` Cain’s best friend — imaginary family values

Last update on .

The author of the “Everyone Needs Therapy” blog informs us that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and highlights a program, co-sponsored by the American Humane Association, to help abused women take their pets with them into shelters.

And just a few days ago, in synagogues all over the world, we read Bereshit, which describes the first recorded instance of domestic violence. That story, according to the midrash, also involves a pet. Nachmanides (s.v. Genesis 4:13) cites Bereshit Rabbah 22:27 as explaining that the “sign” that God set for Cain’s protection was actually a dog; Cain would know that wherever the dog went, he could follow safely.

OK, it’s not a perfect parallel: Cain was a perpetrator of violence, not a victim. But unlike many other perpetrators since Genesis, he repented and, as far as we know from the text, didn’t do it again…

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