Letters and Responses

From The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Family Foundation
and All-Creatures.Org

Letter From Miriam About Mourning Her Family's Rabbits - 8 Oct 2009


Thank-you for this article "Saying Goodbye" and this website. I have been brought up traditionally within Orthodox Judaism, originally from London but now in Australia. I never had pets growing up but loved animals. At university I had a hamster - when she died of natural causes I was beside myself and felt very alone.

My daughters begged for a rabbit so 4 years ago we brought a doe home and earlier this year she was joined by another. They loved each other, played happily and snuggled up to each other. Each day when I came out with their food they would jump at my ankles excitedly. They didn't want to be picked up and cuddled but their funny ways delighted us.

When we decided recently to take in a puppy we looked long and hard at a breed that would be less likely to consider the rabbits a yummy dinner. Rosh Hashanah 2009 we welcomed our new 8 week old puppy into our home. He loved watching the rabbits and licking their noses, and they responded accordingly. This weekend, Succoth 2009, we woke up to find one dead rabbit and one missing. As there was no way any domestic land animal could get in or out, we knew a wild predator had been responsible. Our neighbour told us she had sighted a falcon behind our suburban houses in the past week.

Second day of Succoth came and went in a shroud of desperate grief and trauma. We took the body of the one year old bunny to the vet, after we had said our goodbyes to her but felt helpless for our dear friend of 4 years for whom we have no body for closure. I am studying Transpersonal therapies and currently we are learning the importance of ritual in our lives. I have encouraged my daughters to write their feelings onto paper and together we will bury a memorial box and I will make plaques to place above the ground. My kids' friends have asked for help in creating a memorial book. Our little puppy runs up to the hutches everyday and waits for his friends to come out to play and then looks at me pleadingly. My youngest daughter asked me hopefully if her missing rabbit has returned home yet.

At college tonight we discussed how people who are brought up with ritual in their lives have a great resource to cope with life transitions. I asked what happens when organised Religion cannot provide the rituals/ or provides restrictive rituals with too many rules.

I always believed that in Hashem's eyes we are all equal, irrespective of what life form we take. I look into the eyes of many animals and wonder if they are in fact closer to Hashem than human beings. Many people believe other animals are much more sensitive to spiritual forces than most humans. All creatures are creations of G-d and we should therefore honour Hashem for allowing us their presence in our lives.

Most importantly ritual is vitally important for us to cope through transitions both good and bad. To deprive us of a ritual that guides us through our grief of an animal seems pitiful at the very least.

Thank-you once again, and in absence of a structured Orthodox way of mourning our beloved pet family members, I will endeavour to construct a personal memorial to honour and give thanks for the pure love and goodness that Hashem's beautiful creatures so briefly brought into our lives.

My Father in Law approached me last week, 24 hours after we discovered our loss. "Is it appropriate to wish you long life?" he asked. I replied "We have cried as many tears as we would have, had they been human family. Thank-you, yes it is totally appropriate".

Many thanks,

Reply from Frank and Mary Hoffman

Dear Miriam:

We are very sorry to hear about the loss of your two rabbits. We know the empty feeling that you, your children, and your puppy are feeling, as we've been there ourselves. And we are sure the G-d will raise them up as He will us. for He created them as living souls, just like He did us humans.

Thank you very much for writing to us and for you kind and encouraging comments.

In the Love of the Lord,

Frank and Mary
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