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The stupid, greedy, filthy role model

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The ancient Israelites didn’t think much of dogs, which is a shame because they do seem to have thought much about them. Think of an epithet you wouldn’t want to have hurled at you, and some prophet or psalmist seems to have hurled it at the nearest mutt. It’s enough to make a dog lover cry.

Here’s Rabbi Judah Elijah Schochet: “The dog is one of the few animals almost invariably spoken of in negative and derogatory terms [in Scripture]. There apparently was little personal relationship between biblical man and the dog. Dogs are described as being noisy (Psalms 59:7-14], greedy [Isaiah 56:11], stupid [Isaiah 56:10], filthy [Proverbs 26:11]… The term ‘dog’ is applied as an insult to humans [I Kings 22:38]. Furthermore, ‘dog’ appears to have been a derogatory designation for male prostitutes [Deuteronomy 23:19].”

To a dog lover, this ancient prejudice can’t be excused—but it can be explained. The Jews, newly freed from slavery in Egypt, needed guidance in how to live, especially in knowing by which stars to steer their spiritual lives. The Egyptians worshipped dogs (think Anubis) among a menagerie of deities. For Jews to do the same would deny the truth of monotheism. It would be rank ingratitude to the God to whom they owed their freedom. The dog of Scripture had to be put in its place, not for its sake, but for ours.

We Jews don’t let go of our traditions lightly, so it’s no surprise that the biblical prejudice against dogs continued into the Talmudic era and beyond. Dogs were called the most shameless of animals. Eating in the........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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