Thank God, the Dog Ate my Tallit

29 June, 2022

Shmuel Tepper

With thanks to the Creator a wonderful thing has happened. My Tallit was eaten by a dog. And oh yes, my tefillin are safe.

They and my tallit were gifts. The tallit is from Uman, Ukraine.

For those who don’t know these are very special items that I use in prayer and/or study.

They were in a bag on a table and a dog got on the table and was curious, as dogs are.

I walkrled into the room with the table and saw the dog chewing away at my tallit. I was not at all upset with the dog, rather felt an instant, extremely brief, of great sadness at seeing him chewing on my beautiful talit. I thought of my tefillin and looked. They were fine.

And then I was joyful and grateful. Not only that nothing had happened to my tefillin but also that the dog was chewing on my tallit.

First, an object is an object and can always be replaced. Never should anger arise due to anything happening to an object and my anger did not.

But how could I be joyful that a dog was chewing my talit when it is so special? Because I quickly understood three things.

And please remember, regarding the dog, he is a good dog who is not mine but shows affection and loyalty to me and it is his nature to chew on things.

First, an object is simply an object and can always be replaced. Never should anger arise from anything happening to an object and mine did not.

Secondly I learned that with items of any significance I must be more careful. So perhaps this lesson will prevent a loss of something in the future.

This is how lessons learned and implemented prevent the repeating of unfortunate events.

Third I understood, though not exactly what its greater meaning and lessons are for me to implement in my life, that this was a great tikkun.

This tallit to me is a part of the wealth of knowledge and control, understanding and happiness that the teachings of Rebbeinu, Rebbie Nachman, have brought into my life.

I love the warmth I feel when I am shrouded in it and reminded that I am mortal. I take comfort knowing that after I die I will be buried in only a shroud, no belongings with me, my body will return to dust and my spirit as the Creator so desires.

Rebbie Nachman forsaw so much that we deal with today I believe were it not for his teachings I would be spiritually lost.

How fortunate am I to have felt sadness that immediately became joy.

What a blessing. And to have such a tikkun that I will have to uncover in this world of the hidden, darkness and lies. What light lay beneath the surface waiting? I will laugh, surely.

An adventure in discovery awaits and perhaps this is a tikkun in place of tikkun. One can hope. For God is loving and merciful.

I will have to see where the questions lead me.

The Talmud tells a story through a question of a dog.

I will try to remember correctly, forgive me if I don’t: It asks in Baba Matzia, the Order of Things Found and Responsibility for Damages, if I’m describing it correctly, who is responsible if a dog finds and picks up with its mouth a cake which has a candle in it and takes the cake to a barn and there is a fire in the barn as a result. I think that’s the tale. Let’s say it is. Even if it’s not. Because I love being wrong.

The answer of responsibility I do not remember but the responsibility, commonly and unfortunately called fault in our modern, upside down and regressing world, was not the dog’s. And to me is not of consequence.

Most often common sense is good law. Today’s world, though, plagued by instant gratification, super ego and aversions to learning for fear of facing difficult truths, does not encourage the common sense that was once . . . common.

When seriously in doubt ask a posek. Otherwise leave the poor man alone. If you aren’t sure if your spoon has been made unkosher through some contamination don’t bother the poor rabbi. Throw it away. Or put it away until some later time when it will reveal itself.

Back to our dog, the K9 arsonist.

Was the responsible party for the fire in the barn the owner of the cake and barn for leaving the cake where a dog might find it or perhaps for leaving a candle’s fire burning or perhaps for leaving the barn open?

Perhaps the dog’s owner is responsible for the animals actions and resulting damages.

But is he a tame or wild animal and were all measures taken with the dog to ensure he was secure but some untold situation occurred and he escaped?

I believe the last question I added. And perhaps I mixed up a few stories there but such things occur when trying to remember Oral Torah. What I am trying to demonstrate is who our Talmud is and what the Talmud gifts us when study.

The Talmud teaches us not to accept convention nor simplicity of explanation or common definition or supposition, that wisdom is nearly unachievable and yet within grasp and knowledge must be earned with steady and often hard and exhausting work of the mind.

It can create longing for a beloved friend with whom you learn and instill humbleness and modesty in knowing that as much as I learn and know, true knowledge, as Rebbeinu teaches us, the knowledge of the infinite, the moment you think you have even the smallest portion of knowing it, is infinite and impossible to aquire, and yet we do.

It teaches us to question in order to discover. Have you ever had a conversation that was entirely questions and come to a conclusion that brought with it a new understanding not only of some given topic but that before that conversation you were wrong in your absolute knowledge of something.

It’s an incredibly good feeling to discover your entire world view is wrong. Thank you, God, for saving me from dying thinking that was true, and now living knowing that I was wrong. What joy.

It teaches that truth is not absolute and law must be compassionate, to not conclude or convict quickly or harshly and to defer to others as often as possible for most knowledge sought is in truth with others.

But it also teaches how to ask a question and then you learn which questions to ask. And you learn which questions reveal truths by nature of the question.

then no one wishes to discuss with you matters of which they are positive they are correct.

There is nothing wrong with ignorance, for the Talmud loves he who does not know and seeks truth.

Thank God the dog ate my tallit.

So today I was thinking about how too much time had passed, a few days, since I made time to learn and was blessed to understand Torah in a new way.

And then the dog ate my talit. But not my tefillin.

Thank God. I know nothing. I can’t wait to learn how much more of nothing I do not know as I become closer to the source of all and Creation, understanding that I can know more than most people ever will yet when I speak God stutters my speech and numbs my faculties for explaining.

How wonderful to not be expected to have answers and quietly understand so much that is hidden for so many as I do.

Na Na Nach Nachman Nachman Meuman

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