-existence of scrolls that Moshe then incorporated into the Torah.

3) As a traditional Orthodox Jew, why do you value academic study?
An academic by nature, I cannot shut off my academic brains when I study Jewish texts.  As an experimentalist and a practitioner of evidence-based medicine, it takes hard data to make me change my mind.  With this outlook, I believe that Orthodox Judaism today is much less broad than Rabbinic Judaism has been in centuries past, but at the same time, modern, academic Bible scholarship is not always the hard science many of its practitioners claim it to be.  Be that as it may, modern academic scholarship has much to teach the faith community who take the Bible religiously, be they Orthodox Jews or fundamentalist Christians.

4) Can you give us some examples of what academia has taught you about Torah?
Yes. The tragic story of Yiphtach and his daughter (Judges 11:29-40) cannot be understood without realizing that houses in ancient Israel were constructed on 3 sides of a courtyard, with the animals housed outside (where we today would often have a lawn); thus when Yiphtach rashly vowed that he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house after his battle with the Ammonites (Judges 11:30-31) he thought the first thing that would come out to greet him would be an animal, not his daughter.  Egyptologists explain that Joseph’s Egyptian name Tzaphnat Pa-aneah means “sustainer of life” an apt name for the one who saves Egypt from famine, and that Moshe’s name means born of (water), while Ramses’ name means born of Ra.

5) Was there ever a time that in your life that you did not accept the traditional belief?
Not really.  I have never been convinced of the evidence for the Documentary Hypothesis. However, unlike a fundamentalist (and as I say in my book) I can outline the type of proof that would persuade me of its truth – e.g. finding a scroll similar to P or D. Right now, for me, the Documentary Hypothesis is like evolution without fossils.  If hard evidence were ever discovered, I would need to rethink my approach. Read the rest of this entry »


Every Jewish Question About Animals Answered

October 17, 2013

by Rabbi Jason Miller Do animals have souls

I never realized I had so many questions about animals until I met my brother-in-law, a veterinary radiologist and a devoted pet lover. It was at the first family dinner that my wife’s sister brought him to that I began to pepper him with questions about animals. I realized that I had an animal expert in my midst and all of a sudden I started to think of the most intricate questions about animals. My kids joined in and began asking him their own animal questions. Listening to his answers and learning from him was a fun experience and something that we have repeated often at family get-togethers.

As a rabbi I can relate to what my brother-in-law must feel when someone learns that he’s an animal expert and suddenly a game of 20 questions ensues. That happens to me when I’m at an event and someone (usually a non-Jew or an unaffiliated member of the Jewish faith) hears that I’m a rabbi. They take that opportunity to ask every question about Judaism that they’ve ever had and I become a living, breathing Wikipedia for them.

Well, now a rabbi from New Jersey has published a book that brilliantly answers the most common questions people have about animals with regard to the Jewish religion. Rabbi Ron Isaacs, spiritual leader of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater, tackles close to one hundred interesting questions about animals in his new book Do Animals Have Souls (Ktav). Only yesterday did I finished reading through every question in this book and I chose a perfect time to do it. Last Shabbat in synagogues all over the world we once again read the story of the creation of the world, in which animals and humans are created and then Adam (the first human being) is charged by God with the task of naming the animals. This Shabbat we read the story of the great flood in which Noah was charged by God with the task of preserving the animals by building an ark. Read the rest of this entry »


Beit Din Decisions in English – A Major Breakthrough!

October 14, 2013

By Rabbi Chaim JachterRabbinicAuthorityWeb1

The publication of Teaneck resident Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg’s work Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality is a major event. The Halachic world has seen major advances in many areas such as medical Halacha where Halacha has very capably addressed virtually almost all challenging circumstances and situations. In the area of technology Halacha has been applied to the fullest extent and has thereby brought a sense of pride to every Torah loving Jew.

Creating a fully viable Beit Din in the contemporary context has proven to be challenging. Great strides, however, have been achieved in this area in the past decade. One of the leading figures in making Beit Din an integral part of Jewish life, especially in Modern Orthodox circles, is Rabbi Dr. Warburg. Rav Warburg’s encyclopedic knowledge of the contemporary Beit Din literature, significant familiarity with civil law and broad experience in the business world have facilitated his emergence is one of the major Dayanim, rabbinic judges in the United States.

The publication of ten of Rav Warburg’s decisions in his recently released work are the product of Rav Warburg’s extensive experience as a rabbinic judge in the Hassidic, Modern Orthodox, Sephardic and Yeshiva communities of the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. These rulings are complemented by three important essays, including one which provides Read the rest of this entry »


Jewish Press Review of Rabbinic Authority

October 9, 2013

 From the Jewish Press:RabbinicAuthorityWeb1

Rabbinic Authority: The Vision and the Reality introduces the English-speaking public to the scope of rabbinic authority in general and the workings of the institution of the beit din in particular. In this work, published by Urim Publications, Rabbi A. Yehuda Warburg presents ten rulings in cases of Jewish family law and civil law which he handed down as a member of a beit din panel. In each decision, the author offers a rendition of the facts of the case, followed by claims of the tovea (plaintiff), the reply of the nitva (defendant) and any counterclaims. Subsequently, there is a discussion of the halachic issues emerging from the parties’ respective claims and counterclaims, followed by a decision rendered by the beit din panel. To preserve the confidentiality of the parties involved in these cases, all names have been changed, and some facts have been changed and/or deleted.

These decisions touch on issues of employment termination, tenure rights and severance pay, rabbinic contracts, self-dealing in the not-for-profit boardroom, real estate brokerage commission, drafting a will, a revocable living trust agreement, the division of marital assets upon divorce, spousal abuse and a father’s duty to support his estranged children.

Accompanying these presentations is Read the rest of this entry »