Deuteronomy 23:19:

לֹא תָבִיא אֶתְנַן זוֹנָה וּמְחִיר כֶּלֶב בֵּית יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְכָל נֶדֶר כִּי תוֹעֲבַת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ גַּם שְׁנֵיהֶם

Why does the Torah have a problem with using the money from the sale of a dog, while apparently not any other non Kosher animals? What is it about dogs that the Torah has an issue with?

  • 2
    Rav Mizrahi says that dogs are the most Tameh animal. Aug 18, 2013 at 16:22
  • 1
    What does that mean and I would think it is a PIG not dog!!
    – YUASK
    Aug 18, 2013 at 16:28
  • 2
    @Hacham Gabriel No a pig has some kosher attributes. I dont know who rav mizrachi and I doubt its the mizrachi on rashi. You cant just make statements like that without proof.
    – user2800
    Aug 18, 2013 at 17:03
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    ok so WHY according o Kabbalah is the Dog the Most Tumah animal if I recall correctly the Zohar says the Dog is called a Kelev because it is Kol Lev (all its Heart) is giving over to its owner
    – YUASK
    Aug 18, 2013 at 20:12
  • 1
    One of my Rabbis said that cats are more Tame than dogs actually. Sep 1, 2013 at 4:12

10 Answers 10


There are a few explanations, all of which (except one) can be found by looking at the following commentaries on the verse cited in the question, Deut. 23:19:

  1. Ibn Ezra thought that dogs were simply understood to be disgraceful animals and not to be associated with the purity of sacrifice

  2. Ramban writes that dogs are used for hunting and are therefore dangerous, and because dogs were used in idolatrous rites or temples

  3. Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 571) writes that dogs are brazen animals, and because a sacrifice is supposed to humble a person before God by making him realize that he himself should be killed and offered as a sacrifice, using an animal that reminds him of a dog's brazenness

  4. Ralbag has a very modern understanding: domesticated dogs and their owners become very attached to each other, and breaking that attachment is cruel, which is why changing a dog's ownership should not be the source of a sacrifice

  5. Abarbanel and R. Hirsch thought that dogs were used for acts of sexual immorality


Biblical scholarship usually identifies the word kelev here as a colloquial term for a male prostitute — this seems clear from the parallelism within the verse (zonah [f.] = kelev [m.]) as well as with the previous verse (qedesha [f.] = qadesh [m.]). The terms qadesh/*qedesha* may refer to 'sacred' cultic or temple prostitution, while zonah and kelev would refer to 'secular' or everyday sex work. See, for example, Greenberg's discussion here. The note in the JPS Jewish Study Bible (edited by Adele Berlin, Marc Brettler, and Michael Fishbane) reads as follows:

These verses presuppose the inevitability of prostitution, while regulating it in such a way as to preserve the Temple's sanctity... Dog, in context, the male counterpart to a common female prostitute. To maintain holiness, the law proscribes the donation income gained from prostitution to the Temple (cf. Hos. 4:14; Mic. 1:7).

Please keep in mind that sexuality studies, especially of the ancient world, are highly controversial and scholars have been arguing about how to interpret the various sources for literally decades if not centuries.

  • and your page leads to a Blank page in the book even though rashi disagrees sounds interesting
    – YUASK
    Aug 18, 2013 at 20:51
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    please add a (real) source, and almost everyone i saw in Judaism disagrees. Aug 19, 2013 at 3:54
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    If by a "real" source you mean "one that you agree with" I'm afraid I can't do that. I acknowledge that the rabbis of the Talmud, and hence Rashi etc., understand this verse as literally referring to a dog. I therefore began my statement by saying "Biblical scholarship"... You can take that or leave it as you will. Aug 19, 2013 at 3:58
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    It would seem the stronger question is why Chazal chose to take the phrase extremely literally?
    – Double AA
    Aug 19, 2013 at 7:55
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    I believe that Abarbanel is aware of this fact as well, as he writes that a 'kelev' is a רמז לקדש הנזכר Dec 22, 2015 at 2:52

The Ramban addresses this issue. He says that the problem is people committing sins and thinking that they can bribe God by bringing korbanot with their profits. Thus a prostitute would use her earnings to pay off God, and people who hunted with dangerous dogs which killed people would use their profits as an "atonement." According to the Ramban, even in his day, hunters would place an image of a dog before their avodah zarah to ensure their success. The Torah prohibits this because one cannot do something wrong and then bribe God.

רמב"ן דברים כג:יט: הזונות יעשו באתנן שלהם מצוות, חושבות לכפר על חטאתן… ולכך אסרה תורה אתנן לכל נדר כי עתה יוסיפו לחטוא בהן. וכן עניין מחיר כלב, בעבור כי הצדים בכלבים ושומרי החומות יגדלו כלבים עזי נפש מזיקים את הרבים, וידירו [=ינדרו] במחיריהם להיות כופר לנפשם וכן המנהג עד היום בפרשים אנשי הציד, שיעמידו צורת כלביהם בשעווה לפני עבודה זרה שיצליחו בהם


The Sefer Hachinuch (571) suggests that since the dog is brazen it is an antithesis to a Korban and will get in the way of the pure thoughts of submission when the person is conscious of where his sacrifice came from.

He is not completely satisfied with this reasoning but says that it is good for Hisorerus.

The Maharal in Be'er Hagoleh, among other places (1,2,3), does describe the dog as being a lowly creature. He points out that people refer to it as such. It is in fact interesting that the most beloved animal is widely used as a worse insult than any other animal.

This attitude is found in Kabalah as well, such as in the Zohar Hakadosh(3:125).


Adding a quick answer so that the major sources are covered here.

We are allowed to feed a stray dog even Shabbos, as we may not any other animal. Perhaps it is even a mitzvah to do so.

We are supposed to give our treyf meat to dogs (Parashas Mishpatim). If I remember correctly, Chazal says that this is in recompense for the Egyptian dogs' refusal to bark as we left Mitzrayim.

There is also a gemara(?) or other classical source--help me, please, someone?--saying that G-d has rachmones on dogs. It has something to do with their slow digestion.

  • 1
    How does any of this relate to the question?
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 19, 2017 at 18:16

Ibn Ezra writes:

כי הוא דרך בזיון על כן אמר כי תועבת ה

For it is an embarrassment, therefore it is written "for it is an abomination of God."

Kli Yakar writes:

לפי שגם הכלבים עזי נפש מזנים בפרהסיא...והרי שניהם שוים בזנות ובעזות

Because dogs also are brazen, in that they are promiscuous in public...therefore, the two of them (the prostitute and the dog) are equal in promiscuity and brazenness.

(translations mine)


most likely the verse has nothing to do with a literal dog, but rather a male temple prostitute that was called a dog priest - they actually practiced sodomy in the temple as a male prostitute (they also had females doing the same) - the profits for thier services was given to the temple until they began claiming they could forgive sins through thier sexual acts & the priests stepped in and outlawed it

Male priests who engaged in (homosexual) sacred prostitution were called kadesh or qadesh (literally: male "holy one"); the word evolved semantically in ancient Hebrew to take on a similar meaning to "sodomite".The Hebrew word kelev (dog) in the next line may also signify a male dancer or prostitute. Some scholars[which?] see the injunctions against foreign worship, including male sacred prostitution, as possibly the original cause of what would later become Judaism's condemnation of homosexuality

also check Hosea 4


Here is something I found online that may be helpful.

In ancient Israel the dog was considered an unclean animal. Several verses in the Bible know the usefulness of watchdogs and sheep dogs, but for the most part we only read of half-wild, half-starving scavengers that prowl the city by night. The dog lived on the refuse of the streets or on the terephah (treifah) — one of the flock which has been torn by a wild animal and therefore unfit for human food. click here for source.

I also found this. Here's the source.

Dogs were highly valued in Egypt as part of the family and, when a dog would die, the family, if they could afford to, would have the dog mummified with as much care as they would pay for a human member of the family. Great grief was displayed over the death of a family dog and the family would shave their eyebrows as a sign of this grief (as they also did with their cats). Tomb paintings of the pharaoh Rameses the Great depict him with his hunting dogs (presumably in the Field of Reeds) and dogs were often buried with their masters to provide this kind of companionship in the afterlife.

Note: This is my own theory

It may be that because the Egyptians valued dogs so much, that itself is the reason that the Torah looks down on dogs, similar to taking a lamb for korban pesach.

  • This is an interesting hypothesis about the significance of dogs in the TaNaKh and the world of the ancient Near East... But to me it doesn't explain what any of that has to do with prostitution, which from context is clearly the topic of this passage. Aug 19, 2013 at 4:29
  • @tryingToGetProgrammingStraight How do you know who downvoted you? It would be wise to avoid making such assumptions.
    – Double AA
    Aug 19, 2013 at 18:24

In my humble hypotheses I believe you are all correct but miss the point of the name Ke'lev, or as the kabbalah interprets Koolo-lev, meaning All Heart. All Heart defines No Mind. This means to me that dogs are all emotion or all instinct. As humans with the ability to control our instict, whether good or evil instinct, the Torah teaches us how to control that instinct. The Holy ways of life teach us how to control our natural instinct of, for example, sexual, anger, greed, hunger, pride, etc.. A dog, or ke'lev, is the essence of instinct or inclination of man. A dog loves with out the mind, angered with out thought, and eats without concern. As Biney Adam, we are obligated to control our instinct or inclination with Holy thought. In all the evil explanations of the dog, such as "male prostitution " or "impurity of eating a dead corpse" or "evil attacks on humans", these are all instincts that lack control by the mind. As owners of dogs, it is our responsibility to teach the dog, or as they are named "All heart" or "Like a heart" but not the heart that us humans think of,to be controlled by our minds and become obedient, in the same way we must become obedient to the laws of the Torah which bequeath self control and discipline.
As a dog owner, I try to learn how i, myself, have a natural instinct that I must learn to control so that I do not act purely on emotion, but rather on civilized rules and laws that are just and moral with humble love. Dogs are man's best friend, teachers, and students as one. Nothing can help us live better lives than , friends, teachers and students . Mah Rabu Ma'asecha!

  • Very nice thought, but how does this answer the question? Why does the Torah have a problem with using the money from the sale of a dog, while apparently not any other non Kosher animals Dec 22, 2015 at 8:41
  • ditto, how does this answer the question but also - Is this premise defensible? - "All Heart defines No Mind?" Especially al pi kabbalah this appears mistaken. For example the fundamental Patach Eliyahu reminds us "Bina - Liba, u'bah ha-lev mevin" - Binah is the heart; with it the heart discerns/understands." Jul 18, 2022 at 13:17

I believe there is a passage in scripture or the Mishna that said in effect that even the dogs did not interrupt Israel's exodus from Egypt implying that the Egyptians used dogs to control Israelite slaves. Some people say that a Jew's home is akin to the temple and must be holy. Since dogs are not a kosher animal and could not be brought to the Holy Temple, it is not appropriate to allow a dog to enter one's own personal and holy temple, namely,mtheir home.

There are also practical difficulties concerning dogs. For one, the problem of finding "kosher dog food" especially for Pesach as, apparently almost all dog foods are chometz. Walking the dog on Shabbat and Yom Tov would also pose a problem especially for apartment dwellers (using a leash, picking up and disposing the waste, etc.)

Last but not least, many Jews who have adverse feelings towards dogs tend to be Hasidim who are often entrenched in the past. Dogs were often used by enemies of the Jews to attack them such as during the pograms and in concentration camps to name just two examples.

There is evidenced that frum Jews have indeed owned and kept dogs as pets. I seriously doubt that there is a true Halacha against it. The reason for the adversion towards dogs is likely more historical and tradition than anything else.

(Correction. There apparently IS a kosher brand of dod food (Evangers) that is certified chometz free by the CRC. I reasonably certain that CRC would not certify dog food kosher if having a dog was not allowed.)

As far as selling or breeding dogs dogs, I don't believe there is any evidence one may not do so. The Star K website has information concerning pets from the perspective of kashrut and laws concerning avoiding cruelty to animals. Like the CRC certification discussed earlier in my prior post, neither site mentions sale of a dog and what can be done with the proceeds. What if the original poster asked their rabbi if he would decline a donation from the proceeds of a sale of a dog?

Lastly, one must own a dog before they can sell it. Although it is feasible that a person can adopt or be given a dog as a gift, it is highly likely that they purchased the dog themselves. The only prohibition to selling a dog based on a brief Internet search is that a Jew can not own a dog if it would cause unnecessary fear in his family or community. I would the same would extend to his immediate community. As stated above, given the history of dogs and Jews, such uneasiness would exist in many Hasidic communities so the likely answer would be that one could not sell the dog to someone in such neighborhood. (Until recently I lived in a large coop housing complex whose security force many, many years ago use to patrol the grounds with German Shepard's to the fear of the many Holocaust survivors who lived in the complex. Unfortunately they didn't deter the criminal element from the nearby projects who'd still rob and mug residents.) Would it make a difference if the buyer were a non-Jew?

  • 1
    How does this answer the question?
    – Double AA
    Aug 18, 2013 at 23:42
  • Double A A. Good question! You need to own the dog before you can sell it. An exploration as to why many Jews appear to have an adverse view of dogs is essential. The question is moot if you cannot own the dog in the first place. The original poster may also want to clarify where the seller intended the proceeds to go. Would it make a difference if the sale of the dog helped pay bills or if it went to tzadakah?
    – JJLL
    Aug 19, 2013 at 2:10
  • 1
    This might make for a good answer for a very different question: not “What’s the problem with dogs?” in the specific sense that the OP asked, but “What’s the problem with dogs?” in the sense of why many Jews seem to be skittish of dogs. But that wasn’t the question being asked and so this response is not a good answer. Aug 19, 2013 at 3:45
  • please answer the question, and not go on a tangent about dogs. Aug 19, 2013 at 3:55
  • Hey dudes. I agree that I may have drifted a bit but as stated it was to put things in perspective. I suggest that some of YOU reread the question. The poster asked why the Torah has "a problem" using the money from the sale of a dog. Everyone seems to be ignoring the first part of the question concerning selling dogs.
    – JJLL
    Aug 19, 2013 at 12:33

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