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Do Animals Go to Heaven?

Do Animals Go to Heaven?

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My dog recently died. He was my loyal companion for many years, even more loyal than some of my friends. I was wondering: what happens to animals after they die? Do they go to heaven?

The Short Answer

If you’re asking whether there is some sort of “dog heaven” in which there are cute puppies running around a special section of paradise, then, although I hate to be the one to disappoint you, the answer is no. However, if you mean “heaven” in the broader celestial sense, then yes.

The Slightly Longer Answer: The Philosophical Debate

The question of whether animals go to heaven has been debated throughout the centuries.

The Midrash states unequivocally that animals don’t have a portion in the world to come.1 But that has not stopped some of the greatest Jewish philosophers from debating whether the concept of reward and punishment, and by extension the afterlife, applies to animals.

For example, Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, in his famous philosophical work Sefer Emunot ve-De’ot (The Book of Beliefs and Opinions), writes that an animal is ultimately compensated for all the pain it went through in life and death.2 This idea is in line with the statement in the Talmud that “the Holy One, blessed be He, does not deprive any creature of any reward due to it”3 (although an animal’s reward is different than what a person would receive for doing a good deed out of free will). The fact that Rabbi Saadiah Gaon held that this applies even to an animal going through a painful death suggests that the animal will continue to exist even after death.

On the other hand, Maimonides is of the opinion that the concept of reward and punishment applies to man alone.4

The Kabbalistic Response

The question of whether animals are rewarded and have immortal souls is important, as it not only gives man perspective and meaning in his interactions with the rest of G‑d’s creations, but explains, in part, man’s purpose in this world.

In a long and fascinating letter, the fourth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash, explains that although some Kabbalists were of the opinion that animals don’t have immortal souls,5 according to the teachings of the Arizal animals do in fact have independent souls, and they do go to heaven.6 The Arizal is generally considered the final arbiter for all Kabbalistic teachings.

The Arizal explains that every created entity possesses a “soul.” This includes everything from rocks and other inanimate objects to animals and, of course, people. This soul or “spark of G‑dliness” not only sustains the creation’s existence, but it imbues the creation with its purpose and significance in the world.

Different Souls

But if every creation has a spark of G‑d, in what way does the soul of a person and that of an animal differ?

G‑d created the world, including the souls of animals, through speech. It is only regarding a person’s soul that the verse states, “He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.”7 The Kabbalists explain that when one speaks, he uses a relatively superficial level of breath. But when one blows, he blows from deep within him. So too, man’s soul comes from the very essence of the divine.

Interactive Souls

When G‑d created the world, He invested in man the power to elevate the divine sparks or souls that are found throughout creation. It is for this reason that in general, the way an animal’s soul is elevated and returned after its death to its divine source is through its positive and spiritual interactions with man.

So, for instance, we can elevate the soul of a kosher animal by making a proper blessing when eating, and by using the energy gained for acts of goodness and righteousness.

(However, unlike a person’s afterlife, in which the souls “bask and delight in G‑d’s glory”8 in the Garden of Eden, the animal soul returns to its source (the supernal world of Tohu) in an elevated state.9)

In the end, while they are different from humans, animals too have souls that live on and can be elevated. This idea presents us with an enormous responsibility in our interactions with the animal kingdom. After all, the animal’s elevation in the afterlife can be dependent upon our positive interactions with it.

Footnotes
1.
See Kohelet Rabbah 3:22; Masechet Kallah, chs. 1–2.
2.
Emunot ve-De’ot 3:10. See also Teshuvot HaGeonim (Harkavy ed.) 375.
3.
Talmud, Bava Kamma 38b.
4.
Guide for the Perplexed 3:17. See also his commentary to the Mishnah, Bava Kamma 4:3.
5.
Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, known as the Ramak, writes that animals’ souls are not immortal, and their souls cease to exist when the animal dies (Ramak, Sefer ha-Pardes, Shaar ha-Heichalot, ch. 10).
8.
See Talmud, Berachot 17a.
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Michael Linkenheil Victoria OZ January 29, 2017

Though some things are lost in the translation.... Try Psalms 36:6 Reply

Juda December 28, 2016

Re: Rhetorically speaking There is a Torah prohibition against murdering people, no such prohibition exist against animals. Thus there is a clear line between the two. That said, one is not allowed to needlessly harm ay creature. Reply

Michael Linkenheil Victoria, Oz. December 20, 2016

False premises: anothern human failing. Every religious teaching I have discovered over a long life-time clearly suggests that we are to make welcome those who would share our house and other resources, since we are all 'Strangers in a strange land'. None of us are more than temporary tenants in a Creation not of our making nor our ownership; any more than are the ants and the cockroaches.
'Dominion' does not mean 'exclusivity'.
And as for 'germs and dirt': may you be reminded that the human animal carries ~ and happily shares around ~ many more germs and dirt than any other creature known.
And also contributes more to the degradation of the small Creation called 'Lifeboat Earth' than all the other creatures combined.
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. Reply

Adele Agoura Hills December 20, 2016

I have no idea of bugs going to heaven. I seriously doubt they will go along with humans. If you have a bug that you love and he loves you. Then I still could not answer. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn December 20, 2016

To David in Petach Tikva In the Torah, insects are not in the same league as animals.
Although I am not a Rabbi, I don't think that this discussion applies to them.
Having said that, there were many Rabbis that would never hurt a fly or even a mosquito on their face! (There is an expression; "He would never hurt a fly") Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel December 19, 2016

Insects have rights too! I regard certain insects in the house as being more than an inconvenience. They are not easy to catch and expel, but they do bring in dirt and germs, so I have killed many of them particularly flies, ants and cockroaches. I can scarcely believe that they have souls which pass onto another heavenly sphere. Can somebody explain what rights they have, if any? Reply

Michael Linkenheil Victoria Oz December 18, 2016

Of soulsmand such I read many years ago that: Should man ever persuade himself that the gods created him with some special significance he should be reminded that,in the Great Order of Creation, man came long after the flea.
Could that be because the Creator was so incompetent that he had to practice diligently in advance of creating his (alleged) masterwork ~ man? Or is it more likely that a Creator does nothing without reason ~ and that the final advent of man was little more than the higgledy-piggledy using up of the left-overs from the rest of the Creation. That may explain the 'dominion' of man: since he was thus related to all else. It would also explain the huge excess of left-over arrogance, pride and ignorance and ~ yes! ~ sinfulness built into the human animal.
The other creatures were clearly short-changed in those 'qualities'.
It also explains why man alone needs the edicts and guidance of the Creator; in all other animals the Ten Commandments are built-in. Reply

Robert Goldman December 15, 2016

Loving non-human animals go to heaven just as loving human animals do The arrogance of humans (= human animals) to think and believe that they alone go to heaven, that they alone are worthy of an after-life, is an insult to the Creator. It is enough for me to not believe in any such religion. I believe, most of all, in kindness and love. The kindness and love I've experienced with non-human animals far exceeds what so many selfish and cruel human animals show others. To me, the love of an innocent animal and the love they in turn share, is the highest essence of Creation. I am certain that loving angels exist because I've been blessed to encounter them myself, as they brought my Katie and I together one summer night. I am certain that those of us good and kind humans who have lovingly shared our lives with loving animals will be re-united with them in the next life. To the loving pet parents out there, to those who lobby and advocate for animal rights, animal and wildlife protection, believe in the light and love of your beloved animal(s), who await you. Reply

Yehuda Shurpin (Author) September 8, 2016

Re: Animal Sacrifces Here are a number of articles regarding animal sacrifices in the Temple Why Bring Back the Holy Temple and the Animal Sacrifices?

Are You Really Planning to Bring Back those Animal Sacrifices?

What Gives Us the Right to Kill Animals? Reply

Andy England September 6, 2016

the rabbits and the mother Thank you for your comments everyone .
Here is the truth , the whole truth ,,and nothing but the truth .

The mother keeps a rabbit rescue centre .People donate rabbits to her .She had the last time I saw her some years back about 18 rabbits .

I also have kept a rabbit and they are very sensitive creatures .

On that day after he died she was crying as she tended to the rabbits .They saw her tears and they responded by crying .

It is as simple as that .I had a rabbit and never cried in front of it except when the vet wanted to put it down .

Animals know .I was once told by a Rabbi that animals were present when the ten commandments were read out to the people of Israel .

I refused to have the rabbit killed .
The vet said ," You'll have to stay up all night trying to get it to drink ." so I did .

For three nights running sleeping fitfully .It survived three more months and then passed away .

In England Lucy Cavanan is campaigning for an end to caged hens .She is 14 years old . Reply

Gavriela Rukhama September 5, 2016

animals and heaven My personal opinion - and I admit it is only that - is that HaShem loves His animals, and like any artist or creator loves it when we admire His handiwork. He also is love itself, and love does not die. I don't know or worry about what happens to animals like cows and sheep and such, but HaShem will do the compassionate thing. In the meantime, there is no doubt in my mind that He is happy that we love our pets (rats and mice included), and that He will reunite us someday. It will give Him nachas to do so. He will be happy, and we will be happy. Win-win. As for animals that were not loved on earth, they will be loved in the afterlife, somehow.

Do I *know* this? No, of course not. Do I believe it? Yes. Absolutely. If I turn out to be wrong, oh, well. Reply

Adele Jacoby Agoura Hills,CA September 5, 2016

Do animals go to heaven The rabbits were reacting to the Mother's grief over her son. They probably knew the man died. This was a story about the reaction of the rabbits and the compassion they had. You are correct. This is not about Do Animals go to heaven. I just think it illustrated the rabbit' s compassion. Where did. Rabbits get compassion. Your answer will be interesting. What did you say about this subject? Reply

myrna solganick middleton September 5, 2016

Hypatitia, I think the underlying assumption was that the rabbits showed compassion, which is a key component of the soul, and if animals have a soul then it would seem that they too go to heaven. Reply

Hypatia UK September 2, 2016

Andys non-sequiter anecdote Andy's story might be true Andy- but his mother was alive, and the rabbits were alive.

it says nothing about animals having an 'after-life'
you seem to be trying to link the death of the man to rabbits crying,
what are you basing the connection on?
how often did the mother cry before the man died?
how often do rabbits cry?
how many other people died at the same time around the world?
could any other event or factor have caused the rabbits to cry? Reply

Adele Jacoby CA September 2, 2016

Do animals go to heaven Andy, I had tears filowing down my face when I read your story. The rabbits felt the mother's ,despair. They reacted in a compassionate, loving .way. This is HaShem's miracle for sure. You were brave to post this. Good for you! Reply

Adele Agoura HillsCA August 30, 2016

Are you talking about pets going to heaven? Reply

andy Britain August 30, 2016

OK .Here goes with a deep breath .
This is the true story there was once a man who was chosen to go into the Olympic team the jewish man and unfortunately he died who was involved in a motorbike crash

When the news came to his mother who kept many rescued rabbits in cages she went into the garden in the morning to feed them and there she was crying one by one many of them started to cry this is a true story another one and I did the service the funeral service on the lovely Reply

Hypatia UK August 26, 2016

Man does not have the capacity to give the instructions that are in the scriptures.
really - how do you arrive at the conclusion that humans are lacking in ability to draft instructions , laws legal codes
and constitutions
history declares you wrong Reply

Adele Jacoby Agoura Hills, CA August 25, 2016

I agree with you Jonathon. Dad was a good artist. They had a poodle named Poochie. When Mom moved she had several of his paintings on the wall. Poochie repletely went to one painted and barked. This lasted for a few weeks. This was the first time Mom had ever lived alone in her entire life. I think Poochie knew something that we could not understand. Of course our loved pets will go to HaShem. No doubt on my part! Reply

Sapir Coral Springs August 24, 2016

The commandments to perform animal sacrifices, and so many of them, are what make me wonder who really "wrote" the Bible. The kind of God I envision has compassion and love for all creations, and does not need lowly humans to kill other creations to "sanctify" his/her name, to "glorify" him/her, or to "appease" him/her. Those concepts are human, and are common to all religions including paganism. I would like to think Judaism could rise above killing innocents for that stupidity. No "real" God should need humans to worship him/her in that fashion, and so today, thankfully we have substituted prayer. The Torah does command us to care for our animals, rest them on Shabbat as we do, feed them before we ourselves eat, etc. That is more my kind of God talking.
In any case, whatever "heaven" may be, it is a human concept. I believe animals have souls, although I can't say where the cut-off is (amoebae? Worms?). Animals kill for food; that's nature. Humans should pay attention to that. Reply

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