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The Cow That Kept Shabbat

The Cow That Kept Shabbat


There was once a Jew who owned a cow with which he plowed his field. Then it came to pass that this Jew became impoverished and was forced to sell his cow to a non-Jew.

The new owner plowed with the cow throughout the week, but when he took her out to the field on Shabbat, she kneeled under the yoke and refused to do any work. He hit her with his whip, but she would not budge from her place.

So he came back to the Jew and said to him, "Take back your cow! All week I worked with her, but today I took her out to the field and she refuses to do anything... "

The Jew said to the cow's purchaser: "Come with me, and I will get her to plow." When they arrived at the field, the Jew spoke into the cow's ear. "Oh Cow, Cow! When you were in my domain, you rested on Shabbat. But now that my sins have caused me to sell you to this gentile, please, stand up and do the will of your master!"

Immediately the cow stood, prepared to work. Said the gentile to the Jew: "I'm not letting you go until you tell me what you did and what you said to her. Have you bewitched her?" The Jew told him what he said to the cow.

When this man heard this, he was shaken and amazed. He said to himself: "If this creature, which has neither language or intelligence, recognizes her Creator, should not I, whom G‑d created in His image and likeness and imbued me with intelligence and understanding?"

So he went and converted to Judaism and merited to study Torah. He became known as Yochanan ben Torta ("Yochanan son of the Cow")

Pesikta Rabbati 14
Image by chassidic artist Shoshannah Brombacher. To view or purchase Ms. Brombacher’s art, click here.
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Bobby Hooks Macon, Ga September 13, 2015

His Owner [Even] the ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib: ... Isaiah 1:3a Reply

Deborah Fla January 12, 2015

The cow that kept shabbos I loved this old tale. Shows the wisdom of the cow Reply

Melzora Towne January 11, 2015

Sometimes I wonder if the animals are smarter than we are! Reply

Stan Canada November 24, 2012

Great Inspirational...what a blessing !!! Reply

Anonymous Virginia Beach, VA February 3, 2011

Rachel, thank you for sharing the story about your cat! It is amazing to see how readily the whole natural world responds to G-d while we have "more important" things to do! Reply

Anonymous Natick, MA via January 16, 2009

The Cow May Israel recognize as willingly as the cow Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA January 15, 2009

My Jewish Cat Many years ago I adopted an 11 y o cat from a co-worker. They happened to be black and named him Mohammed, Mo for short. I wanted to keep the Mo nickname, which he was was used to, so I renamed him Moshe Dayan. I brought him home and he immediately ran down to my basement and stayed there. I couldn't get him to come upstairs and finally took his food down to the basement, On Erev Shabbat I prepared for the Sabbath, and lit the candles, as I began saying the berachot, all of a sudden, my cat came upstairs, sat himself in the dining room while I celebrated Shabbat. Reply

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