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"To 'Woof' or Not to 'Woof': Is that the Question?"

01/09/2019 11:55:07 AM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

We are blessed to be the “parents” to a beautiful almost 15-year-old Bichon Frise who has added so much love to our lives since she entered the family at the age of 4 months. I was scared of dogs as a kid, but I am devoted to this creation of Hashem to the point that I make monthly contributions to the A.S.P.C.A. and the H.S.U.S. Whether you know it or not, dogs played a significant role in Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt.  Our Torah tells us that when Moshe warned of the impending plague of the Death of the Firstborn, he stated, “There shall be a great outcry in the entire Land of Egypt…But against the Children of Israel no dog shall whet its tongue, neither against man nor beast.” (Shemot 11:6-7)

Rabbi Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik, known by the name of his famous work "Beit HaLevi," became involved in a bitter feud between two groups that could best be described as highly contentious.  R. Yoseph Dov appealed to one of the influential citizens of Brisk asking him to use his position to bring the two camps together to talk with each other to bring about a peaceful solution.  The man refused the Rabbi's request.  R. Yoseph Dov told him that it was a mitzvah, a duty, to bring peace to two warring factions.  The man impudently replied, "I think it is a greater mitzvah to remain neutral and not get involved."  R. Yoseph Dov continued, "I was always puzzled by the verse in the Torah 'But against the Children of Israel, no dog shall whet its tongue....'  For what purpose does the Torah tell us this?  The Talmud (Bava Kamma 60b) says that when the Angel of Death enters a community, the dogs weep.  When Eliyahu HaNavi (the prophet Elijah) enters the community, the dogs are playful.  On the night of the plague of the Death of the Firstborn, there was a conflict.  Eliyahu HaNavi is the one who is the messenger of redemption, so he was there that night.  But so was the Angel of Death there in order to strike down the firstborn.  Thus, the dogs were in a quandry.  Should they weep because of the Angel of Death or should they be playful because of Eliyahu HaNavi?  The dogs decided to remain neutral (i.e.- silent).  That is why the Torah says, ' dog shall whet its tongue...."  Remaining neutral when one can bring peace among feuding people is appropriate for dogs.  It is not appropriate for intelligent people.  The Talmud (Shabbat 127a) says that 'bringing peace between man and his fellow' is a great mitzvah for which one is rewarded in both this world and in the eternal world.  One should not shun this mitzvah, hiding behind a cloak of neutrality."

Perhaps, just perhaps, the lesson taught by R. Yoseph Dov is one that needs to be heard in Washington, D.C. at this time.  Perhaps, just perhaps, someone needs to tell both sides in the current contentiousness that reigns in our nation's capital that each one is "barking up the wrong tree."

Shabbat Shalom!

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779