The Viceroy’s Dog: A Tale of Jewish Chutzpah

David Ben Moshe
The Jewish Times
Published in
4 min readSep 6, 2022
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At a particular time, a viceroy ruled over the province of Aragon. The Viceroy, a great lover of animals, was indifferent to most of the communities that fell under his dominion. However, it was a peaceful time and his subjects, including a sizeable Jewish community, prospered during his rule.

It happened that an advisor to the Viceroy once sold some land to members of the Jewish community. While the Jews were developing the plot, they discovered gold. The Advisor believed that the Jews knew of the gold before the sale and failed to inform him — so they could pay an unfairly low price. Feeling cheated, the Advisor searched for a means to take revenge on the Jews.

A short time later, the Viceroy purchased a new dog. He loved and pampered this dog. Once, when the dog was whining, the Advisor overhead the Viceroy lamenting that his dog could not speak and simply request what he wanted. The following day, the Advisor met with the Viceroy on an unrelated matter and, after lavishing praise on the dog, asked why such a wonderful dog could not speak — like the dogs in the Jewish community.

Upon hearing this, the Viceroy abruptly stopped his Advisor “the Jews have dogs who speak?” To which the Advisory replied, “of course, it is known that the Jews can teach dogs to speak — have they hid this from you?” The Viceroy immediately sent a messenger to summon the leaders of the Jewish community.”

When the Jews arrived, the Viceroy ordered them to teach his dog to speak. Bewildered, the leaders explained that there must be a misunderstanding; dogs cannot be taught how to speak. Banging his fist on his throne, the Viceroy yelled, “it is known that you Jews can teach dogs how to speak.” Not wanting to appear ignorant, the surrounding advisors confirmed that this was a known fact.

The leaders of the Jewish community stood silently, waiting for what would happen next. Then Viceroy declared, “you shall teach my dog to speak or be expelled with nothing but the clothes on your backs.”

Not knowing what to do, the Jews took the dog and returned to their community. They tried to teach the dog to speak but could not get anything more than a bark or a whimper from him. They tried to meet with the Viceroy to reason with him, but he refused, demanding they only return when the dog could speak.

The Viceroy sent troops to surround the Jewish community lest they try to flee with his dog and their valuables. The commander informed the Jews that they would confiscate their property and march them to the border with nothing but the clothes on their back in a fortnight — unless they taught the dog to speak.

As the day approached, some members of the community fasted and prayed fervently. Others continued trying to coax words from the dog. Others busied themselves sewing precious stones into their clothes. The night before they were to be expelled, a shoemaker asked the leaders if he could take the dog and attempt to reason with the Viceroy.

With no other options, the leaders allowed him to take the dog and travel palace of the Viceroy.

The next day the Shoemaker returned with the dog, and the soldiers received orders to leave.

Astonished, the leaders went to the Shoemaker, who told them, “good news, I talked to the viceroy, and we can stay.”

The leaders asked the shoemaker, “how did you convince the viceroy to have mercy on us?”

The shoemaker replied, “I told the Viceroy that he was correct; we know how to teach dogs to speak. But I explained that just as it takes a child time to learn to speak, it takes time for a dog. And dogs, not being as intelligent as human children, require an intense learning process of ten years to learn. During this process, we must have the dog all day and all night constantly instructing him. This arduous process is why even though it is possible, it is rarely done. Finally, I told the Viceroy that this dog is the most intelligent we have ever come across; therefore, we believe the process will only take seven years.”

“What have you done!” the leaders proclaimed. “You have brought ruin on our community! Whether in ten years or seven, the dog will not be able to speak, and the Viceroy will take his vengeance by expelling us from the realm with nothing but the clothes on our backs!.”

The Shoemaker replied, “seven years is a long time. Who knows what will happen? The Viceroy could fall from favor and be replaced. The Viceroy could forget about the dog. The Viceroy could die. The dog could die. But for now, our lives can continue.”

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