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    Jews & dogs – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is there a Jewish view of dogs?

    A. There are two approaches (see “Israel Legends” by SZ Kahana, edited by Leo Gartenberg):

    1. The dog is a faithful friend, devoted to protecting its owner and his property. Dogs helped the Israelites to leave Egypt; when the midnight hour arrived for the escape, the dogs did not bark. The sages say that after Abel was killed by Cain, his dog guarded the body. They also say that the dogs will be the first to sense the coming of the Messiah.

    2. The dog can be fierce and frightening, as Jews learned during the pogroms when the antisemites unleashed dogs against them. Jewish children in eastern Europe were therefore brought up to be afraid of dogs.

    The adherents of the false Messiah Shabb’tai Tzvi spread a rumour that Jews were forbidden to keep dogs, but they were motivated by malice. Since the rabbis believed that the Messiah would be greeted by dogs barking happily, Shabb’tai Tzvi expected a royal welcome. However, the dogs snapped at Shabb’tai’s messengers, which showed Shabb’tai was an imposter.

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