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."As one who has been a pet lover and owner all of my life, I know how much love and companionship my pets have afforded me," he said. "Although I cannot say for sure that all animals have souls, those that have been a part of my life assuredly have had them. All of my dogs have been amazing loving companions, and have been the light of my life.
"As Proverbs 20:27 reminds us: The soul is God’s candle," Rabbi Isaacs added. "My dogs have been my light!"
In his review of the book posted on Huffington Post, Rabbi Jason Miller noted, "Rabbi Isaacs is both wise and witty in this book, which is appropriate for adults and children."
Rabbi Isaacs said the idea of the book came to him as he was considering the many times he's been asked about the spirituality of animals.
"I think people might be interested in something about spirituality for pet lovers," he said.