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The Dogs Did Not Bark
by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

One of the ancillary aspects of the Exodus, mentioned in this week’s parshah, was that the dogs in Egypt remained silent during the 10th plague, the Death of the Firstborn.

When Moses informs Pharaoh about the impending 10th plague, he adds:

“There shall be a great outcry in the entire land of Egypt, such as there has never been and such as there shall never be again. But against all the Children of Israel, no dog shall sharpen his tongue, against neither man nor beast, so that you shall know that G-d will have distinguished between Egypt and Israel.”

One explanation for this phenomenon is given in light of the saying of our Sages, “One who speaks lashon ha’ra – slander – deserves to be thrown to the dogs.” In an earlier parsha, when Moses heard how two Jews were capable of slander, he was so disheartened that he questioned whether the Jewish people as a whole were worthy of being redeemed.

However, upon the Jews’ departure from Egypt the dogs did not bark. It was an indication that the Jewish people had fully atoned for their sin of lashon ha’ra and were worthy of being redeemed.

One may also suggest that silencing the dogs was G-d’s way of demonstrating that not only was He prepared to liberate the Jews from cruel slavery, He did not want them to suffer any discomfort or annoyance along the way, such as having to hear the barking of the dogs.

In Parshas Shmos we read:

G-d said to Moses, “When you go to return to Egypt reflect on all the miracles that I have placed in your hand, and perform them before Pharaoh. I will, however, strengthen his heart, and he will not send the people away. You shall say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what G-d said: Israel is My son, My firstborn! I say to you, send out My Son so that he may worship Me. If you refuse to send him out, I am going to slay your firstborn son.’”

All the earlier plagues were designed primarily to punish the Egyptians, prove that there is an all-powerful G-d, repudiate the Egyptian deities and magicians, and establish the unique status of the Jewish people. This final plague introduced a new dimension: that G-d’s relationship to the Jewish people was beyond that of a benevolent King who seeks justice but rather one of a loving and caring Father. This was manifest in the additional detail, the elimination of the natural nuisance of dogs barking. With this miracle, G-d demonstrated that His loving relationship with us transcends all limits and bounds.

When is G-d’s fatherly love for us most pronounced? It is when we show love for one another. There is no greater pleasure for a parent than knowing His children recognize each other as brothers and sisters. When a person recognizes and strengthens his or her relationship with a sibling, it is also an affirmation of the parent’s role as a parent.

Hence the absence of barking—a sign of G-d’s loving, fatherly relationship with us—is a direct consequence of our loving relationship with one another—the absence of slander among the Jewish people.

The events of the Exodus teach us how we are to prepare ourselves for the final and imminent Redemption.

It almost goes without saying that every effort at brotherly peace and expressions of Ahavas Yisroel – love for our fellow Jew – that is based on the concept of Jewish unity (Achdus Yisroel) is the challenge of the hour. Not only do we need this unity to make us fully worthy of the Redemption, but moreover, as the Rebbe stressed, it is how we must prepare ourselves for the future when that unity will be fully revealed.

 

 


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