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Printed from HarfordChabad.org

Are you scared of me?

Thursday, 18 January, 2018 - 10:07 am

When Moses informed Pharaoh about the impending tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, he adds: “There shall be a great outcry in the entire land of Egypt, such as there has never been and such as there shall never be again. But against all the Children of Israel, no dog shall sharpen his tongue, against neither man nor beast, so that you shall know that G‑d will have distinguished between Egypt and Israel.”

Our Sages tell us that as a reward for their not barking and their display of respect for the Israelites, the Torah awarded the dogs with a specific type of non-kosher meat. The meat of an animal injured by a predator is called treifah (from which the Yiddish word treif evolved to mean any non-kosher substance). The Torah declares: “Do not eat flesh that is torn off in the field. Throw it to the dogs.”  Our Sages (Mechilta, cited by Rashi) state that this was the reward for not barking when the Jews left Egypt.

Every year when we read this, I remember one of my favorite articles by by Rabbi Aron Moss, Rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia where he explains why there are some people who are scared of rabbis and why many observant Jews do not have pets.

Question:

Why are religious Jews scared of dogs? Whenever I walk mine past an observant family, all the kids hide behind their mother's skirt in terror. Is there some curse on dogs?

Answer:

I know exactly how your dog feels. I often get a similar reaction from Jews. While many observant Jews are scared of dogs, many unobservant Jews are terrified of rabbis. There's something in common between dogs and rabbis that make us both objects of trepidation. And it's not the facial hair.

People fear the unfamiliar.

Most religious homes do not have pets. Perhaps because families with many kids are less likely to seek non-human companionship, perhaps because it can be tricky to care for animals on Shabbat, or perhaps it's just a cultural thing, but other than the odd goldfish, pets are rare in observant communities.

So those who are unaccustomed to canine company are often scared of dogs. People are scared of rabbis for the same reason. Both dogs and rabbis are loved by those who know them, and instill fear into those who don't.

But that's where the similarity ends. The underlying causes of these two fears are very different, almost opposite. The fear of dogs (cynophobia) comes from the fear of being bitten. Fear of rabbis (rabbinophobia) comes from the fear of being inspired.

What many Jews fear the most is that if they learn a little bit about Judaism they might like it. And if they like it they might want more. And if they want more they may have to live more Jewishly. This means change - and change, even for the better, is scary.

The cure for cynophobia is to play with a few dogs and see that there is no basis for your fear. But the cure for rabbinophobia is to look into Judaism and to actually let your greatest fear come true - you will like it, and you'll want more.

Have an amazing Shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

 

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