Maimonides made known his ruling that raising any dog is forbidden, “unless it is secured by chains.”
The Talmud cites Rabbi Natan, who contends that raising an “evil dog” in the home violates the biblical prohibition not to “place blood in your home.” What constitutes an “evil dog? Rashi is clear on this, “It bites and it barks, thereby causing women to miscarry.”
Meanwhile, dogs are not a kosher animal and could not be brought to the Holy Temple. It is therefore seen that a dog should not be allowed to enter our personal and holy temple; our home. The animal, in all its potential grandeur, is impure.
The Kabbalah supports this negative image in other ways, noting that the dog is a symbol of dark powers. The Zohar has a reference to evil in the universe corresponding to a vicious dog on a long lead that can grow out of control unless we pull it back. This elegant metaphor teaches us how to dominate our evil impulses. “The dog seems to enjoy full, independent power to bark and harm, but when there is a risk of it getting out of control the owner pulls it back in time. “
The Zohar notes the Hebrew word for a dog is kelev because a dog is all heart. There is a criticism of this form of connection. If we give all our heart to a pet dog, we are probably not fulfilling our role in the meaningful pursuit and investment of family and community life.
Rabbi Judah Elijah Schochet writes in his 1984 book, “Animal Life in Jewish Tradition,” that dogs are denigrated in many ways. They are ...
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... than non-dog owners. Stroking and interacting with a furry friend or just watching the peaceful nature of your dog can reduce stress in a meaningful way. Studies have additionally shown that petting a dog lowers a person’s heart rate so dog owners are more likely to have a healthy heart. Research shows that dog owners are far more likely to survive a heart attack compared to non-dog owners. Even more so for male pet owners.
Will an understanding of the historical relationship between Jews and dogs change your attitude? Probably not, although we might do well to remember the words of author Milos Kundera, winner of the Jerusalem Prize for Literature, “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don 't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.”
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