BO (Exodus, 10:1-13:16) — “The Dog Days of Egypt”

The Egyptian king had gone too far.  G-d’s patience had been pushed to the limit.  The Pharaoh had defied Him one time too many.  Now the ultimate devastation was inevitable: 

Moses told the king, “G-d said, ‘At about midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt. Every firstborn will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne, to the firstborn of the (Egyptian) slave girl behind the millstone, and the firstborn animals as well.  There will be a great outcry throughout Egypt … (but the Israelites will be spared from all distress.)  A dog will not so much as show its tongue to (i.e., growl at or bite) an Israelite … so that you will know that G-d has made a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.’” (Exodus, 11:4-7)

All of nature does G-d’s bidding.  Through ten plagues, the natural order was turned upside down.  Water turned to blood, frogs inundated people’s homes, and day turned into night.  G-d wanted to show how He discriminates between His “friends” and His “enemies.”

G-d now wanted to demonstrate that He would not even allow a dog to let out a natural bark when an Israelite walked by.  Every Egyptian would be subject to the snarls and growls of Egypt’s canine population.  In the face of the Hebrews, however, the meanest junkyard dog was transformed into a whimpering puppy.

——–

The dogs were rewarded for their “service.”

The Torah requires that animals be slaughtered in accordance with specifically prescribed rules.  An otherwise kosher animal that dies as a result of disease, injury, or inappropriate means of slaughter may not be consumed.

What do you do if your cow is attacked by a wild animal, and dies as a “Treifah?” (Literally, Treif or Treifah means, “torn.”  Colloquially, it has come to mean “non-Kosher.”)  What a waste of food/money!  How does one recoup his loss?

… You may not eat flesh that has been torn (Treifah) in the field.  Cast it to the dogs.  (Ibid 23:30)

Unlike meat/dairy mixtures that have been cooked together, which may not be sold or fed to one’s animals, Treif meat may be sold or used for dog food.  This is a special “gift” to the dogs.  Their ancestors honored G-d by not growling at Hebrews.  G-d repays them by providing them with the remnants of our ravaged livestock.

The Mechilta explains that we see from here that G-d never withholds reward from anyone.  Dogs act upon instinct.  They don’t know the difference between right and wrong.  (Sorry, Lassie-lovers.)  They didn’t CHOOSE not to bark; they were miraculously forced to hold their tongues.  Yet, G-d rewards their “decision” to obey Him by presenting them with some with fresh beef.  Obviously then, humans who choose to do what is right will certainly be rewarded.

——–

He’s doing it again… That obnoxious know-it-all at the office who always manages to grate on your nerves.  He “knows” who’s going to win the primaries and who’s going to win the Super Bowl.  He’s got an opinion about everything, and he’s consistently full of baloney.

You really want to put him in his place.  You’d love to tell him, just this once, exactly what you think of him and his crazy notions.  Still better, you’d just love to punch him in the nose!

Don’t do it.

We look at the world and see evil.  We see people getting away with being evil.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Why do the rotten people seem to flourish while nice guys finish last?

Don’t give up.

G-d has a very long memory.  When we do what is right, we can look forward to G-d’s reward.  We don’t always see it right away.  But today, thousands of years later, dogs are still “rewarded” for their ancestors’ “Mitzvah” in Egypt.  You can be “doggone” sure that He’ll do the same for us.

—————–

Another thought.

The explanation I wrote above is the “standard” approach that is usually given in reference to this passage.  Allow me to share with you a unique interpretation I heard many years ago from a childhood friend, Rabbi Shmuel Geller, currently of Zichron Yaakov, Israel.

Our Sages tell us that non-Kosher food somehow has a physical/spiritual effect on those who eat it.  The negative influence of Treif creates a “tangible” defect on the consumer.  You are what you eat.

“‘A dog will not so much as show its tongue to an Israelite … so that you will know that G-d has made a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.’ “

How did the dogs know whom to growl at and whom to ignore?  How could they tell the difference between an Egyptian and an Israelite?  Simple!

You may not eat flesh that has been torn (Treifah) in the field.  Cast it to the dogs. 

A dog is an expert when it comes to Treif!  Treif is its standard food!  With its keen sense of smell, a dog can tell the difference between a consumer of Treif (i.e., an Egyptian) and a consumer of Kosher! (an Israelite.)

————-

Not only are you what you eat.  You are also what you hear, see, and say.

The Torah tells us that there are certain foods that affect us negatively.  That applies to other experiences as well.  We are all familiar with the proverbial mother who washes her son’s mouth out with soap for using improper language.

Do we really need access to all those cable channels?  Should we really pollute our homes and our children with the antics of dysfunctional people saying and doing dysfunctional things?  Do we use appropriate Internet filters to insure that children of all ages (including ourselves!) are insulated from websites that are Treif in every sense of the word?

Every person is the sum total of his life’s experiences.  It behooves us to be sure that our reading material and other forms of entertainment are Glatt Kosher.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

———————————————————————————

From the Archives 

“How Many Plagues Does It Take to Punish a Pharaoh?”, or, “A Plague on TEN of Your Houses?” (2012)

… G-d told Moses to tell Pharaoh, “G-d said, ‘My firstborn son is  Israel…You have refused to release him…I will kill your firstborn son.’”

As we all know, he refused to release G-d’s “firstborn”, and eventually he sustained the loss of the Egyptian firstborn in the Tenth Plague.  Based upon this original warning, it appears that the only punishment necessary for refusing to release the slaves was the tenth Plague.  Why the other nine?…

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Time Off for Bad Behavior” (2010) 

The numbers don’t add up.

The habitation of the Israelites during which they dwelled in  Egypt was four hundred thirty years.  It was at the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, the legions of G-d left the  land of Egypt.  (Exodus, 12:40-41)

There’s a problem with the math.

…  Obviously, our stay in  Egypt must have been considerably shorter.  In fact, says Rashi, we were only there for 210 years.

… what happened to the other 190? 

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Just Desserts” (2009)

…The lamb was sacred to the ancient Egyptians.  …Now the Egyptians would suffer the anguish of seeing their god made into a schwarma sandwich…

This is difficult to understand.  Our People were enslaved.  We were beaten.  Jewish children were murdered so the Pharaoh could bathe in their blood.  In the major scheme of things, not getting the beef seems to be an almost insignificant addition of insult to injury.  G-d brought ten plagues against the Egyptians.  He devastated their country.  He shattered their economy.  The god-roasting of the Passover Lamb seems to be an inconsequential supplementary slap at an already chastised sinner…

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Double Dating” (2007)

A few weeks ago we opened up our new calendars and re-taught ourselves how to write checks … 

There are authorities who rule… that one is not permitted to abbreviate the secular months of January, February, etc., as 1, 2, etc.  …  Other authorities … argue against the use of the secular months entirely!…

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Pharaoh’s Brother” (2006)

One of the unsung heroes of the Exodus from  Egypt is the Pharaoh’s older brother.  He was the one who finally brought the Pharaoh to his senses.

What’s that?  You’ve never heard of the Pharaoh’s older brother?  Well, I did tell you he was an UNSUNG hero!…

Pharaoh lost it.

Get outta here!” he screamed.  And don’t ever come back!  If you dare come to see me again, you’re a dead man!”  (Loose translation of Exodus,10:27)…

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Lox, Cream Cheese, and … UNLEAVENED BAGELS??!!!” (2005)

You don’t have to be religious to feel Jewish…

Pharaoh no longer refused to let the Israelites leave.  Not only did he permit them to leave, he INSISTED that they leave.  Immediately!

… we have been in exile for close to two thousand years  … How is it that our ancestors would not have been able to withstand a moment more than 190 years of exile, while we continue to exist into our third millennium?

… there is a very big difference between our generation and that generation…

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“The Dog Days of Egypt” (2004)

… He’s doing it again… That obnoxious know-it-all at the office who always manages to grate on your nerves.  He “knows” who’s going to win the primaries and who’s going to win the Super Bowl.  He’s got an opinion about everything, and he’s consistently full of baloney.

You really want to put him in his place.  You’d love to tell him, just this once, exactly what you think of him and his crazy notions.  Still better, you’d just love to punch him in the nose! …

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“If I Could Only Be Like ___” (2003)

… G-d said to Moses, …”Go to Pharaoh, because I have made his heart stubborn …

Was this fair?  It looks like a set-up!  It looks like G-d is forcing Pharaoh to stubbornly refuse to release the Israelites, and then He plans to punish Pharaoh for being stubborn!

Why should Pharaoh be punished?  He should plead “Not Guilty, by reason of Divine Coercion!”  …

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Nissan Maximum” (2002)

… How can we celebrate the first of Tishrei in the fall as the New Year, when the Torah tells us very clearly that year really begins on the first of Nissan in the spring? …

Read more.

———————————————————————————

“Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts…I’ve Already Made Up My Mind!”  (2001)

…Egypt is in shambles. The king’s own advisors have begged him to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that he is destroying his own country by continuing to disregard G-d’s demands.

Now it’s time to take off the kid gloves and get tough! …

Read more.

———————————————————————————

This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

———————————————————————————

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in  Monsey,  New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

———————————————————————————

If you enjoyed this e-mail, send it to a friend.

To subscribe to this mailing, send an e-mail to Torahtalk@gmail.com, and type “Subscribe” on the subject line.   To unsubscribe, type “Unsubscribe” on the subject line.

Advertisements
Published in: on January 30, 2004 at 7:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: