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Sorry if this is basic but if I learned it I forgot it. I think what I'm trying to remember was about Joseph the Righteous, but I will ask more broadly, are there any positive affiliations of Jews in Torah, whether the 12 Tribes, the Patriarchs, Matriarchs, righteous Bondmaids, the Prophets, or Moshiach, with the horse? All the associations I remember well are more negative, such as Bereshit 49:17 (negative in the sense that Dan is compared to the serpent, not the horse, and Dan will bite at the heels of the horse causing it to fall backwards), or Pharoah's chariots driven by horses, or the horse being a representation of the animal desires that the rider must harness and control. But what about positive associations? I recall some translations of Devarim 33:17 saying of Joseph, "his horns are like the horns of unicorns," but are there any associations of Joseph, or associations with any holy figures in Torah as opposed to Pharaoh and so on, with a horse?

Same question for the dog. The dog usually has negative connotation, even one of the cursed animals I believe, but also the connotation of being all heart, and man's best friend. Are any figures in Torah compared to dogs but in a positive way? Either direct references in Torah, or, for example can we associate Benjamin with dogs since dogs are direct descendants of wolves? (Which is similar to the part of this question about Joseph being compared to a unicorn. A unicorn is a horse with a horn, so does that also create an association with a horse by inference? Except with Joseph, Devarim 33:17 explicitly mentions horns, and horses don't have those, whereas that reconciliation issue would not apply to wolves vs dogs, unless maybe wolves divide the spoil but dogs don't, or something along those lines, but I am not an expert in those animals to answer that.

Note, when I ask about Torah, I mean all of it including commentaries and Kabbalah texts, not limited to the five books of Moshe Rabbeinu.

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  • There are visions of horses in Zechariah. See chapters 1 and 6
    – Joel K
    Apr 11 at 6:13
  • Ty! I remember Tanakh well because Ive read it so much, but since I have only been learning Torah for less than 15 years, it has been hard to reread most midrashim, in fact there are still many important ones I havent read at all because there are just so many, so I forget alot.The horses in Zechariah are about the rise and fall of nations. Thats a legitimate answer to the title of my question, but really what I want to know is, does the horse ever represent any Jews specifically, the way Judah can be symbolized by a lion, Benjamin by a wolf, and so on? But not just Jacob's children, any Jews? Apr 11 at 6:43
  • benyehuda.org/read/31977 לסוסתי ברכבי פרעה דמיתיך רעיתי… צוארך בחרוזים… ועד תורי זהב נעשה לך עם נקודות הכסף. חושבני כי שלושה פסוקים אלו שבשיר השירים הם המס היחידי ששילמה שירת ישראל לפיוט ממקור ההשראה הסוסית.
    – pcoz
    Apr 11 at 7:45

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Before we look at if people are likened to horses in a positive way, we first need to see what are regarded as the ma'alos, the relative merits of horses.

Upon initial research, it would seem that horses are generally seen not in the most positive of lights. Either (1) they are regarded as a symbol of wealth / strength (e.g. for warriors) (Tehillim 33:17):

שֶׁ֣קֶר הַ֭סּוּס לִתְשׁוּעָ֑ה וּבְרֹ֥ב חֵ֝יל֗וֹ לֹ֣א יְמַלֵּֽט

A horse is a vain thing for safety; Neither does it afford escape by its great strength.

or (2) alternatively they are seen as lacking a degree of intellect (see Tehillim 32:9 and see Rashi for an explanation)

(As well as (3) also being deep sleepers - see Gemara Sukkah 26b, and also refer to Ein Yaakov on Berachos 1:13 discussing Dovid's sleeping habits)

However, it is clear that horses are known for their strength, as mentioned in the ending clause of the verse above as well as in Tehillim 147:10:

לֹ֤א בִגְבוּרַ֣ת הַסּ֣וּס יֶחְפָּ֑ץ לֹא־בְשׁוֹקֵ֖י הָאִ֣ישׁ יִרְצֶֽה

He delights not in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.

The Metzudas Dovid clarifies this strength as meaning the ability to run and pursue in war.

So a horse is an animal that has strength, or perhaps more accurately defined as stamina, namely the ability to run great distances without tiring.

This attribute of running endlessly is used in the Midrash Tanchuma, on parshas Vaeschanan in reference to Moshe who approaching the end of his life reflects on his leadership of the Jewish people and asks Hashem if his end will be just to decompose:

וְלַשָּׁוְא רַצְתִּי לִפְנֵי בָּנֶיךָ כְּסוּס, שֶׁיְּהֵא סוֹפִי לְתוֹלֵעָה

Is it for nothing that I have run before Your children like a horse, that my end be for the worm?

And then again a bit later:

וְתֹאמְרוּ אוֹי לְבֶן עַמְרָם שֶׁרָץ לְפָנֵינוּ כְּסוּס וְנָפְלוּ עַצְמוֹתָיו בַּמִּדְבָּר

And you shall say, ‘Woe to the son of Amram, who ran before us like a horse but whose bones have fallen in the wilderness.’

An alternative positive endearment towards horses is employed in the Avos D'Rebbi Noson 24:4, picking up the fact that if well equipped, the horse is easy to ride and allows the rider to enjoy the experience:

הוא היה אומר אדם שיש בו מעשים טובים ולמד תורה הרבה דומה לסוס שיש לו כלים נאים. ואדם שאין בו מע״ט ולמד תורה הרבה דומה לסוס שאין לו רסן לבלום כיון שאדם רוצה לרוכבו זורקו בבת אחת

He would also say: A person who has done good deeds and has learned a lot of Torah is like a horse that has fine equipment. A person who has not done good deeds but has learned a lot of Torah is like a horse without a bridle to restrain it. When a person wants to mount the horse, it throws him off in an instant. (Sefaria translation)


EDIT - Just an additional positive point about dogs and horses without looking at whether individuals / personalities are likened to them

[Just an addendum as far as pointing out the merits of horses and dogs without comparing them to Jews - more so because there is v little positive to say about dogs...

I found a chazal in Pesachim 113a which conveniently looks at both horses and dogs in a positive light

רַב לְרַב אַסִּי: לָא תְּדוּר בְּמָתָא דְּלָא צָנֵיף בַּהּ סוּסְיָא וְלָא נָבַח בַּהּ כַּלְבָּא

And Rav said to Rav Asi: Do not live in a city where horses do not neigh and where dogs do not bark.

To which Rashi clarifies:

משום נטירותא בקרתא מאויבים ומגנבים

Because they guard the town from enemies and thieves.

and the Rashbam explains:

כלומר שאין בה סוס משום דהוי נטירותא דקרתא מגנבי לרדוף אחריהן ולתופשן

I.e. Both these animals as these animals provide security and protection i.e. the dogs alert the owner to any theft by barking and the horses will then chase after them allowing you to grab the perpetrator.]

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  • There is plenty to say about the dog but it is pretty much all negative....
    – Dov
    Apr 11 at 10:11
  • Thanks for the answer! Do you have anything positive (just short summary so I dont take your time to write another in depth answer) on the owl, the mouse, or the beetle? As far as dogs and horses, each of the 12 tribes corresponds to one Zodiac sign, however, different cultures named each Zodiac signs differently. As far as dogs, would any of these 12 have any relationship to Orion with the two dogs, or Canis Major or Canis Minor? As far as horses, would any of these 12 have any relation to Equuleus? It spans 72 degrees, so maybe could refer to Chesed, but how Joseph (Yesod)? Apr 14 at 1:01
  • Also do you have an opinion about whether Benjamin can be associated with the dog because he is associated with the wolf and dogs are direct descendants of wolves? Is it proper to abstract out to one degree of separation in that way, or is it not proper to do that? Apr 14 at 1:02
  • @ShipBuilding I've not heard anything about Binyomin relating to a dog just because he is likened to a wolf sorry. Likewise the comment above
    – Dov
    Apr 14 at 7:59
  • sefaria.org/…
    – Dov
    Apr 14 at 7:59

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