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    The rabbi and the dog – Vayyeshev

    Jacob spent many years away from the Holy Land. Only when he settled in Israel could the Torah say, Vayyeshev Ya’akov – “Jacob dwelt in the land where his father dwelt” (Gen. 37:1).

    Not until he got to Israel could he really settle. Until then, says the Midrash Lekach Tov, Jacob felt unsettled and uneasy about his environment. He did not fully enjoy the company he had to keep.

    A story is told about Rabbi Jonathan of Prague and an antisemitic local priest.

    The priest said to him, “I hear that you Jews give a rabbi great respect and stand up when you see him. I also hear that when you see a dog you are afraid and you sit still. The question I want to ask is this: What happens when you see a rabbi and a dog at the same time?”

    The rabbi replied, “We have a practice when a difficult legal question comes up that we go out and see what people actually do in these circumstances. So come into the street with me, you and I, and we’ll see what the people do when they see a rabbi and a dog together!”

    The story is not very kind to antisemites or priests, but over the centuries they both gave us more than our share of suffering.

    Nonetheless, it illustrates the problem that faced Jacob – how to cope with life in an uncertain environment when one could never be assured of safety or security.

    As far as Jacob was concerned, the answer was to come back home when it became possible.

    And there is an additional answer: wherever a Jewish family lives, to create such a strong Jewish environment and commitment that nothing ruffles our Jewish composure.

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