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Cats and the mishnah


Rabbi David Sperling

Shevat 8, 5781
My copy of the mishnah has a tassle, and when I read it at home, my cats chase and chew on the tassle. They also walk all over it . How do I communicate to such small mammals that this book is holy!?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Our tradition teaches us that one of the unique aspects of mankind is their ability to talk and communicate. Also, our connection to the image of G-d, that allows us to understand holiness. This is something that separates us from the animal world. This being so, your cats are unable to understand or have communicated to them the concepts of respect for holy items. So, unfortunately, you will be unable to instill this concept in a cat – or any other animal for that matter (even some people I know have trouble grasping concepts of holiness). On the other hand, Dr. Pavlov (noble prize winner) proved that one can “educate” animals through a process of repeated learned behavior. May I suggest you turn to animal trainers for the best advice in how to train cats. A quick search on the internet will also help you find the best ways to instill correct behavior in your pets. If this fails, you may want to think about removing the tassel and replacing it with a regular paper bookmark. May your learning of Mishna be successful. Blessings.
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