From the Desk - Dogs on Purim
Shalom Friends! Passover is around the corner! Following on from the excellent talk on Monday evening with Maharat Rachel Kohl Finegold, we hope that you (adults) will join us on Sunday morning for our mock seder where I will treat you to some fascinating explanations with which you can impress your family and friends and, somewhat more importantly, find Passover meaningful and inspiring! There will also be excellent craft activities for kids at the same time. Please RSVP through the synagogue office. A reminder again that I am available over this next week and a half to arrange the sale of chametz in order that you are not in possession of any chametz during Passover. We also each have a duty at this time of the year to donate some money to help others afford Passover. I would be delighted to facilitate your donation. Please send in contributions made payable to the Beth Ora Ma'ot Chitim Fund. There is also another special Beth Ora initiative coming your way so keep your eyes peeled for the video you will be receiving in your inbox early next week. Last week in synagogue, I talked about using failure as a path toward success. You can read more about this here. Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal With... Bringing a Dog Into the Sanctuary on Purim? This question was posed by President Sholzberg Much of the discussion of this topic in the rabbinic literature is concerned with the question of whether a guide dog may be brought into the sanctuary to assist a blind person. Some halakhic authorities prohibited this on the grounds that non-Jews do not allow it in their places of worship. If non-Jews forbid a particular activity in their place of worship then, if Jews were to permit that activity, it would be a disgrace to Judaism - as if we show less respect to our places of worship than non-Jews do to theirs. This argument can certainly be challenged in relation to guide dogs. Indeed, churches do not generally forbid a blind person to enter their houses of worship with a guide dog. It might however apply to other instances. It is presumably considered improper to bring pets into church and the respect we show for our synagogue should certainly be no less. Another reason for disallowing dogs in synagogue is that they may well cause a disruption. One can only imagine what might happen - things that can be mentioned in this letter include the dog barking and distracting and frightening worshippers. Other halakhic authorities, including the great Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, did allow guide dogs to be brought into the Sanctuary but this was because of the special need involved. Rabbi Feinstein notes that if we don't permit the blind person to come in with the dog, he will never be able to pray with a minyan or hear the reading of the Torah. He notes that the person will be particularly sad on High Holy Days when he can't join the congregation. This is certainly a great need and is basis for allowing the guide dog to enter. Even in this case, Rabbi Feinstein writes that it would be best if he sat near the door so as not to create confusion for the congregation. As mentioned, this lenient position of Rabbi Feinstein applies to an extreme need such as a blind person who needs to come with a guide dog if he is to be able to pray in synagogue. In ordinary circumstances, bringing a dog into the sanctuary is not permitted for the reasons of synagogue dignity that we have mentioned.