2016-06-30
Did you know that dogs howl when the angel of death is near? And they play when the prophet Elijah comes to town? Or so teaches the Talmud.

"Animals in Jewish Thought and Tradition" is an entertaining survey of the animals that figure in Jewish texts. Curious about the dove? The psalms testify to their "strong flight." Want to read up on the moth? When Biblical writers describe something that's insubstantial, they liken it to the translucent insect--Job disdains houses that are flimsy as moths, and Psalms speaks of beauty "consumed like a moth." Feel sure that the Bible has only bad things to say about snakes? The Book of Proverbs admires their graceful undulations.

Readers more interested in more fantastical beasts will find something of interest, too. Isaacs introduces us to the shamir, a worm, "known for its amazing strength," created at twilight before the first Sabbath; he explains why some rabbis think the barnacle-goose (a bird that grows on trees, attached by its bill) isn't kosher; and he tells us what the Book of Job has to say about the unicorn.

For animal lovers--whether Jewish or not--this delightful compendium is not to be missed.



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