Thursday, November 27, 2014 Kislev 5, 5775

Like Noah Before Him, a Rabbi Blesses Each Animal That Arrives

December 1, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Rabbi Barry Blum reads a blessing for Dianne Shames' adored pooch Chiquita, as Michelle Strayer looks on.
Standing in a grassy synagogue courtyard, Chiquita obviously didn't understand the words coming out of Rabbi Barry Blum's mouth - all of the 3-year-old chihuahua's attention was focused on the treat in the man's hand.

"God opens his hand and satisfies every living thing with love and favor," said Blum, who then fed the small dog.

Dianne Shames, who brought her beloved pal to see the rabbi, seemed pleased after he said a blessing for her pet.

"She's like a part of the family," said Shames. "She brings a lot of pleasure to our family."

Larry Cetlin also brought his pet, Murphy - which he characterized as a "Llapso" - before the rabbi, wishing the pooch a lifetime of good health.

"It's cheaper than dog health insurance," joked Cetlin. "I enjoy it, the dogs enjoy it, and it's a very short service."

The rabbi saying a prayer for each pet was just the beginning of Congregation Beth El-Ner Tamid's "Blessing of the Animals" event held on Nov. 20. Congregants were also treated to a petting zoo, complete with chickens, rabbits and a goat, as well as presentations by representatives from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind.

Participants also brought in pet food and toys to be donated to the SPCA.

"It's nice to bless the animals that are extensions of people's families," said Blum. "Loving animals is our extension of loving God's creatures."

The event was set to coincide with the Torah portion of Noach, who saved the animals of the world by bringing two of each species onto his ark when the world was flooded.

"We always do it around this time," explained Beth Silver-Cummons, who helped organize the event. "We want to teach our kids that animals are an important part of our lives."

On the lawn out in front of the synagogue, 11-year-old Max Schultz and his friends took turns holding a rabbit from the petting zoo.

"It's really soft and cute," he said.

Twelve-year-old Alex Litman, who described the rabbit as "really fuzzy," relished the opportunity to encounter animals that were new to him.

"I never held a chicken before," he said.

Norman Leventhal, president of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, was excited to teach the children about the independence that seeing-eye dogs can bring to the visually impaired.

"They should learn what a guide dog can do and what to do when you meet a blind person," he said, "not just run at the dog and not the person."

Leventhal, whose center is located 20 minutes south of Tel Aviv, was also interested in helping the kids associate their love of pets with his work in Israel.

"The dogs are fun," he said, "and the kids have an instant connection to Israel."

Blum's blessings didn't just extend to conventional pets like dogs and cats. Congregants also brought in their turtles, goldfish - even stuffed animals.

"We all have a connection with our stuffed animals that we sleep with," said the rabbi.

Even though the adults enjoyed their day at the synagogue and were happy that the rabbi said a prayer for their pets, ultimately, the event was a way to educate children about various critters.

Said Blum, "They can learn that animals are God's creatures, too."

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