Questions About Animals

Real questions, submitted by actual OU Torah followers, with their real answers. NOTE: For questions of practical halacha, please consult your own rabbi for guidance.

Q. What are the guidelines for dealing with a pet sheep on Shabbos? When am I allowed to touch it, etc.?

A. Animals are muktza on Shabbos. We're allowed to feed pets on Shabbos, which we're not allowed to do for wild animals, but according to the preponderance of halachic authorities, we're not allowed to handle them. (There are some lenient opinions; one would be well-advised to consult his own rabbi for guidance.) We're not allowed to brush animals on Shabbos and in the case of a sheep, it might even be a Biblical-level violation of the melacha of gozeiz (shearing). One also has to be concerned for the issue of trapping. A sheep is significantly different from a dog or a cat, so I couldn't tell you the exact parameters of an enclosure that constitutes trapping.


Q. What is the Jewish view on animal conservation? It seems Hashem cared enough for the animals to save them in the ark. But a radio host I usually enjoy said that no one cares about a woodpecker going extinct as another animal will take its niche, animals go extinct all the time... it seemed rather callous. Hashem created these animals and though He allowed us to make use of them, I don’t think He had in mind to shoot every animal on sight.

A. Yes, Hashem cared enough for the animals to be saved in the ark but as soon as Noach came out of the ark, he offered sacrifices and God gave him permission to eat meat. The rule is that we’re allowed to use but not to abuse. Meat and even fur are permitted but hunting for sport is frowned up and gratuitously mistreating an animal is outright prohibited. You can read more about this here and here.


Q. Is helping endangered species out of the brink of extinction praiseworthy? Such as heavy penalties for destroying eagle eggs and restricted hunting of certain species that need help to multiply again?

A. Saving animals from extinction is absolutely praiseworthy. We're supposed to care for the world, not destroy it, as we see from Genesis 2:15: "Hashem God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to guard it."


Q. In the first creation story, humans are created after the other animals. In the second account, the man was created first, then the animals, then the woman from the man's rib.

A. Thanks for your question. The accounts in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 don't conflict. Chapter 1 is this short form - here's what God did. Chapter 2 elaborates on the details, i.e., "Here's how He did it." So chapter 1 says that He made man and woman, chapter 2 explains how.

​​Similarly, God didn't create animals after man in chapter 2. After creating man, it mentions that He had already created all the animals. This is not just me saying this, it's explicit in the text: the very first verse in chapter 2 says that Heaven, Earth and everything in them were already completed.


Q. Is it unclean for a Jew to touch a lizard like a bearded dragon while it's alive? Or to own one as a pet?

A. There's no problem. There are eight crawling creatures (sheratzim, including both reptiles and rodents) whose carcasses convey ritual impurity. Not only is alive not a problem, nor is the bearded dragon one of the eight sheratzim, but one is allowed to render oneself ritually impure. (It would impede one's ability to enter the Temple or eat sanctified food, but these are things we're not doing nowadays anyway.)


Q. I know crickets aren't kosher, but is it okay to feed them to a pet in a Jewish home?

A. Yes, that would be fine.

Rabbi Jack's latest book, Ask Rabbi Jack, is now available from Kodesh Press and on