We had a wonderful time at the Jericho Jewish Center’s first blessing of the pets. Blessing animals is something which has roots in Christianity, with St. Francis of Assisi blessing them 800 years ago. Why then have many synagogues chosen to take on this ritual? A few central reasons
1.) Blessing our pets enables us to appreciate their roles in our lives. For so many, their animals have an integral role in the family, and it is important to honor this.
2.) A connection is made to Parshat Noach, which we read this coming Shabbat, when the animals were saved from destruction.
3.) There are many contemporary blessings and rituals that are being created (one of my teachers at the Seminary wrote a blessing for finishing a new book). The rabbis of previous generations created numerous blessings and rituals, leaving room for us to do so as well. Having blessings over our pets is another way for us to connect to a age-old tradition of blessing that which we hold of great value.
Which blessing should we recite over our animals? There is no one right answer. The one that I chose for our ceremony is אוהב את הבריות, literally translated to “who loves all creatures.” Though בריות often translates to people, I am using it in its more literal translation of any creature.
I am already looking forward to next year’s Blessing of the Pets.