There is a Hebrew phrase that I learned in ulpan: כלב נובח לא נשוך which means: A dog that barks doesn’t bite. Or as we commonly say: His bark is worse than his bite! In order words, someone that threatens, doesn’t actually do. I was left thinking about this…is this is true or not?
Yes, people or animals that are going on the attack very often do so quickly, in stealth. Like when they are hungry or hunting: They await their prey or come in complete silence, from seemingly nowhere, and then they go for their kill. No discussion, no mercy.
Other times, when taken by surprise, a person or animal will make lots of noise–barking, growling, yelling, and beating their chest–they want to scare off or down their opponent. Maybe, they want to use this as an opportunity to escape the danger or maybe they want to raise their own confidence and lower their adversaries, so that when they do attack, they have the clear upper hand.
Sometimes, when they bark, they don’t bite. But other times, the bark is the prelude to the bite. I don’t think you can judge intentions by the bark, and I am certain you need to always be ready for the bite. Dogs and people are not really that different.
Over millennia of history, Jews have been threatened and persecuted–barked at and bitten, and they have not been mutually exclusive. For example, in 1939, Hitler (may his name be forever cursed) told the German Reichstag (i.e. parliament):
During my struggle for power, the Jews primarily received with laughter my prophecies that I would someday assume the leadership of the state and thereby of the entire nation and then, among many other things, achieve a solution of the Jewish problem. I suppose that meanwhile the laughter of Jewry in Germany that resounded then is probably already choking in their throats.
Again today, Israel and the Jews are continuously threatened: From students on campuses threatening to beat up anyone that is pro-Israel, to anti-Israel politicians threatening to cut off aid to friend and ally, Israel, to those who would financially strangle us with boycotts, divesture, and sanctions, to terrorist organizations that threaten to kidnap and kill us, and to hostile nation states that declare their intention to literally wipe us off of the map–there is no shortage of barking, growling, sick mad dogs out there seeking to do us harm.
In his book, “A Durable Peace: Israel And Its Place Among The Nations,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tells of his visit to China in 1999, when the President of China recounted the similarities of our two great, ancient civilizations. Netanyahu concurred, but responded that there is a difference: there were 1.2 billion Chinese, but only 12 million Jews–a remarkably low number in comparison given the thousands of years we’ve both been around. From persecution and pogroms, exile and genocide, the Jewish people are but a fraction of what we could–perhaps, what we should be. Yet, to the world, the Jews’ incredible contributions and centrality to world events forever belie our shear physical numbers or size of our homeland.
Just a little more than 70 years ago, in the tragedy of the Holocaust, one out of every three Jews in the world were exterminated–so as a people, we continue to be bitten, chewed up, and once again left for dead. Yet, from the ashes, G-d mercifully raised us up, and as He promised, returned us to the holy land of Israel. And even as we were left a people few in numbers and with a small, but miraculous and wonderful country, our enemies are never content to leave us alone. The Jews have certainly learned what a bark is and what a bite is, and there is no bark that we cannot and should not take seriously–our very lives have forever depended on it.