By Michael Barmish
Every spring, the Jewish festival of Passover happens for seven (or eight) days, beginning and ending at sundown. It’s a time for families to come together in remembrance.
According to the story of Exodus in the Old Testament, God helped the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt by raining plagues over the Egyptians, including the death of Egyptian firstborn children, until the Pharaoh released the Israelites to their freedom.
With the Israelites marking their doorposts, God knew to pass over any firstborn in those houses.
Once the Israelites were freed, they left so quickly before any minds were changed that they did not wait for the dough to make bread to rise, or leaven. This gives us the tradition of unleavened bread, or matzo, to be eaten during the Passover festival.
So, what does this have to do with our dogs? For starters, there is a biblical reference to dogs in Exodus 11:7, “But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes distinction between Egypt and Israel.” Back in biblical times, the sound of a dog barking signified death. As the Israelites were passed over during the killing of the first-borns, dogs in those households remained silent.
As for dogs of today, diets for dogs in kosher homes are generally not as strict as they are for their owners. Foods that are non-kosher include any meat from a pig, or shellfish. Hamburgers that are all-beef are fine, but you’ll never find a cheeseburger in a kosher home because meat cannot be mixed with dairy.
According to the Torah, which is considered the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures “…do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.” So that pork? That’s okay for dogs. The only law that applies to our pups is no meat should be cooked with any milk or dairy products. That is, unless the dog is a stray as the family does not derive a benefit from a stray animal. Go figure.
The only caveat comes at Passover. According to Star-K Kosher Certification, dogs must be fed using stricter guidelines. As foods with any leavening, called chametz, are forbidden during the holiday, so are they in dog food. This includes any foods with wheat, barley, oats, rye and brewer’s yeast. Some dog food with gravies in them might also include some of these items. Star-K lists acceptable foods for most popular dog food brands on its website.
So to our Jewish readers, and their dogs, our wishes for a Happy Pesach!