Dear Rabbi,

What is the situation with walking a dog on Shabbat?

We recently acquired one as it makes for good company, but my husband insists I cannot walk it, nor even touch it on Shabbat. However my good friend, equally as religious as we are, walks her dog all the time.

Her husband seems to have no problem with it. Is my husband being unnecessarily stringent or has my friend’s husband got it wrong? I need sources to convince him, please.

Miriam

 

Dear Miriam,

Your husband isn’t being unnecessarily stringent. He may, in fact, be necessarily ignorant.

The Talmud says it is forbidden to move animals on Shabbat. In practical terms, animals are like other inanimate objects that you have no use for on Shabbat and as such they are forbidden to you. This ruling is cited in Jewish law (O.C. 308:39) and many codifiers make no distinction between farm animals and household pets.

Some codifiers (Shulchan Oruch HaRav 308:78; Kaf HaChaim 308:235) expressly include “playful animals” in this prohibition. There are, however, others who distinguish between farm animals and household pets (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim vol. 5, responsa 22).

In their opinion, a pet is considered more like a household item, similar to a toy or a picture that you might want to move on Shabbat and is therefore not prohibited. Even as many might want to rely on the stricter opinion, nonetheless if the pet is in dis- tress one may certainly move it or carry it. Furthermore, even the stricter opinion that forbids moving the animal will permit touching it (petting it) and certainly to feed one’s own pet on Shabbat – indeed even before you feed yourself.

Here’s where your husband is wrong. Jewish law (Mishnah Berurah 305:70) is clear that it is permitted to hold onto a leash and walk a dog in an area enclosed by an eruv. Furthermore, it is, under certain conditions, permitted to take a dog on a leash on Shabbat, even in an area that is not enclosed. (O.C. 305:16; Aruch HaShulchan; Shulchan Aruch Harav Orach Chaim 305:19.).

The leash must be held at the very end of it, and should not be wrapped around your hand or dangling from your hand, as it is considered carrying the portion that is dangling or wrapped. It must be clear that you are walking an animal, not carrying a leash.

The pet must therefore remain close to you at all times, and the length of the leash should remain taut; never sagging within a handbreadth of the ground, and no more than a handbreadth of extra leash should dangle from your hand. So, all things considered, take Buster for a walk on Shabbat if so required. Oh, and if you were to consider putting your husband on a tight leash, the same rules would apply.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

My grandson is becoming barmitzvah in a year. As his grandfather, I was hoping to teach him his portion just as I did my other grandchildren, but his parents are insisting they are not having him do more than the standard Maftir and Haftorah.

I would like to impress upon them the importance of doing more and thought maybe you can refer me to chap- ter and verse where it says the boy should do his whole portion.

Conrad

 

Dear Conrad,

Don’t get me started – I have a real bee in my bonnet on this one! So I went through the entire four volumes of Jewish Law and all of the Tanach, and would you believe it? I didn’t find any reference to a barmitzvah boy needing to do his whole portion.

I’m now halfway through the Talmud, but I am guessing I will get a similar result. Then I looked into that rare fifth volume of Jewish Law, otherwise known as the Book of Common Sense.

Not every barmitzvah boy is the same. Some are more capable than others. Inasmuch as it makes little sense to remortgage the house to put on a barmitzvah party as lavish as the Cohens, it makes equally little sense to submit a child to undue pressure just because that is what the Cohens did the previous week.

Don’t get me wrong. I am sure you have your grandson’s best interests at heart. But I am also fairly certain you have your own interests at heart as well. After all, you taught your other grandchildren and it would be nice having another notch on your belt. Sometimes family and barmitzvah teachers are more concerned about their image, such that they will push the boy too much, regardless of how many mistakes he might make on the day – so long as it is not too noticeable.

Better he should do half the job flawlessly than the whole thing, but with those mistakes. And don’t get me started about those teachers who stand right next to the boy on the big day, hear the mistakes but let them ride, hoping no one else will have noticed either. And having the boy corrected too many times, is, in my opinion, worse for his confidence than having him read the whole book!

Becoming barmitzvah means reaching a certain age of spiritual maturity marked in particular through a call-up to the Torah.
Everything else is already optional extra. Deal with it!

There, the bee is out. I am feeling so much better already.[divider]

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi.