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God Hates Dogs?

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroJuly 30, 2019
Columnists
No dogs allowed sign

wrangel/Getty Images

“This is what is wrong with religion: it walks into the future with its eyes firmly set on the past.”

If I needed another reason to weaken my ties to organized Judaism this is it: 

Mordecai Malka, the Chief Rabbi of Elad, an Israeli city of about 46,000 residents, has just ruled that all dogs are bad and anyone who raises a dog is accursed. He cited the Talmud and the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides to prove his position is kosher.

His citations aren’t false: the ancient rabbis and the medieval Maimonides did say these things, but so what? Chances are they also thought the world was flat, and no more than a few thousand years old. Being long dead does nothing to improve the quality of your thinking.

Regardless of who said it, the very idea of evil dogs and accursed dog lovers is absurd. I mean if Rabbi Malka doesn’t like dogs and he doesn’t want to have a canine companion, fine, but to rule that these amazing animals—human companions for at least 32,000 years (that’s 26,221 years before the creation of the universe according to Rabbi Malka)—are evil is just an abuse of rabbinical power. Not to mention a sign of rabbinic insanity.

This is what is wrong with religion: it walks into the future with its eyes firmly set on the past. Just because in biblical times wild dogs were known to feast on corpses found in the wilderness doesn’t mean that dogs stalk graveyards in search of poorly buried dead people. And just because the Talmud notes a case of a woman about to give birth who was startled by a barking dog and miscarried (Bava Kamma 83a) doesn’t mean that all pregnant woman should fear barking dogs.

Even if the stories are true, this isn’t grounds for condemning all dogs as evil and all dog lovers as accursed. But then I am a liberal Jew. I don’t care what ancient or modern rabbis say about anything beyond their area of expertise—which has nothing to do with dogs, by the way. 

While I am willing to let a rabbi tell me whether or not a side of beef is kosher, I’m not willing to let a rabbi tell me what constitutes a healthy and ethically sound diet. While I know it is within a rabbi’s jurisdiction to rule a garment unkosher because it mixes linen and flax, I am not willing to let a rabbi tell me what I can and cannot wear. If I’m going to listen to any Jew about fashion it will be Ralph Lifshitz (better known as Ralph Lauren), not Mordecai Malka.

The question for me is what the accursed dog lovers of Elad will do with the rabbi’s ruling. If it were up to me, I’d urge the town’s dog lovers to stop paying that portion of taxes that goes to support government sanctioned rabbis. As long as these men are funded by the state there is no end to the mischief they will do.

Dog lovers, read “5 Ways to Bond With Your Pooch.”

 

 


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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