Parashat Bereshit – October 6, 2018 – 27 Tishrei 5779

The parasha contains quite a bit about the creation of living things according to categories, but we don’t hear too much about specifics. For details, we may turn to the ample legends preserved in Jewish folk and rabbinic lore. One such source, the Alphabet of Sirach (circa 10th century), tells us about the animals most popular in our neighborhood, cats and dogs. It seems that the lack of appreciation that these two species have for one another has its origins in the Creation story itself. According to this legend, cats and dogs originally were partners. Circumstances arose in which they had a hard time finding food. They determined to dissolve their partnership, and go their separate ways, with the provision that they would not turn to the same source for sustenance. The dog struck out on his own. The cat, naturally, went to live with Adam. The first human, noting that the cat was keeping the mouse population at bay, was very pleased to have the cat hanging around, and life was good. Unfortunately for the dog, matters did not turn out so well. Everywhere he turned for help, he managed to goof up. For example, he went to live with the sheep. His constant barking drew the attention of the wolves, who came and ate the sheep. Homeless, the dog wandered over to Adam’s house. The cat immediately resented the dog’s appearance, and gave him a cold and disdainful reception. The dog, upon seeing the cat, once again started barking excitedly. The barking not only annoyed the cat, it also alerted Adam to the presence of wild animals (and to the mailman). Adam, seizing upon the utility of this trait of the dog’s, invited him to join their living arrangement. Ever since, dogs have been grateful to live with people, and cats have resented the intrusion.

B’Yedidut (w/friendship),

Rabbi Mitch Levine