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    Dogs don’t bite on Shabbat – Ki Tetzei

    On a recent Friday night I was walking home from shule in Jerusalem and didn’t like the look of a dog which was walking the beat near my home.

    More interested in Shabbat than dogs, I crossed the road.

    The dog’s owner called out to me in Hebrew, “Shabbat Shalom! Dogs don’t bite on Shabbat!” It wasn’t the time for a conversation about how dogs know which day of the week it was, so I kept walking.

    My legal and Talmudic studies might have equipped me with ideas about whether a passerby might be at risk from a dog being walked in the street by its owner, but again it wasn’t the time for scholarly discussion as my Shabbat dinner was waiting.

    What this has to do with the Torah readings at this time of the year may be nothing, but it might also be relevant to the law of the parapet in this week’s portion, “When you build a new house you shall make a parapet for the roof, so that you do not bring blood guilt to your house if anyone should fall from it” (Deut. 22:8).

    Can a house-owner say, “It is my house. It is my business what sort of roof I have”? Can a dog owner say, “It is my dog. It is my business whether I keep my dog on a leash”?

    Can anyone say, as a lady I knew used to repeat quite often, “What’s mine is mine, and what’s mine’s my own”?

    In Jewish law and ethics there are reservations that limit the freedom of the individual. Acts which are negligent should not be done; things which create a nuisance for others must be avoided.

    Houses need parapets or railings on the roof; everyone needs to be protected against harm.

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