Two years ago, both my late childhood dogs died. It was a sad month for my family. Those dogs were members of the Greenberg tribe, and we knew they were gone for good.
The grief we experienced at the loss of such little loved ones made it all the more interesting to learn about the unenviable place dogs traditionally held in Jewish culture.
An elderly friend who likes to pretend he comes from the old country but in fact comes from Detroit tells me that my two dogs make me look, well, goyish. Heâs got 3,000 years of Jewish opinion to back him up. Dogs donât do so well in the Tanakh or in the Talmud. To maintain, as Ecclesiastes does, that a live dog is better than a dead lion doesnât say much for the dog. To argue, as the rabbis do, that breeding dogs is like breeding swine doesnât say much for the breeder. It seems that dogs canât get a break. They are either savage or wild. They drive away the Shekhina; they scare away the needy; they bring blood upon a house. For the tradition, it all comes down to the bark and the bite.
But the tradition doesnât know about the modern Jewish dog.
In the rest of this short piece from The Forward, David Kaufman argues that his dogs are in fact Jewish. To start, they are so racked by guilt that they can’t bark or bite.
They are relatively obedient and remarkably stubborn. They show an annoying curiosity, and their skepticism is tempered by an overbearing, even pushy, eagerness. Most important, though, they will wait. My dogs, bless them, are capable of an astonishing patience where it counts. And in this way, they really seem like Jews: They can sustain whole eternities of impossible hope.