Monday, June 20, 2011

Cursed Lawyer Reincarnated as Stray Dog

At least, that's the inexplicable claim made by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish court in Jerusalem, which is reported to have sentenced the dog to death by stoning for disrupting the court's proceedings.

The four-legged criminal came to the attention of the Monetary Affairs Court in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, when it wandered in off the street.

After 'terrorising' judges and plaintiffs it then refused to leave the court - sparking a bizarre theory that it was the reincarnation of a lawyer who had insulted the court 20 years previously.

During the lawyer's tirade, the court became so enraged it cursed him so he would come back in another life as a dog.

I was under the impression that in the Western monotheistic religions reincarnation was not generally considered a possibility after death except in a few unusual cases and even then always as another human. While Buddhism and Hinduism teach that people can be reborn as animals, I wasn't aware that any of the existing sects of Judaism held the same belief. It seems I was wrong.

Canines are considered impure by traditional Judaism, but with the curse supposedly coming back to haunt the court the only punishment seen fit was for local children to stone the creature to death.

Local website Ynet reported that 'Let the Animals Live', an animal welfare organisation, had filed a complaint with the police against the head of the court, Rabbi Avraham Dov Levin.

However, he denies the sentence was ordered.

Either way, the lucky pooch got away with it (whatever 'it' was) - he evaded capture and continues to roam free.

I suppose we'll have to wait and see if anyone spots the dog chasing an ambulance to find out whether or not it used to be a disreputable lawyer.

UPDATE: This story is apparently a hoax. So I guess that means I was right after all to find it odd that this purported Jewish sect believed people could be reincarnated as animals. I've never seen that in any of the Kabbalistic material I've studied, even those that include reincarnation. Anyway, I've added the "humor" tag because hoax or not, it still is funny.

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Morgan Drake Eckstein said...

I don't know about the mainstream branches, but reincarnation does show up in the literature of Kabbalah.

Pallas Renatus said...

I've actually heard conflicting ideas on reincarnation from different Jews... never did think to ask about reincarnating as anything other than a human, though.

Ananael Qaa said...

@Morgan: I've heard of reincarnation beliefs in some of the Kabbalistic schools, but I've never heard of reincarnation of a human as an animal. According to this story that belief must be out there, and I'm wondering now which of the "ultra-Orthodox" schools this court represents. I'll have to see if I can find out.

Anonymous said...

The story was a hoax.

You can find more details here including the newspaper admitting that the the story was false:

This reminds me of a story in yeshiva (Rabbinical academy) of a bird flying around the ceiling for 3 days in the study hall.
One of the students asked the head of the academy: "Is it a (i.e. the bird) a gilgul?" (a wandering soul seeking refuge in the bird).

The rabbi replied: "Nu, maybe it's just a bird?"

In other words, don't look for a supernatural explanation when a mundane answer would fit just as well if not better.

Ananael Qaa said...

@Simon: Oh well, it's still funny. And it gave me an opportunity to use the "ambulance chaser" line and that great picture.

I'll add the "humor" tag and update the article.

Anonymous said...

I too found the story funny and loved the picture in your post of the studious dog.

Further on the idea of a gilgul (wondering soul) possessing an animal or person I recommend Chajes' book "Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists, and Early Modern Judaism".

There is also the idea of a consensual possession of a soul shard of a righteous person, referred to as an ibbur. This was in vogue 16th century and onwards.