14 Mar A Dog Of A Story
In past articles, we have spoken about the trait of loyalty which is displayed prominently by a dog. The Yerushalmi shares two fascinating stories in this vein. The first concerns a man who invites to his home the Rabbi of the town. Of course, he prepares a sumptuous feast in honor of the venerable sage. After the seating the Rav at the table, the Rabbi is shocked when he sees his host seat next to him a dog. The Rav turned to the host and asked him, “What terrible thing did I do to you that you disgrace me by seating a dog next to me?” The host replied, “G-d forbid I would never do anything to insult the Rabbi. I hold you in enormous respect. However, I sat my dag next to you in order to give honor to my dog who saved my wife’s honor.” He then went on to explain that ruffians broke into my house, ransacked it, and then attacked my wife. My dog, with a great show of loyalty, attacked the bandits, ripped one of them to shreds, and chased the others out of our home, saving my wife’s life and honor. I am therefore seating my dog next to you, a holy man, to show gratitude to my dog.
The second story is even more incredible. It was the custom of shepherds to have a large dog which walked at the head of the flock and protected them from wolves and coyotes. There was once a shepherd who, after a long days work, sat down by a tree and dozed off in the hot sun. While he was sleeping a poisonous snake slithered by and drank from the milk in his canteen. While he was drinking, he injected some of his poisonous venom into the milk. When the shepherd woke up, he was thirsty and picked up the canteen to take a drink. The dog started to bark ferociously in warning, but the shepherd didn’t understand the dogs message. As he was about to take a drink, the dog leaped, and grabbed the canteen, and drank the milk. Shortly afterwards, the dog died. The owner then realized that the milk had been poisoned and the dog sacrificed himself to save his master’s life. The Yerushalmi concludes that the owner buried the dog and put up a matzaiva, a monument, with the following inscription: Here lies the dog who gave his life to save his master.
What is the Yerushalmi teaching us with these two stories? Chaza”l informs us, “Derech eretz kadma l’torah.” This statement has several meanings. One is that mentshlechkeit comes before Torah success. In order for a person to become a receptacle of Torah, he has to have proper character traits first. Onother meaning is that before the Torah was given, one can learn the rules of the Torah from studying the way of the earth (Derech Eretz). Thus, we learn modesty from a cat, fidelity from the dove, and industriousness from the ant. These two stories teach us how we learn loyalty from the Dog. In America, loyalty is threatened with extinction. At work, it’s not even what have you done for me lately. Rather, what will you do for me tomorrow. Most friends are only fair-weather friends who will drop you atn a moments notice when you fall upon hard times. Finally, the frightening divorce rate in our country is due to the disposable attitude and lack of loyalty that so many have towards their mate. The Torah wants us to take a good look at the dog and say to ourselves, “Shouldn’t I be at least as good as a dog?” May it be the will of Hashem that we exercise loyalty in all our relationships; and in that merit, may Hashem bless us with long life, good life, and everything wonderful.
Please pray for the merit of Miriam Leba Bas Devorah.