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Do Animals Go to Heaven?


My dog recently died. He was my loyal companion for many years, even more loyal than some of my friends. I was wondering: what happens to animals after they die? Do they go to heaven?

The Short Answer

If you’re asking whether there is some sort of “dog heaven” in which there are cute puppies running around a special section of paradise, then, although I hate to be the one to disappoint you, the answer is no. However, if you mean “heaven” in the broader celestial sense, then yes.

The Slightly Longer Answer: The Philosophical Debate

The question of whether animals go to heaven has been debated throughout the centuries.

The Midrash states unequivocally that animals don’t have a portion in theworld to come.1 But that has not stopped some of the greatest Jewish philosophers from debating whether the concept of reward and punishment, and by extension the afterlife, applies to animals.

For example, Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, in his famous philosophical work Sefer Emunot ve-De’ot (The Book of Beliefs and Opinions), writes that an animal is ultimately compensated for all the pain it went through in life and death.2 This idea is in line with the statement in the Talmud that “the Holy One, blessed be He, does not deprive any creature of any reward due to it”3 (although an animal’s reward is different than what a person would receive for doing a good deed out of free will). The fact that Rabbi Saadiah Gaon held that this applies even to an animal going through a painful death suggests that the animal will continue to exist even after death.

On the other hand, Maimonides is of the opinion that the concept of reward and punishment applies to man alone.4

The Kabbalistic Response

The question of whether animals are rewarded and have immortal souls is important, as it not only gives man perspective and meaning in his interactions with the rest of G‑d’s creations, but explains, in part, man’s purpose in this world.

In a long and fascinating letter, the fourth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash, explains that although some Kabbalists were of the opinion that animals don’t have immortal souls,5 according to the teachings of the Arizal animals do in fact have independent souls, and they do go to heaven.6 The Arizal is generally considered the final arbiter for all Kabbalistic teachings.

The Arizal explains that every created entity possesses a “soul.” This includes everything from rocks


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