Dog Rabbis and Cat Rabbis
Tuesday May 09th 2006, 1:43 pm
Filed under: Slices of Life

Forget about Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. Rabbis really come in two flavors: dog and cat.

Both dogs and cats are wonderful pets. But they differ from one another.

Dogs are loving and loyal. When you return home, your dog does not care if you are Charles Manson or Mahatma Gandi. The dog will wag its tail and lick your face and welcome you, as if you are the greatest thing on Earth. You can train the dog to heal, fetch, roll over, even to be your eyes or legs. But dogs require your attention. Before you leave town for a weekend, you must arrange for a kennel or dogsitter. You must walk them, clean up their poop, and invest energy in training them to be useful.

Cats are independent and mysterious. They come and go when they choose. If you do not provide their chosen food, they may leave. If you are lucky, the cat will come sit on your lap as you read or watch TV. No tricks. But they keep your house rodent-free. And you can leave for days and the cat will not care as long as someone refills its bowl each day. They clean up after themselves, but they might decide your favorite couch upholstery is their scratching post and nothing you can do will ever persuade them otherwise. They are most interesting to watch or to play with, but it’s always on their own terms.

Each species has their advantages and their weaknesses. (Defrocked Rabbi’s home has one of each, by the way.)

The problem is, some people want a cat and get a dog or vice versa. If you want your pet to display boundless affection for you, a cat just won’t work. If you aren’t willing to devote a fair amount of time to your pet, skip the dog.

So there are dog rabbis and cat rabbis. This is not my own insight. (A fellow student from my yeshiva days, Dan Cohn-Sherbok popularized this wisdom.)

A dog rabbi is loyal and devoted. He or she is available 24/7, the ultimate people person, always there to make you laugh or hold your hand when you need to cry. Dog rabbis never miss a bar mitzvah reception. They will shmooze you, shmeichel you, stupp you with goodies til you beg, “Stop already!” But one day you may need some content that’s a little deeper than a fortune cookie. Then you say, “I thought rabbis were supposed to know the nuances of Torah or the depths of the soul.” That’s when you realized, “Maybe I should have gotten a cat.”

Cat rabbis are the scholars. Leave them alone and they are happy. Their favorite spot on Earth is their library. They know that when you really get down to it, most people suck. To cat rabbis, congregants are necessary evils, to be tolerated, suffered maybe. But no one steps out during a cat rabbi’s sermon. People can’t help but replay its highlights to one another all through Shabbat afternoon and even past havdalah. If you want to know about Jewish history or spiritual expression or the meaning of life, you’d better have a cat. But whan Aunt Sadie is in her third course of chemotherapy and she’s tired and depressed and ready to give up, that’s when you appreciate your dog rabbi.

Each rabbi archetype has its advantages and disadvantages. The most common congregation/rabbi problem, however, involves a cat whose dog-skills are minimal or a dog who can’t construct a meaningful paragraph.

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