The Yalkut brings that Rebbi Yeshaya the talmid of Rabbe Chaninah Ben Dosa fasted eighty five fasts in order to find an answer to the question that bothered him. We find that the Navi describes dogs as chutzpadik עזי נפש. If the nature of dogs is to possess chutzpah, isn’t it paradoxical that they merit to sing the passuk in Perek Shira of (Tehillim 95,6) בואו נשתחוה ונכרעה נברכה לפני ה’ עושנו let us come prostrate ourselves, bow and kneel before Hashem our creator. This passuk describes the ultimate negation and servitude to Hashem which cannot be attained with the nature of chutzpah which is its exact opposite?
Before continuing the Medrash let us first explain for a moment in what manner does this trait of chutzpah manifest itself in the dog? Dogs bark a lot when they get agitated. However, dogs step over their boundaries when it comes to their barking. Growing up out of town I have witnessed many times the chutzpah of barking dogs chasing a car down the street side by side even though the car is fifty times the size of the dog. What is it thinking? We find that the dog will bark ferociously at a human but the moment the human stamps his feet at the dog it steps backwards out of fear, The dog is really a wimp and its bark is merely a scare tactic in order to look like it is powerful. Another interpretation of its chutzpah I heard in the name of Rav Hutner ztl that through its conduct we can perceive that it really thinks of itself as a human. Many years ago such a concept might have been preposterous. However, today the canine breed enjoys and shares with humans almost everything. They have rights, manicures, hairstylists, model clothing, pajamas, and even an inheritance of millions left for one of them and its caretaker by its owner.
The Medrash continues to say that a malach came to Rabbe Yeshaya and told him that it is a decree from Hashem that no one should be able to answer your question. From the day that Hashem revealed its answer to Chabakuk Hanavi no one else merited this knowledge. However since you are a talmid of a great chacham, and you fasted eighty five fasts, heaven sent me to give you the answer. The passuk says ולכל בני ישראל לא יחרץ כלב לשונו that during Makos Bechoros no dog in Mitzrayim barked. This was against their nature for two reasons. Firstly the gemarah says that the dogs have a super sensitivity of awareness when the Angel of Death enters their vicinity and they bark incessantly. Secondly, all the loud screams of the Egyptians families whose first born died also would have naturally caused the dogs to react with barking. Yet they went against their natural instincts and they withheld their barking. This omission demonstrated complete negation to the will of Hashem. By withholding their barking they did not smother the screams of the Egyptians, thereby allowing the testimony of the deaths of the Egyptian first born child in every household to be exhibited throughout Mitzrayim. This is the reason why they merited this song of subjugation to Hashem to be theirs forever.
Humans also have a ferocious bark. Remember that the same word bark also means a protection around the tree. If the human dog bark is there for protection to scare off an intruder who intends to do damage then it is ok. However, there is a phrase “it’s adoggy dog world” which is an aggressive cry to war. It means to declare and convey that “I act ruthlessly, with no regard for other members of my species, because I reckon everyone else acts ruthlessly with no regard for anyone except themself”. Such a bark and conduct display the characteristic of a dog – chutzpah, anger, lack of control and stepping over the boundary. Such a bark to the world was sounded by Amalek who is compared to a dog (Shmos 17,8 Rashi) which displayed tremendous chutzpah (Devarim 28,18) by attacking Am Yisrael as they left Mitzrayim making Yisraelvulnerable to be attacked by the nations of the world.
When Kayin killed Hevel he was given the punishment of wandering from place to place. He asked Hashem for protection from the people who would attempt to kill him for murdering his brother. Hashem therefore gave him a watch dog for protection. The Medrash states that this watch dog was none other than Hevel’s dog who watched his sheep. This אות for Kayin seems to be more than just a watch dog for protection. I think a lion on a leash would have served the purpose even more so. Secondly, even with a watch dog why would it have to belong to his previous owner Hevel to achieve the purpose?
We can explain it with the above. The chutzpah of Kayin to murder his brother for no other reason than jealously when he already owned a quarter of the earth, is incredulous. The passuk says that Kayin was in the field with his brother Hevel and he spoke to Hevel and then he killed him. The passuk does not record the contents of Kayin’s conversation. The Targum Yonasan however writes that Kayin told Hevel that there is no judgment, there is no judge, and there is no future world of reward. With these three principles now in place, Kayin rose up against his brother and killed him. Kayin identified with the “doggy dog world” and his Amalaikien chutzpadik bark to legitimize the murder of his brother with his newly founded philosophy.
Kayin’s rehabilitation had to come through the lesson of harnessing the ‘human” bark which is the outburst of uncontrolled anger and action. It is the Zohar thatsays than when one loses his temper, his neshamah is torn away from him and it only returns with a higher level of teshuvah. This means to say that anger causes an aspect of death to the one who gets angry by causing his neshama to depart from him leaving him with only the two lower levels of ruach and nefesh. Once that happens it can trigger another aspect of death outside of himself by embarrassing someone else during his fit of anger. For Chazal tell us that embarrassing someone is tantamount to killing him. This scenario if it gets further out of hand can chas veshalom spiral into actually killing the person upon whom he explodes like it occurred in the case of Kayin and Hevel. The chutzpedik bark of Kayin led to murder. Kayin had to have specifically Hevel’s dog in order to remind himself of his horrific act of murder to his brother and learn from the dog its power to control its bark of chutzpah. Under the “ovaid Hashem” the bark of his dog became refined similar to the one’s in Mitzrayim during Makas Bechoros. Hashem had Hevel’s dog accompany Kayin to help him rehabilitate to learn to control his aggressive bark and actions of the Amalaikien Dog within Man. If he successfully loses his semblance of a dog, then he will not be murdered as an animal.
Our Chazal teach us that the dogs that changed their character during MakasBechoros furthermore merited that their excrement would be used in the processing of the parchment on which tefillin, mezuzos and Torahs are written upon. Did you hear this? The excrement of an unclean animal is used for such a high kedusha which you put on the doors of your house, wear on your body, and study it for hours on end. How befitting, since all of the above parchments are to be used to help Man take control of his mouth and actions to ensure they align themselves with the will of Hashem and enable him to change them on the spot if the situation necessitates to do so. It seems that Hashem with these mitzvos surrounding us through the day wants us also to stay clear from the doggy dog world and its Amalaikien philosophy just as He instructed Kayin by giving him Hevel’s dog to accompany him.
Just think that if the dogs were so rewarded for their acts ofself control, how much more so if a person controls his bark just for one time, thereby changing his instinctual nature at that moment not to flare up, he will surely merit to be rewarded to come closer to Hashem and sing to Him a shirah of praise even though up until now he could not stop his barking. The lesson of כלב which is gematriah 52 will elevate one to live as a בן to Hashem which shares the same numerical value.
Rebbi Yeshaya fasted eighty five fasts to understand how the shutting of the mouth of a dog or for that fact even of a human can achieve such heights with one experience alone. That is why he fasted eighty five fasts which is gematriahפה after which he received from a malach the interpretation he was seeking and the incredible holiness that one can receive by closing his mouth from barking.